Extinction Rebellion throws full weight behind campaign to Stop HS2

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  • Extinction Rebellion makes stopping HS2 a top priority for at least the next six weeks. 
  • Hundreds of rebels will self-isolate in treehouses along the proposed route. 
  • Even those physically unable to be on site to defend ancient woodlands will join in digital and phone activism from their own homes. 
  • Rebels call on HS2 Ltd and the Government to go on lock down, vowing that if they won’t stop committing Crimes Against Nature, we will do everything we can to stop them.
  • HS2 have yet to receive Notice to Proceed but plan to fell five protected ancient woodlands in Warwickshire in mid-April regardless. 
  • Alongside the announcement, Extinction Rebellion launches a new section of its website, dedicated to the HS2 Rebellion
  • HS2 is by far the largest, most expensive, carbon intensive and environmentally destructive project in UK history – it must be stopped. 

Extinction Rebellion today declared that it will be going all out to stop HS2 dead in its tracks. 

The Rebellion had already been active in opposing the rail-line, which is by far the largest, most expensive, carbon intensive and environmentally destructive project in the UK’s history.[1] Nevertheless, this decision marks a radical shift in focus for the group, which had previously concentrated upon the seats of power in Westminster, Central London and the City. 

In the longer term, Extinction Rebellion remains committed to bringing about system change, targeting the Government by causing maximum economic disruption in the capital. However, for at least the next six weeks, the disruptive elements of Extinction Rebellion’s energy will be centred upon protest camps in threatened ancient woodlands along the proposed route of phase one of HS2, between Birmingham and London, where it will have no negative impacts upon the daily lives of ordinary people. 

The reasons for this are two-fold. On the one hand, HS2 is so damaging that it threatens to make Climate and Ecological Apocalypse unavoidable. It has not been given the final go ahead, or formal Notice to Proceed, by the Treasury and could yet be stopped before the devastation and degradation begins in earnest. Indeed, in the High Court on Tuesday Judge Andrews noted that “HS2 may not exist in 6 months”. So these few weeks while the Treasury reaches its decision are critical. 

On the other hand, the pandemic has prompted a serious change of tactics for Extinction Rebellion as rebels seek to stop HS2 using diverse ‘coronavirus-friendly actions’ which minimise the risk of spreading contagion and may even help act as an effective barrier to it. 

All those who are fit and able to do so are being urged to take to the treetops, building and occupying existing treehouses in ancient woodlands along the proposed route of HS2. Hundreds of rebels are expected to answer the call in the coming weeks, with expert veteran treehouse builders from the days of the road protests in the 1990s ready to provide training and support. 

This is being viewed and promoted as the ultimate healthy way to self-isolate. Instead of being surrounded by people in urban centres and suffering from claustrophobia indoors, treehouse  dwellers will enjoy the fresh air and psychologically liberating sensation of living in the leafy canopy, regaled by birdsong and comforted by the knowledge that they are defending our few remaining wild spaces from destruction. 

Those who are too sick to physically defend ancient woodlands, or otherwise prefer to stay at home, can still do their bit. Thousands are expected to join in digital and phone actions, targeting Government departments, HS2 Ltd and its various subcontractors – including 5 Rivers, Flannery Plant Hire, Hartwood, Midlands Ecology and Adas – with a barrage of complaints, from the comfort of their own homes. 

The message is simple: if the whole country is to be put on lock down, then why is HS2 exploiting the situation by ploughing on with its destruction of the natural environment regardless, in the hopes that coronavirus will allow it to do so unopposed? 

Extinction Rebellion is calling upon HS2 Ltd and the Government to go on lock down as well and to place all further work, including decision-making processes, on hold, until after the pandemic has passed. If they will not and are determined to bulldoze the countryside while people are sick and dying around them, then rebels have vowed to do everything in their power to stop this. 

Extinction Rebellion’s declaration comes as news emerges that, in spite of not having received the necessary Notice to Proceed, HS2 Ltd is planning to fell five protected ancient woodlands in Warwickshire in mid-April. Broadwells, Fulfen, Crackley, Birches and an unnamed woods on Ash Owl Road are all to be taken down in the coming weeks. This will be in the middle of nesting season, despite a strict legal prohibition on the disturbing of nesting birds. HS2 Ltd claims that these acts of irreversible destruction are ‘enabling works’, so it does not need Notice to Proceed. 

Apart from the nature and climate catastrophe which HS2 represents, it is an obscene abuse of public money. Originally estimated at £9bn, the cost has now risen to over £100bn and is expected to double again. That is £3,000 each for every man, woman and child in the UK, for a train which only the very rich will be able to afford to use. That money would be better spent improving existing infrastructure, and on local transport services for ordinary people. 

The Government recently admitted withholding information showing it would go over budget, so as not to put contracts at risk.[2] HS2 Ltd CEO Mark Thurston also recently awarded himself a £46k bonus, on top of the £600k yearly salary he pays himself out of taxpayer’s money, making him by far the highest paid public servant in the country.[3]

Alongside Extinction Rebellion’s declaration that it will go all out to stop HS2, it has also launched a new section of its website, dedicated to this, with facts about why it is making this a key focus, and information about how to get involved. Visit this at http://rebellion.earth/hs2-rebellion

Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion co-founder, said: “The fight to stop HS2 is a major frontline of the Climate and Ecological Emergency in this country. It is not just a fight for over a hundred ancient woodlands, for badgers, bats and countless other endangered and protected species, it is a fight for a just approach to investing our money sensibly to secure decent living standards and jobs and a future for our children. HS2 represents so much that is wrong and corrupt in our current democracy and economy, captive to vested interests. HS2 is  committing Crimes Against Nature, and we will do everything we can to stop them.”

Dr. Larch Maxey (pictured), roads protests veteran and Extinction Rebellion treehouse builder, who once lived in a treehouse for a year, said: “People are concerned about the felling and burning of the rainforest in Brazil, but what about closer to home? This is our Amazon! HS2 threatens 108 of the last ancient woodlands left in this once heavily forested country. Ordinary people must unite to protect nature and stop HS2. And what better way to achieve social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak than by living in a treehouse in the woods. It’s an incredible privilege to be in this ancient woodland canopy amongst the woodpeckers, owls and song birds, building my own home. We now have three emergencies and coronavirus shows us what an emergency response looks like. Now we need a response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency and to stop HS2!”

Indra Donfrancesco, roads protests veteran and Extinction Rebellion lead on stopping HS2, said: “I love trains. But knowing everything we now know about biodiversity loss, deforestation and climate chaos, I will fight to protect that which no one has the right to destroy. Our small island has a finite ecology that has been privatised, polluted and plundered to near infertility, we are Nature defending itself. All this so an exclusive train can get to an airport 15 minutes faster. It is more than a tragedy, it is ecocide. 

I feel we can win this. From Twyford Down to the battle of Newbury bypass we started with one camp of tents and ended with 23 camps and thousands of new warriors and stopped the Government’s £23Bn road building program. Now is the time for all big-hearted people to hear the call, to say no more, to draw a line in the mud and say HS2, you shall not pass!”

Notes to Editors

Watch HS2 in a minute at HS2rebellion.org 

[1] https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/hs2-exorbitant-cost-nature

[2] https://www.cityam.com/hs2-top-civil-servant-admits-to-withholding-information-on-cost-blow-out/

[3] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/03/07/hs2-boss-defends-46k-bonus-linked-control-projects-budget/

About HS2

HS2 is set to destroy over a hundred ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK-tax payer well over £100 billion, the high speed rail project is already causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years, as well as enabling mass airport expansion. 

HS2 have repeatedly failed to produce risk assessments of their environmental impact, despite ongoing requests.

The Government must scrap HS2 immediately, instead using the money to improve and invest in local services and projects that adapt to the reality we face in this Climate and Ecological Emergency. 

For more information visit: rebellion.earth/hs2-rebellion

About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.




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