April 2010: I was attending a Campaign against Climate Change meeting on the topic of how to address "the sceptic backlash". When question time was reached at the end, numerous hands went up, but after five questions one of the speakers commented that none of the questions so far had been asked by women. To redress this balance, I got to ask my question.
In 2008 Tamsin Omond had a similar experience. While at a Climate Camp planning meeting, someone observed how few contributions were being made by women. Feeling sad and empty afterwards, she happened to notice that the centenary of the Suffragettes' rush of Parliament was just a few weeks away -- and the result was Climate Rush, a climate change campaign inspired by the Suffragettes.
Tamsin had in fact been inspired by the Suffragettes long before. When faced with a TV presenter at an airport protest, she was asked "why do you have to cause so much disruption?" and her spontaneous response was "It's like the Suffragette movement... without direct action there just wouldn't have been the awareness or the publicity for it to get off the ground." And it is appropriate for her to be inspired by the Suffragettes, given that, as she observes, women in poor countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change (as they are to the effects of just about everything which causes suffering, from war to disease) - but also "western women seem to care more about climate change than western men", and can therefore be part of the solution. I would be interested to see whether there are any statistics to back that statement up.
This book has several purposes - it is Tamsin's story; it is a manual for direct action; it also contains a large amount of background information (in sidebars) about climate change and the necessity for action. If you are already well-informed about climate change the background information will not be news to you (and you may even question some of it), but if you come to it completely cold you will find it informative. The book is generally serious, although fast moving and a good story, but there are a few lighter moments, such as when she attempts to handcuff herself to the roof of Parliament using handcuffs purchased from a sex shop - they immediately break.
Perhaps you are wondering what question I asked at the meeting I mentioned at the beginning. If the speakers were hoping that I would come out with something particularly right-brained, they were disappointed -- I asked about how best to explain climate change in a country where probability is not well understood. I received a perfectly satisfactory answer -- nobody would get on a plane if they knew it had a 95% chance of crashing...
Reviewed by Rebecca Warren, a Sophia Trustee and an environmental and human rights campaigner.