XR 3: When Rebellion Breaks Out In Your Backyard

It’s a bizzarre thing, that after traveling hundreds of miles to shoot the pictures of the last two XR protests I covered, the third should be breaking out in my backyard. Nevertheless it was so. When I took a look around online for the next protest or march or action for what’s now becoming a project, this was what I found.

The little town in question clings to the ragged edge of West Wales where the land meets the sea. And where the land and sea meet, we call it Cardigan Bay. And, some little while back, the media informed us that a multinational oil and gas firm had decided that this looked like a promising area to start a seismic survey for undersea hydrocarbons. 

That by itself was going to attract the attention of the local Extinction Rebellion membership (No More Coal, No More Oil, Leave Our Carbon In The Soil etc etc). Just to add fuel to the fire, Cardigan Bay is a protected area, due to it being a haven for marine life. The legality is tight enough that you can’t ride a jetski lest it upset the dolphins, so as you can imagine an undersea seismic survey got pretty short shrift from the environmental crowd. 

And today, well today was World Oceans Day. 

Then, this week, the local paper reported that the plans had been suspended (Cambrian News, Aberystwyth Edition, of Thursday June the 6th 2019).

But then the march had already been announced, and why waste it? Keep the company on notice – let them know that if they make another try in six months, this won’t have been forgotten about. 

So. A march. With plenty of XR flags, except that where XR normally concentrates on the global threat of climate change, here the whole thing was distilled down to a local issue. But even the smallest issue has impact. This survey would cause some damage perhaps, but what if they found anything? Would there be drilling? Oil and gas extraction? If there is then it’s more fossil fuels screwing up the climate. It’s more plastics, which always seem to find their way back into the oceans. I’d say it comes under the XL umbrella. Which I guess is why they’re….. facilitating could be the right word here. 

It could be the right word, because while most of the people marching behind their banner, or carrying XL flags are there to protest about their own local issue, it’s the boys and girls in the XL Tabards who are stopping the traffic, and leading them along the route. 

So. World Ocean’s Day, and there’s folks from Chester Zoo and from various wildlife charities, gathered at the bandstand on the seafront to give talks, discuss ecology and organise a beach clean. And at 12, the March To Stop Seismic Testing In Cardigan Bay would be getting underway.

Well the differences for me were many. Travel time for a start. Also weather. While the London and Bristol protests were conducted under a scorching sun, on this particular day it was as if the Irish Sea had decided to register its own issues with the proposed exploration and was letting us know about it with the kind of wind that would be just fine for a brisk day in February and was driving the waves from the high tide onto the beach. And at twelve ten the cavalcade set off, with enough people to fill the promenade from side to side, and made its way along, took a left past the ruins of the town castle, emerged at the top of towns main shopping street. At that point the XR stewards stopped the traffic, and I got to practice my skills at photography while walking down the street backwards (as discussed in my last article). Down the main street and along the road that would lead out of town, and then looping around to end back on the promenade where it started. And there it ended, and the day of activities carried on. 

Aside from being the shortest XR action I’ve yet seen, it’s notable for its total lack of policing. I saw one Police Inspector earlier in the day (I’d hazard a guess that he was checking the parade’s route) and a couple more sitting in a van on the promenade, and that was quite literally it. 

Where and when I’ll be photographing these goings on next, is anyone’s guess, but I suspect there’ll be a little more travel involved. 

The above is a factual account of Extinction Rebellion’s protest in Aberystwyth on Saturday the 8th of June 2019. All of the events described took place, and were witnessed by me. Where I am drawing on second hand sources I have said so. 

Conversations and events are based on my memory which is, of course, fallible. In places I have paraphrased conversations, but the intention of speech are left unchanged. Chronology is based on timestamped digital pictures, although for reasons of brevity I have not included every twist and turn of my day. For further information regarding Extinction Rebellion’s protests in London and Bristol, please see my earlier post – https://languageandpictures.com/2019/04/20/extinction-rebellion-four-days-of-photographing-urban-protest/ and https://languageandpictures.com/2019/06/03/extinction-rebellion-bristol-xr52-protest-photography-and-fast-fashion/

The author believes wholeheartedly that climate change is both a real and immediate threat to this planet and everything on it. I make no attempt to conceal this fact, although I have attempted to be even handed in the way I have written this account. 

All of the pictures used in this article are my own work, and I retain full copyright to them. They are used to illustrate this piece, are not ordered chronologically, and no direct connection between words and images should be inferred except where stated

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