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Climate crisis: Meet the Brent rebels and campaigners fighting for governments locally and nationally to take action

PUBLISHED: 07:09 22 October 2019

Brent XR members: Sian Griffiths (top left and right), Jonathan Fluxman (centre of middle shot), Katherine Lebow (bottom centre), Sarah Deco (bottom right). Bottom left, a Clean Air for Brent group photo. Pictures: Sian Griffiths/Katherine Lebow/Kate Deco/Clean Air for Brent

Brent XR members: Sian Griffiths (top left and right), Jonathan Fluxman (centre of middle shot), Katherine Lebow (bottom centre), Sarah Deco (bottom right). Bottom left, a Clean Air for Brent group photo. Pictures: Sian Griffiths/Katherine Lebow/Kate Deco/Clean Air for Brent

Archant

A cinema manager, a retired police officer and a psychotherapist are among the Brent climate rebels who helped bring the inner-city to a standstill earlier this month. Members of XR Brent told Freya Pickford who they are and what made them get involved.

Clean Air for Brent. Picture: Clean Air for BrentClean Air for Brent. Picture: Clean Air for Brent

Paul Stephens, 55, is a former Met Police detective sergeant and retired in February 2018.

He joined Extinction Rebellion in April and now volunteers as a police liaison officer for the group.

"My work in the police was about public safety and identifying risks and protecting the public," he said. "[XR] is about protecting the public from the biggest disaster and threat to humankind.

"We're just asking people to make small changes and listen. For a long time I thought making change happen would be impossible and then I found XR and I found their determination incredible."

As reported in last week's Brent & Kilburn Times, retired doctor Jonathan Fluxman was among those arrested for breaching section 14 of the Public Order Act.

"I have children and a grandson, and I really fear for their future," he said. "I would hate them to grow up in a world where they must battle for survival. We want the government to see the writing on the wall and turn this impending disaster around."

Dave Fineburg, 38, a manager at The Lexi Cinema, is a coordinator for the XR Brent group.

He joined in May after the "April rebellion" provoked him to read about the climate crisis.

He said: "I soon realised how serious the situation is, with huge changes likely in my lifetime, let alone for future generations. I also have a four- and one-year-old niece and nephew and couldn't look them in the eye if I don't try and protect their future.

"We need to change the entire culture of humanity. I'm about to start a short course in business sustainability as I want to be a part of the changing way businesses run. Working for the Lexi Cinema I feel I'm in a good position to help both where I work and potentially with other small businesses."

Katherine Lebow, 49, from Kilburn, is a history lecturer and joined XR Brent's group in April after attending an XR Jewish Seder (Passover meal) in Parliament Square with her daughter.

She said: "I found it very moving to be sitting in this public space, surrounded by other activists, singing, sharing food, and drawing on ancient traditions to raise awareness about climate crisis.

"For instance, one homeless man who was upset about something that had happened to him recently involving the police, at one point started to disrupt the event. An XR Jews member drew him aside, spoke with him gently and asked him to tell her his story. Eventually, he joined our circle, singing along and saying 'amen' to the prayers."

Katherine said that XR makes her feel "hopeful" for political change but she fears social and political collapse in the face of food scarcity and natural catastrophes.

Sian Griffiths, 59 from Willesdon, is a retired firefighter and member of the Fire Brigades Union. She joined XR Brent just before the protests that have taken place over the last fortnight.

She said: "I'm far from perfect but I'm trying to do what I can, whether that's not buying new clothes, not using my car as much as possible and taking public transport.

"I'm hoping more and more people will learn that there are other ways of living on this planet - or we'll end up like the dinosaurs. I have children and grandchildren and I want them to be safe and live long, happy lives. If something doesn't change soon that won't happen."

Sarah Deco, 64, from Dollis Hill, is a psychotherapist and storyteller. She has been a member of XR Brent since September and volunteered as police liaison during the recent protests.

She told the Brent & Kilburn Times: "I'm semi-retired and did have time to campaign. I felt it was extremely important and it's not easy. I'm amazed by people's dedication."

Sarah is also a member of the Climate Psychology Alliance. She said: "We think about two things - partly why so many people seem to be in denial and also why it's impacting us in terms of anxiety, grief and a range of emotions associated with this terrible thing looming ahead of us that we have no control over.

"I do have every sympathy with people that find it hard to accept climate change because it's so huge and overwhelming. It's understandable why one may want to almost pretend it's not happening."

XR are new kids on the block compared with Clean Air for Brent, whose members have been campaigning for a reduction in traffic and pollution for years.

Talia Abbot Chalew, from Queen's Park, is an adjunct professor teaching environmental science and environmental health. She said: "I joined CAfB because I wanted to make a positive difference in the community, improve the quality of life of the area, and reduce air pollution locally to protect the health of my children.

"I hope that we can influence Brent Council to improve air quality and to educate the citizens of Brent to make changes in their behaviors that will improve the air quality for all of us. It is a global problem, but local solutions make a difference."

Victoria Secretan, from Kensal Rise, is a retired corporate responsibility professional.

She joined CAfB through taking part in the group's first citizen science project. She said: "I monitored local air quality using diffusion tubes. I became increasingly committed, as I understood more about the serious impact of poor air quality on health. I'm now keen for CAfB's experience and knowledge to be shared with parts of the borough where there is less awareness of the danger of air pollution and to help fellow residents find ways of alleviating it."

Janey McAllester, from Willesden Green, curates an art collection and was one of the initiators of Clean Air for Brent. She said: "I hope we can create a loud community voice that will force action from our politicians to impact air pollution in our city."

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