Fascism, the magic money tree and cutting carbon with Dr. Gail Bradbrook (FreshAir interview)

Georgio Konstandi 10 June 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This Wednesday I had the chance to report on the FreshAir interview with Dr. Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of the global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion, fighting to stop the impending climate catastrophe. A member of the Green Party at 14, co-founder of Rising Up and now co-founder of the largest green movement in the world, Extinction Rebellion, Dr. Gail Bradbrook is undoubtedly a mammoth figure in the eco world. During her interview with Scottish student radio, FreshAir, Dr. Bradbrook gave a fascinating analysis of how the human race has arrived at the edge of a climate disaster and was even able to answer a quick question from myself on behalf of TCS.

No Going Back: fighting for permanent change in a post-COVID world

The pandemic has shown us that the impossible can happen.

On the subject of pollution in the age of COVID, Dr. Bradbrook is clear: “the pandemic has shown us that the impossible can happen.” To this end she adds that 50% of emissions come from 10% of the population and these emissions have drastically dropped during lockdown. Indeed, Sky News reports that the UK is to see an 11% drop in carbon emissions this year as a result of the recent quarantine. But she adds a word of warning: our government is failing us miserably when it comes to committing to long-term change in national carbon emissions. It continues to bail out high carbon industries and companies that profit off tax havens when the public purse needs money to put into building a green society. Dr. Bradbrook notes bemusedly that despite past political mantras dictating that ‘there is no magic money tree’, government policies pursued in this pandemic have proven ‘there’s a magic money forest’. Too bad the government is choosing to use it to bail out multinational chemical companies. Mmm… smell the sulphuric acid!

You should be mad as badgers!

In a nutshell, Dr. Bradbrook declares there is “too much vested interest” in this government for sustainable environmental change to take place and it is young people who are going to pay for political incompetency. In a sobering round-up, she reminds us that while our government fails (again) to act decisively in face of the climate crisis we are being straddled with both a fiscal and carbon debt that may never be paid off. “You should be mad as badgers! …or whatever the phrase is.” Other idiomatic animals are available.

Keir Starmer: another false friend?

There are five billionaires who own the vast majority of the print media… Rupert Murdoch is very clear that he decides who gets elected.

In light of Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, making commitments to tackling the climate crisis, Dr. Bradbrook reminds us of the perils of mainstream politics when it comes to climate change. “My understanding is, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell fully understood the climate crisis and were putting forward many things to tackle it.” Alas, fine intentions doth butter no ballot papers (or something to that effect) as Dr. Bradbrook reminds us that “there are five billionaires who own the vast majority of the print media… Rupert Murdoch is very clear that he decides who gets elected.”  If there was any listener still in denial about the shape of modern British democracy, Dr. Bradbrook offers this final thought: “you could call it a coorporate-ocracy or a plutocracy rather than a democracy.” To this end, she adds that XR believes the future of a true democracy that puts people before profit lies in a legally-binding Citizens Assembly and this is one of their three major demands for government.

Lessons from COVID

Climate solutions must be met with meaningful social and economic plans, says Dr. Bradbrook. Eventually, “we’re not going to get a choice about it.” COVID-19 has shown us that ““we are not the ones in the domination story”. Those who insist on living this story of domination, according to Dr. Bradbrook, will not get very far (good evening Prime Minister). She points out the low numbers of deaths under female leadership across the world, notably in countries like New Zealand where only 22 COVID-related deaths were recorded and where the virus has been all but wiped out. Meanwhile, Britain is a mere hop, skip and 50,000 deaths away (good evening, Prime Minister).

Blaming capitalism is not the end point.

Of course, Dr. Bradbrook says, “capitalism is the best system of optimising domination and extraction and exploitation but it’s not like the other ones had it sorted. […] Blaming capitalism is not the end point.” Fundamentally, “the crucial bit of the oppression of young people is to make you think you don’t know what’s going off; not to trust your intelligence. Double down on if you’re a woman and working class. […] And don’t believe in your power.” The co-founder of XR offers this piece of advice to young women and men who want to lead: women must work collectively against societal expectations to hate one another and men must not be destroyed by toxic masculinity and homophobia.

Chaotic systems like the one we’re in […] either fall to pieces or they paradigm shift […] and we’re on that cusp. What an exciting time to be alive if you have a roof over your head and food!

Protecting BAME members of XR

In light of the anti-racism protests sweeping the globe, XR, like all parts of society, pauses to look introspectively. Dr. Bradbrook says that “racially marginalised people have a beautiful history of putting themselves forward in risky situations […] there can be a sense of not fully honouring that history if we talk about racially marginalised people in a way that is only really speaking to victimhood.” Recognising the difference in experiences of being arrested between XR’s white and black members, Dr. Bradbrook insists “we have and do take care of people on the legal side of things” but that as with anything “there are always improvements that can be made.”

I wouldn’t even say fascism is a risk […] it’s already here.

A question from Georgio Konstandi at TCS: In your 2019 interview with Dr. Gabrielle Walker you made the remark that fascism and war are both signs of social collapse. Do you believe the rise of populism across the world is linked to people’s fear that resources are running out? If so, how do we convince the masses to channel their fear into movements like XR instead of populist leaders?

“I wouldn’t even say fascism is a risk, it’s here in disguise. People sometimes think that fascism is going to come with funny hand signals and costumes… unless you’re a fetishist, I don’t think it does.”

She adds, “it’s already here” in the form of dogwhistle politics. “We are being actively divided so that people can rip us off. […] People need to acknowledge that they’re being played.” But Dr. Bradbrook stops short of blaming political elites: “When it becomes strong that people are pointing to ‘the elite’ there’s a diversion that happens that then says, ‘but it’s the Jews’”.

A thorough, honest and fascinating interview with a figurehead for change in what are changing times. Thank you to FreshAir radio for inviting TCS to participate and thank you Dr. Gail Bradbrook for answering my question.