Five Bridges against Extinction

Unfortunately our mass media have failed to respond honestly to the major challenges we face in alomost every area of life. A provocative and controversial statement but one that appears to me incontrovertable, whether one looks at Brexit and our current problem over that, at inequality in our society and globally, at our housing crisis, and most obviously and most dangerously about the environment and the ecological crisis – the sixth global mass extinction which is rapidly approaching, though there may be legitimate arguments about the fine print.

The reasons for this failure are also fairly clear. Mass media that are largely owned and controlled by a tiny group of the ultra-wealthy and a public sector broadcaster that largely supports the status quo, with staff and board who are also part of a highly privileged few; don’t rock the boat is their mantra.

But unfortunately the boat is sinking fast, and even the extreme rich will soon find the same old way no longer works, though only too late to do anything about it, almost certainly for themselves and certainly for the rest of us. What used to be apocalyptic and dystopian is fast becoming the new reality.

So (I think) argue those behind Extinction Rebellion, and I think they are convincing, though exactly when we reach the tipping points and what these are may still be up for scientific debate. But beyond debate is that urgent change is needed – and that currently it is not even on the agenda. They want to get people to take notice, and know the media in general seldom cover protests taking place in this country, even if thousands come out on the streets. Something more is needed to get attention.

The answer they came up with was blocking five major bridges in central London. Previously they and activists trying to get action over air pollution in London (which causes almost 10,000 early deaths each year) have blocked roads and road junctions for short periods – around 7 minutes at a tiem, often repeated a few times after short pauses to allow traffic flow, with perhaps the most ambitious block by Stop Killing Londoners bringing the whole of Trafalgar Square to a halt. But holding the five bridges for most of the daylight hours took disruption to a different level – and did gain them some publicity.

London does of course have many bridges, but blocking the five central ones meant longish diversions, with no road crossing between Vauxhall Bridge and London Bridge. Of course the publicity tended to be negative, with some commentators almost comparing it to the end of the world – just what the protesters are hoping to prevent. And it was hard to feel anything but contempt for those who accused the protesters of being selfish for being prepared to be arrested to try to stop our mass extinction. It’s perhaps also worth remembering that sporting events including cycle races and the London Marathon cause even more traffic disruption on the days they take place.

I managed to photograph on four of the five bridges, which involved quite a lot of walking, though I did start by taking the Underground from Westminster to Mansion House and Southwark Bridge, the further downstream of the five, coming back to Westminster on foot via Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, and taking the tube from Embankment to cover a different protest on Regent St. By the time I’d returned to Westminster Bridge after that detour it was too late and I was too tired to attempt the fifth bridge, Lambeth Bridge, a short distance upstream. But things were still happening on the bridge.

Extinction Rebellion Bridge blockade starts
Extinction Rebellion: Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo
Extinction Rebellion form Citizens’ Assembly


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