On Tuesday, Stella Creasy MP called on the Government to support the set up of a Citizen's Assembly, one of the key aims of Extinction Rebellion. The Walthamstow MP pointed to the success of Ireland's Citizen Assembly in allowing the country to become the first to divest from fossil fuels because it 'hears the views of everyone, not just the activists, everyone.'
Not only did major news organisations not report this but Extinction Rebellion did not even retweet her speech in Parliament, one directly supporting their aim of not 'leaving the public out on the streets but by bringing them into an actual Citizen's Assembly.' Instead their social media kept focus on the activists; with updates about arrests, George Monbiot clips and Greta Thunberg telling politicians off for not doing enough.
Greta Thunberg is of course right that not enough has been done but the generalness of her speeches perpetuate the dangerous myth that lumps all politicians together as being equally responsible for the climate crisis, Parliamentary voting records show otherwise. This logic can lead many to conclude that the only option is further civil disobedience to bring about systemic change. Creasy and other MPs are making this call for change within Parliament itself but mainstream media and activists outside are not doing enough to press this advantage by helping get the Citizen's Assembly onto the news agenda. This is urgent because as the Easter holidays are up and activists drip back to daily life, it's back to Brexit-Only-News- yay! While Greta Thunberg has successfully reignited the issue occasionally with school strikes, her young-person-making-inspiring-speeches appeal can easily lose its real world impact like "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes." Severn Cullis-Suziki's speeches couldn't stop the stupid ages of the 1990s, Greta Thunberg won't stop the #AgeOfStupid if no Parliamentary change is made beyond a few conversations with Michael Gove.
Why is the systematic change of a Citizen's Assembly important? Because it tries to take everyone's view into account. If drastic climate policies were quickly adopted by the Government and measures imposed on people's everyday lives, what then? Major inconvenience for millions of people, who may quickly reach for their Gilet Jaunes and thus civil disobedience resumes but in the opposite direction. Going green is inevitably inconvenient but it can be made bearable by putting the right measures in place and the places to find these compromises can come from a Citizen's Assembly.
Most British people believe climate change is real, the problem is they don't know how to stop it and feel powerless as a result. As Ireland has shown, experts and 'ordinary people' can actively engage with an issue, have informed discussions and work out solutions together to discover where people's priorities really lie and do so without splitting the country into absolutist camps. Also people with big carbon footprints like drivers, frequent fliers and gas boiler users maybe willing to make changes as many did with the installation of solar power panels and the ill-fated yet good-intentioned drive for diesel. People can change not only through incentives but by knowing their needs have been part of a direct form of democracy before necessary legislation is passed.
Citizen Assembly's admittedly doesn't make for exciting stories, try watching a whole session on Ireland's Citizen's Assembly YouTube page. I've even had to use a clickbait headline about someone else to make it in anyway appealing. Yes it is duller than hearing impassioned speeches from an inspiring teenager and seeing people get arrested but if it gives the means for everyone to get active in going greener, that's all activists like Greta and Extinction Rebellion can ask for and do.