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Faith in Practice

Rushing to save the world

Omond.jpg

Tamsin Omond has become, at the age of 23, an icon of anti-climate-change activism. She is a leading (landing?) light in Plane Stupid and the founder of Climate Rush, and is now writing a book that is 'sort of social critique, personal memoir and big inspirational wheeee!'

I was brought up as a Christian. I don't know what denomination I am - I don't understand the divisions, maybe because I don't have enough knowledge; but when­ever I go back to the church in the village I grew up in, those are the services that make me cry. When I went up to Cam­bridge, for a couple of years I didn't go to church or associate with church people because I didn't seem to be wanted as I was - in fact, I was quite aggressively not wanted - but then a new chaplain arrived at my college and she was amazing, it was like: 'Oh wow! Here's someone I want to talk to.' We used to go for walks and she got me in­volved in chapel and reminded me that there was so much more to the church than closed doors.

In my final year at Cambridge, I shared a house with some people from Plane Stu­pid who told me about climate change. I wasn't particularly green - I recycled and I fretted vaguely about the rainforest but I as­­sumed that someone had it all in hand. I real­ly hadn't got a grasp of how ur­gent the situation was, and I couldn't see my own personal res­pon­sibility in it.

I read all their stuff and finally these two worlds really came together for me: the Christian call to stewardship of the Earth and the awful implications of climate change, not only for our way of life now but for the future of humanity, and what it will say about us if we allow it to happen. And here I am 18 months later and it's clear that no one has anything in hand and the pressure has to come directly from us. 

The Times profile of me said that I 'put God on hold and turned my mind to the environment', but actually the opposite is true: my environmentalism and my faith are totally con­nected and intertwined. It's like, What sort of revolution do we need? We need the revolution of the Gospels. It's absolutely the only feasible way of getting out of this crisis - and this is our chance. The crisis can either completely paralyse all the things that make us human - our conscience, our concern for other people - or it can be the thing that revitalises them. It's like the president of the Maldives has said ab­out the Copenhagen summit in Decem­ber: Either it can be a historic event where the world unites in a spirit of co-operation and collaboration, or it can be a suicide pact. Either we can realise all the promise of this Earth or we can make it desolate.

Are we all just irredeemably selfish? I don't think so. I think we've got a culture of short-term gratification that has been fostered by billions of pounds of advertising money, and we're distracted by things that don't matter at all, like celebrity, and it's turning us all into mindless lemmings. In effect, we are quite stupid now, though I think we could be different. We've lost the idea that caring about the future and taking the long view is not only pointful but enjoyable. What I'm hoping is that the climate crisis - and the economic crisis, too - will compel us (because suddenly we can't just fly away and forget about our problems) to relearn what actually has value, such as community.

Climate Rush was inspired by the Suf­fragettes, though our style is very different. What they had to challenge was the idea that women were hysterical creatures who couldn't be trusted with serious matters - and what they achieved is now a cornerstone of our democracy. I believe that what we are doing may be the defining campaign of our time, but what we are challenging is the idea that being green is boring and as­ce­tic and will ruin your fun. What we are try­ing to put across is that community is ex­citing and engaging and empowering, that we have a shared history and a shared future and we need to start acting that way.

Climate Rush is trying to provide easy access points to the movement, campaigns that people can easily understand and be a part of just by showing up. Both the Rush and Plane Stupid have an emphasis on having fun and yes, we could be seen as prank­sters, but our underlying purpose is really serious. It does worry us that we might do something that will make it easy to dismiss the whole green movement as a joke - but we've now got less than 10 years maybe to stop climate change and it's no holds barred. Anything that can impress on the public the urgency of this crisis is hugely important.

There is a long history of activism in my family, but it was always quiet and deferential. I was brought up to respect the law and I was definitely reluctant to break it, because the law is meant to represent what we want for our society. You really do have to think about these things before you do them, be­cause afterwards you have to sit and reflect in a cell for 24 hours. But when for example I commit trespass [by climbing on the roof of the Palace of Westminster and displaying a banner that said 'BAA HQ'], I'm asking: 'Where are the laws that will combat climate change? Why don't we have any of those?' I think there is all the difference in the world between shoplifting, say, and doing an ac­tion openly that critiques society and promotes debate and is peace­ful and creative.

It is important to examine your mot­ives. Am I just an attention seeker? I don't think so. When I left Cam­bridge, I worked as a church administrator in Primrose Hill [in north London] and I was earnest and definitely very efficient, as you would expect a church administrator to be. Climate Rush events are fun and are meant to engage that side of people, but in between there is quite a lot of administration and it is hard work.

For more information about Climate Rush, go to www.climaterush.co.uk, or visit its Facebook page. Rush! The making of an activist is due out from Marion Boyars in October 2009.