Sitting in the road to disaster
Ruth Jarman, environmental activist, talks to Stephen Tomkins
A founding member of Christian Climate Action, Ruth Jarman has been arrested repeatedly in an attempt to get Britain to tackle the climate crisis. At the time of our interview, she was taking part in Insulate Britain, where protesters block main roads with their bodies in a campaign to persuade the government to reduce energy use by retrofitting all homes in the UK. These actions have proved more controversial than ever, with reports of ambulances being delayed and urgent journeys being held up.
Ruth is a co-founder of Operation Noah, whose campaign for Churches to divest from fossil fuels helped persuade the United Reformed Church to do so in 2019, and she also works for the charity Green Christian.
You’ve been involved in Insulate Britain. What’s the idea?
A few of us from Christian Climate Action [CCA] – not all of us – have been involved with Insulate Britain. It’s a crazy response, but we are in crazy times. We’re heading for what some people say is mass extinction. (I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it actually.) So what is the right response? Someone in Insulate Britain said the other day: ‘There is no right response.’ We’re beyond that. As Christians, we would never do anything violent, it has to be within the way that God is calling us to. But beyond that, anything goes. Maybe there is no sensible response because no sensible response would be commensurate with the crazy, inconceivable situation we’re in.
Between five and seven Christians have been involved in it together, which means we’ve been able to pray together. One of the lovely things was that, because some of CCA were walking the Camino to COP (walking from London to Glasgow), and some were just at home and some were on Insulate Britain, we decided that we would have a Psalm of the day that we would all focus on, wherever we were. And there have been moments when the whole group, including the non-Christians, asked us to read that psalm and to pray for them. And so that’s been really lovely, a sort of service.
A lot of Christian Climate Action are not involved in Insulate Britain and some of them are against it. But still we felt prayed for. A lot of people say: ‘I couldn’t do it myself, but I’m praying for you.’ It’s been difficult because not everyone agrees it’s the right thing. Gosh, I don’t know if it’s the right thing.
One of the things I ask myself when determining if something is ‘right’ is to ask what would happen if everyone did it. If everyone stopped flying, refused meat and dumped their tumble dryer it would make a difference. If everyone glued themselves to the M25, the government would insulate Britain.
What are the reservations of others in CCA?
Traffic is dangerous and if an accident was caused because of us, how could you justify that? Even if you’re trying to prevent our extinction, if we cause suffering and death of somebody, that is just unacceptable…
This is an extract from an article published in the November 2021 edition of Reform