I came for climate justice, I stayed for community

[Photo shows me, holding a pink flag with an XR logo in front of a crowd at Bluedot]

When I first heard of Extinction Rebellion (XR) in February 2019, it instantly caught my attention. A bold organisation demanding radical change, with a decentralised structure and clear aims I believed in: I got stuck right in. Climate action, which I would soon come to term ‘climate justice’, has been an issue for me which I have been passionate about for a number of years, but through XR and XR Youth (XRY) I finally felt able to make a more impactful difference beyond my own individual consumer or dietary habits. This blog will assume a link between inequality, exploitation and the need for extensive structural change to combat climate injustices, however I will link some articles at the end for more reading/greater depth if that link appears unclear.

Extinction Rebellion have taught me a number of things regarding the climate and humanity’s urgent need for action. However through talking with the general public, with climate groups across the world and to a number of youth often far younger than myself, some other things have become particularly clear.

Extinction Rebellion for me is no longer just about the climate

It is about something far, far larger. Much like groups such as Reclaim the Power, XR’s spirit and energy is instead about demanding and attempting to create a wider restructuring of society, to challenge inequalities and unethical systems and to come together across communities as much as possible.

For some background: most of the things within XR or XRY I’m involved with are very people-facing: I undertake outreach (explaining what XR is and answering questions), give talks and organise events surrounding international solidarity (collaborating with diaspora, minority + other community groups ‘glocally’, which is my main XR focus) and have a wellbeing role at actions (ensuring everyone is fed/watered/scouting out the loos and general useful things to keep activists on their feet and not burned out).

Despite my outreach roles, I no longer tell people in talks or activities that they should join XR. They are very welcome of course to join, and I truly do believe XR is doing some fantastic work, especially in smaller local groups. But it doesn’t matter which (if any) organisation someone is with or what type of action they are taking to fight inequality and reinforce cross-community links. It doesn’t need to matter what you are most passionate about tackling, instead a willingness to collaborate and connect is something I believe is far, far more important. A single organisation is so unlikely to be able to make change on the scale needed; people need to come together to connect, work together, and most importantly to learn from and share with each other.

A few experiences I’ve had exemplify this really nicely. Back in June I went to Keele University for a Friends of the Earth climate weekend, with youth from UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN), XR, People + Planet, Friends of the Earth programmes and also individuals not with organised groups. What made this weekend so fantastic was the range of experiences shared and the discussions had – discussions which not only gave people new knowledge but also developed active listening and communication skills. In some ways it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d done nothing that weekend to do with the climate, as we’d still come out of it far better off for having created a community I now know I can share ideas, resources and time with and know that I will be listened to and have things shared in return. My world got a little kinder and my communication a little better, and it is this feeling of sharing and community (rather than politics between groups or even new climate knolwedge I learned) that really stood out.

Another personal example might be the public XR discussions I’ve attended/facilitated on topics like food insecurity and how to save or grow food as a community. A range of skills, experiences and backgrounds are needed for these talks to succeed, but they also attempt to connect people over shared issues, and discuss together. While we are definitely attempting to tackle food insecurity within these talks and other events, spreading a ‘sharing mindset’ (e.g. sharing time, skills, knowledge, seeds, land to plant on) is actually the far bigger goal in some ways – it is what I believe we will need if we are to see climate justice, and indeed many forms of justice, come to fruition.

The climate justice movement which has gained so much momentum in the past year or so is therefore something far bigger than merely cutting carbon, and I believe something which is far more important. Community. Sharing. The idea that everyone has something to contribute (and if they can’t they are still needed and wanted). We absolutely need to demand government and institutional change and I do not want to dismiss this as unimportant (it will save lives), but community interdependence and sharing is critical especially in times of need, which climate change and the policies it will entail is bringing.

This quote from an article sums up my thoughts really well:

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life… Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate. It’s not even about ‘climate justice’, although that is also important. If we only talk about the climate, we’re missing the deeper problems plaguing our culture. And if we don’t excise the cause of the infection, we can never hope to heal from it.


While I definitely can’t (and don’t wish to) be a spokesperson for the whole of Extinction Rebellion or other groups I participate with, I do know that many are openly challenging unequal systems and aiming to create connections across communities. I do not want to imply that XR and other groups are consistently inclusive or representative of all citizens in their actions, as I am not in a position to be able to make that judgement for everyone (although I’ve tried to address this lots in person with people so please do comment if you have thoughts). But I do think that XR is doing something right. It’s focused on sharing resources, listening to everyone, undertaking Citizens Assemblies as a new form of decision-making, actively working to oppose ageism/classism/racism and so many other ‘-isms’. It isn’t perfect by any means. But it does involve and promote a mindset I truly believe we all need if we are to succeed in making the world fairer and to mitigate climate change as much as possible. If XR isn’t for you, have a look at Reclaim the Power, Wretched of the Earth or other groups I also believe have a much-needed focus on community connections. If a group isn’t for you, maybe community schemes, resource-sharing or individual actions like litter-picking could be.

Forget about whether you can go and protest climate change for a second, and also focus on challenging inequality and strengthening community however you can. Connect with people (of all ages and backgrounds) and just listen, grow or share food, fix things, lend a hand or your things to others. Challenge climate change in big ways, but please don’t see it as an isolated issue. It fundamentally isn’t.

Myself in a purple t-shirt with pink XR flags in the background, next to a member of the public in a black t-shirt
[Myself in a purple t-shirt with pink XR flags in the background, next to a member of the public in a black t-shirt]

Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts and thank you for reading! Here are some links as promised in the first paragraph. Huge thank you to Tomm too for the photo of me on the main stage at BlueDot Festival representing XR.




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Why Queer/Gay Media is So Important to Me

Living in the UK, many of us, irrespective of sexuality or gender, will have been exposed to some form of queer* media; LGBTQ+ Youtubers, increasing numbers of celebrities ‘coming out’, and television shows like Jessica Jones or Adventure Time including queer characters. In the UK and many other countries (albeit not enough), we see queer representation in the media, on the news, and on social media, and so it is easy to assume that members of the LGBTQ+ community are secure and supported in their queer identity in this country. It is easy to come to the conclusion that the LGBTQ+ community must surely now be in a position where role models within the community are visible and active, and a range of experiences can be comfortably explored.

Thinking back to growing up and questioning my sexuality however, it’s difficult to see this openness and security in my own (and others’) identities at all. I am thankful that I have always had a supportive family and predominantly supportive friends – occasionally somewhat clueless, but nevertheless there for me. Why then has it taken so long for me to feel legitimate as a queer person, even after I came out? And why could my non-LGBTQ+ friends go out in rainbow coloured clothing (or the like), and I felt that I was making a scene even just owning some?

While having a wonderful support network in many other senses, this summer I came to the realisation that a lack of queer role models was critical in feeling isolated in my sexuality. Lacking role models I could resonate with lead to feeling as if I had to ‘cover up’ being gay to fit in with everyone else in my life: wearing rainbow things or viewing openly queer media felt as if I was making a statement of otherness. Whilst loved ones gave me support, there was no one to provide me with guidance, and so I had no idea how not to feel ‘attention seeking’ and ‘different’.

Nobody told me that ‘gay’ was whatever I decided it was for me. Nobody reassured me that everyone finds their own unique way to present their queer identity, much like with other aspects of ourselves as individuals. Exploring and expressing queer identity therefore came solely from my knowledge of stereotypes (such as lesbians with short hair or men who are particularly concerned with fashion). Very few LGBTQ+ stereotypes have really ever resonated with me, and so for much of my younger teenage life, being queer was something to be glossed over and even rejected, instead of embraced, explored and enjoyed.

It is therefore only recently when finally embracing media such as explicitly LGBTQ+ podcasts, and unapologetically gay shows like Queer Eye, have I felt that I have significant queer people to look up to in my life whose experiences I can explore and compare with my own. The delay in embracing this exploration does feel somewhat due to queer media being far less mainstream perhaps, especially when I was younger, although recently it has got better and hopefully will continue to do so.

Exploring experiences shared by queer people has helped me to process my own feelings about being gay/queer and consider how I express myself in my clothing, language and even day to day conversations. In then discovering others within the LGBTQ+ community who also share their experiences openly, I have discovered a feeling of legitimacy in being queer, replacing my feeling of pretending with one of love for being gay.

So to sum up: more queer media please!!!! It has been so significant in creating comfort with my sexuality and how I show it to the world, and I think the world needs far more (and more varied) queer role models in the media for all the gays out there :)) x

Some Gay Media I Heckin Appreciate Always:

Here’s a cool podcast I love

Queer Eye on Netflix gave me so much life all summer and season 3 is out super soon!!

Rose & Rosie are two of my fav youtubers, but there are so so many more, like Dodie, or Alex Bertie who are fab

Jessica and Claudia are also some favs on Youtube!


*I’ve used the word ‘queer’ in this article as I feel it defines far more experiences compared to ‘gay’ (particularly when gender or asexuality is involved), although I personally use both ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ as umbrella terms. I am aware it’s sometimes, especially in the past, been used as a slur, however I feel that in LGBTQ+ communities ‘queer’ is being reclaimed, and I would love to get more behind that! (thanks to my friend Claire for influencing my thoughts on it!)

Thanks a million also to my friend Alex who helped to make my thoughts far more coherent!

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Fundraising Tips & Mental Illness

This past year (from September 2017) I have been fundraising for Meningitis Research Foundation with the aim to make around £2600 in sponsorship and raised money. I will be climbing Kilimanjaro for them in September (2018). On paper this seemed originally very manageable – how many cake sales makes £2600? I thought. Not that many right?


Cake sales definitely do make some money, especially if you have some generous donors attending. But with an average cake sale getting between £20-50 if you’re lucky , that’s 52 of them for my goal of £2600!

So what else can you do to fundraise?

Bucket shakes are sometimes a good option, especially if you have a costume or charity top so that you can be seen and are able to be in a busy area. Some of my bucket shakes in busy areas earned around £100!

Less busy areas however are far less likely to earn you as much, and leave you with far less incentive to stay there for a long period of time. My worst bucket shake got me about £4.00, which after a long, cold day was particularly demotivating. (do also be aware that in most places you need a permit to bucket shake, and shaking your bucket is now illegal in the UK!)

Ebaying/Depoping has also been a good option for me, or even doing a physical table top sale. You do need to be aware of any seller’s fees, either in the form of a table fee or fees from Paypal, Depop and Ebay once an item has sold.

Unless you have some super designer clothes or cool furniture, it’s unlikely that this method of fundraising is going to earn you really big money. However I’ve managed to make around £80 with very minimal effort just on Ebay, so I wouldn’t automatically disregard this as a fundraising method.

It’s also handy to be aware of different postage options – often you can pay for a Large Letter in the UK rather than a whole parcel – have a look online or in your post office before paying too much!

Bag packing or supermarket collecting is also a great fundraising option, and likely to bring in more substantial money, especially if a few of you are doing it together!

Something to consider however is asking supermarkets as early as possible – I was rejected by a few who had already been booked up for the entire year by March, and some took multiple letters and emails to even consider my requests

Asking shops to put collection tins on their counter is also a good way to make some loose change – it won’t bring in anything big, but a couple of pounds is always helpful if you have the time to go around a few shops!

Corporate Sponsorship can also bring in substantial money if you are successful. I applied to the Blakemore Foundation in the UK and got given a cheque for £50 – not huge in the grand scheme of things but very little effort to write an email and far more than some of my bucket shakes were bringing in!

Friends and Family! Either helping to fundraise by giving their time, donating unwanted things to your carboot sales or giving money themselves, friends and family can be an invaluable resource to use while fundraising.

Websites giving cashback, or sites like easyfundraising are also really easy, passive ways to fundraise. They definitely don’t bring in lots of money, but combined with other fundraising I’ve found them really useful to keep money coming in!

A big event! Or a few semi-big events! Organising something like a pub quiz, bingo night or similar proves really effective in fundraising, especially if people are also spending money on a raffle, food, and alcohol while there. I didn’t do anything quite this big, but one church event brought in a couple of hundred just as there were so many people in one place donating!

Insights about how fundraising has impacted my mental health:

When signing up to fundraise I initially felt excitement, happiness that I was embracing my goal to give more to others, and confident I could make the amount set.

However barely a week later I felt overwhelmed, stressed that I wouldn’t be able to reach the target, and anxious that I wasn’t confident enough to do things like bucket shakes or talking to supermarket staff about bag packs.

Being diagnosed with anxiety & depression, I knew that fundraising would be perhaps more of a challenge than it might seem, especially on days where my physical symptoms of tiredness, heart palpitations and so on were particularly bad. I soon learnt that having a panic attack at a busy bucket shake doesn’t make you seem all that approachable, especially if half of it is spent crying in the nearest loos!

While this feeling of stress about my fundraising goal did continue throughout my fundraising, I have learned a few ways that were personally helpful in minimising any anxiety I might experience, and helping me on days where tiredness from depression was overwhelming.

  • More passive ways of fundraising such as Ebaying were useful when interaction with other people appeared stressful, and as they are online, can be done at any time of the day or night. This reduced some of my guilt about potentially missing bucket shakes due to anxiety or tiredness, as I was able to fundraise even in my own bed :))
    • This is similar to cashback sites and easyfundraising too. While these more passive methods of fundraising don’t bring in as much money in my experience, they were particularly useful for me when trying to keep up fundraising momentum yet also having to look after my mental health.
  • Friends and family are super useful. It wasn’t until near the end of my fundraising that I actually realised how much using the friends and family I have could have made my experience so much easier. Doing something in a group often makes it far less stressful for me, and having others there at cake sales and bucket shakes, even if only for some of the time, really encouraged me and made me feel more confident in myself.
    • Trying to raise money on my own for the majority of the time wasn’t half as effective as when with others, so I would really recommend even a few events with others there as support and extra help.
  • Keeping well-rested before events like bucket shakes was also something I discovered was a good idea! It might sound super obvious, but I really wasn’t aware of how cold you can get in winter standing outside with a bucket, so investing in a thermal and getting some sleep made a lot of difference!

Hopefully some of this has been helpful or interesting,

Charlotte x

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Wellcome Collection: Bedlam

The Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition, Bedlam, follows the history of mental institutions and different attitudes towards mental illness up to today, using a variety of artwork, artefacts and writings informed by patients of such institutions, doctors, artists and those today with mental illness to name a few.

The institution of Bethlem Royal Hospital in London provides the basis for the exhibition, which widely became known as Bedlam in the 15th century, even it’s nickname giving an idea of the social attitude towards those mentally ill at the time. Bedlam explores what the institution, and others in Europe represented, and the ideals they held which changed throughout history as scientific and therapeutic practices and ideas evolved. The exhibition also explores widely the experiences of those who lived within these institutions and those either caring for them or setting up alternatives.

It could be said the exhibition lacked a little in detail on some topics and jumped around a bit, or put things together that were not fully explained, such as pharmaceutical medicines and the idea that they should not be the only way of helping mental illnesses. However I felt that given any more to look at and I would have been swamped in things to read and think about. I greatly enjoyed the layout and it’s chronology, as well as the variety of sources and types of contributions that each part was made up of. The pharmaceutical drugs and ideas against them was the only place I felt a little more explanation would have been helpful, however perhaps this would take away from people questioning the debate for themselves.

I personally hugely enjoyed Bedlam, particularly after the Wellcome Collection’s States of Mind series of exhibitions which I feel were a great precursor. Having mental health and it’s history, largely a history of misunderstandings, as the focus of an entire exhibition was fascinating but also felt liberating, possibly due to mental health being something often only briefly mentioned throughout today’s general history and learning, perhaps due to the still lingering stigma of mental illness.

I also liked how the exhibition didn’t just leave me wondering over past happenings but at the end of it, with the help of Madlove: A Designer Asylum (http://madlove.org.uk/), it tried to ask what we should do going forwards, with contributions from a number of people with or affected by mental illness. This made Bedlam feel even more relevant to modern day issues and not just a particularly interesting history exhibition, but relevant to further understanding people and society today.

Overall, Bedlam was extremely thought -provoking and something I’d really recommend to anyone, especially as it does not take hours to go round, is completely free and there’s late closing on a Thursday :)

The Bethlem Gallery also has events throughout the year (http://bethlemgallery.com/whats-on/), collaborating with organisations and artists-in-residence, as well as the Bethlem Museum of the Mind (http://museumofthemind.org.uk/)

Where: Wellcome Collection, Euston
When: Nov – Jan 15th 2017
Cost: Free :)
Long to go round?: Took me about an hour, reading and looking at everything


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