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Sustaining All Life, in South London

Earlier this year a small group of friends and I started a community climate and environmental activism group. We decided to screen the film This Changes Everything, because it describes how we need system change to address climate change and it looks at how Indigenous rights, capitalism, racism, and other oppressions play important roles. This is in line with our group’s goal of engaging people who haven’t yet found a way to be involved in climate-change and environmental issues.

My friends agreed that Co-Counsellors from the local RC Area could lead thirty-minute groups after the screening in which people would talk about their responses to the film and their feelings and thoughts about climate change. We would also have a display of Sustaining All Life information1 and give people the chance to sign up for a future Sustaining All Life workshop.

Just over a hundred people came to the screening. About half of them stayed and took part2 in the groups. There were eight groups, led by RCers, including one for people under thirty. The Co-Counsellors in the audience had to actively encourage people to take part in the groups.

Fifteen RCers attended, and they had a big effect on the tone of the event. They were extremely helpful in setting up and clearing up afterward, appreciating people, and making friendly contact. My friends enjoyed the groups and commented afterward on what a helpful and positive group of people the RCers were. Many people left the screening feeling hopeful and wanting to do more, and lots of them said they were interested in a future Sustaining All Life workshop.

Some of my friends were nervous about the groups, especially about whether they might make people feel uncomfortable. Others had heard about similar groups in organisations like Occupy and were enthusiastic. I had to do a lot of negotiating about how the evening would be and had to make some compromises. For example, my friends all wanted to have alcohol there, and I felt I had to agree. As it happened, people drank very little, and my friends told me afterward that maybe I had been right!

My biggest personal achievement was a short speech that I gave before the film. I said that although we feel scared and powerless about climate change, it could be our best opportunity to come together as humans around one issue, maybe our best opportunity to think about how our world should be organised, and that many people around the world were thinking about it and we could join them. I encouraged people to make contacts and connections while they were together for the evening.

Bess Herbert
London, England

The following thoughts are from RCers who led groups:

It was great seeing a group of activists slowly realise that this was really a space to share what was happening for them without having to defend themselves. I could see them relax and start to use the time to share feelings. I think they started to feel that their role as activists was important and valued. I learnt that activists should be appreciated and listened to and, most importantly, given space to have and share feelings.

Sam Herbert
Surrey, England

I led a small group of three. Two of us had long experience in RC and were activists. The other was also an activist and had done most of an RC fundamentals class. So it was easy to get on with discharging on the movie, thinking about what we wanted to do next, and understanding the importance of relationships and listening.

Fio Adamson
London, England

It was great being alongside others who were putting attention on so many different aspects of climate change. I was inspired by the film and how it showed the empowerment of groups worldwide that are protesting the mindless destruction of the earth. We looked at our current lives and found creative ways to talk about the subject with our family and friends. We also thought about how to join other organisations that are seeking mindful solutions to the crisis.

Pam Carnegie
London, England

I loved getting to do something publicly as part of Sustaining All Life, and doing it with our local Community. I was moved watching the film and by the large group of people who clapped and cheered at the end. It was a good contradiction to feelings of isolation and despair.

I led a group of young adult students who were not particularly engaged in climate-change activism. Feelings of powerlessness, which could look like cynicism, were on the surface. I loved seeing them feel proud of themselves as they used their time and found that they had thoughts.

I appreciated the power of our simple format of exchanging equal amounts of time. I love how minds can think new thoughts when people are given the space to follow them without interruption. I felt relaxed about not allowing people to interrupt one another and about sticking to the timer. I think that being firm in this way helped create safety.

I left feeling excited and thinking about next steps! Thank you, Bess, for such a genius idea and for organising and leading the event so beautifully. 

Anna Van Heeswijk
London, England

It is really important for us as RCers to work on our discouragement. In my group people’s default position was discouragement. They would say some hopeful things and then immediately return to their discouraged disposition. 

Persistently listening makes a difference. People got to make a little progress on their discouragement, as I just listened and wasn’t swayed by it. One guy said at the end that he thought what we were doing was a good idea and that people being listened to makes a big difference. 

Ali Bourne

London, England

(Present Time 183, April 2016)


1 Sustaining All Life is a project of the RC Communities. In December 2015, a Sustaining All Life delegation went to Paris, France, to share RC tools with the activists gathering there during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. A pamphlet and some handouts were created for that effort.
2 “Took part” means participated.

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00