Vine Neighborhood

Vine residents help launch Southwest Michigan Extinction Rebellion to tackle climate emergency

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Vine Neighborhood series.

For Vine residents Chris Carr and Joetta Carr, global climate change is not a question, it’s an exclamation. Spurred by the accelerating reports of rising temperatures and natural disasters, the couple is determined to do something about the growing ecological crisis.

“We feel like we only have about 5 or 10 more years to turn this thing around or basically we’re” doomed, says Joetta Carr. “Climate change is the principal problem in the world today. If it isn’t fixed soon, then everything else is going to go to hell.”

Inspired by the success of Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom where it was founded, the couple decided to help start a Southwest Michigan chapter. In May 2018, a group of over 100 concerned academics organized XR UK. The following April, XR UK occupied six sites in London in a days-long protest that included more than 6,000 participants and resulted in parliament declaring a state of climate emergency. Since than XR has expanded internationally, with almost 50 chapters in the United States alone. 

One aim of XR US is that all levels of government, from township to federal, declare a climate emergency and create policies that are consistent with addressing the issues caused by climate change. XR calls attention to the climate emergency through direct action, nonviolent, civil disobedience, and disruption.

The Carrs, along with other Kalamazoo area residents, created some fliers and set up a table in Bronson Park on Earth Day this year, and encouraged by the expressed interest, held the first official XR Southwest Michigan meeting. 

“We have some very creative people involved, professors from Western, writers, poets, artists, people from all walks of life,” says Joetta, one of the coordinators along with Chris. Already the group has organized one action, a march from Bronson Park to the Radisson in May during Jon Hoadley’s Spring Into Action fundraising event for his run for U.S. Congress. 

“We’re trying to appeal to all the candidates in a friendly but serious way to develop their own climate emergency policy, to declare a climate emergency if they were the nominee.” 

Extinction Rebellion is planning more events in the coming months, including a protest at the Democratic Debate in Detroit on July 30. “We’re asking as many people as possible to come with us,” says Carr. “Our protest focuses on the demand for a separate presidential candidate climate debate.” 

Some presidential candidates, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Elizabeth Warren, already support a separate climate debate. 

On September 20, Extinction Rebellion SW Michigan is helping organize a Global Climate Strike in which they are encouraging students and workers across the region to walk out for the day to call attention to the growing climate crisis. 

Inspired by both the student walkouts to protest gun violence and the environmental activism by Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, 15, who weekly leaves school to protest outside of Swedish Parliament about the environment, Extinction Rebellion is hoping the strike will draw national attention and action. 

To organize the strike, XR is working with a coalition at WMU called the Climate Change Working Group, a group of professors, students and faculty who are joining to study, combat and spread the word about climate change Further details of the Global Climate Strike will be announced in the coming months, but will likely involve a march and gathering at Bronson Park.

“This group is very serious,” says Joetta, “but we also want to have fun. We have a group working on music and art. We are looking for people who can make banners and placards. We have a poet who is writing a poem.”

Donna McClurkan, who coordinates social media for XR SW Michigan, became involved in the organization because she, too, was alarmed by climate crisis. 

“Our planet has already warmed over 1 Degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) causing heat waves, droughts, famine, extreme storms, flooding, wildfires, melting ice, dying coral reefs and mass species extinction,” says McClurkan. “I never imagined I’d be doing this in retirement, but I can no longer ignore the fear I have about my daughter's future, and the future of all children, and my grief about habitat destruction and species loss in my own backyard and all over the world.” 

Kalamazoo Township, the first local government entity to do so, passed a resolution endorsing the declaration of a climate emergency at their June 10 meeting. XR members hope more Southwest Michigan governments at all levels will soon follow suit.

“We’re going right up against the powers that be to force government on all levels to declare a climate emergency, to keep the fossil fuels in the ground and ocean and not extract anymore, to limit deforestation that is going on, not only in Brazil, but in all parts of the word, and to switch to sustainable energy sources completely to develop 0 net carbon. That’s basically our only hope,” says Carr.
Extinction Rebellion US’s official position is that they “declare non-violent rebellion against the U.S. Government for its criminal inaction on the ecological crisis.” The four XR US demands and ten core Principles and Values can be viewed here

“Anyone in alignment with these views is welcome to join us,” says McClurkan.

XR SW Michigan meets each Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Boiling Point, 902 Gull Road, and its membership is growing weekly.

For more information, check out the local XR facebook page  or send email here
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Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is the Managing Editor of Southwest Michigan Second Wave. As a longtime freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher, she has a passion for sharing the positive stories in Southwest Michigan and for mentoring young writers. She also serves as the Project Editor of the Faith in Action series and Project Lead for Battle Creek Voices of Youth.