Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Bing Jones: Fighting extinction

454 1557475300
Photo by Terry Matthews from Extinction Rebellion

As an organiser for the Sheffield branch of Extinction Rebellion, Bing Jones was at the heart of last week's campaign of civil disobedience in London. Now a free man again, we spoke to Bing about manning the barricades, getting arrested and the need to take urgent action to avert climate breakdown.

What was it like being part of the International Rebellion?

The whole thing was utterly amazing. The scale of it was absolutely vast. It was just a wonderful experience, because I've been worrying about this for decades and it's been so frustrating. But when you find that you can do something with a lot of other people who feel similar, when you are on the streets and basically shutting down London, it's the most fantastic experience.

I do a fair bit of press, and the mood in terms of the way the media handled us was transformed

There's this amazing sense of power because even though the police came and arrested a lot of people, they just kept withdrawing because they'd filled all the cells. It was quite obvious they were unable to cope with the numbers. So we had three nights in a row where we sat up late and lots of people got arrested. I spent the whole night sleeping on the tarmac and eventually the police came, they took lots of people away and they took down two of the roadblocks. But then they all went away so we just put the roadblocks back up.

The third night I did get arrested. It was really quite an experience to be put in a police cell, to have your fingerprints taken, your mugshots done. Especially for an older retired doctor like me. To be put into a cell and have all your personal belongings taken away, your watch taken so you don't know what the time is. You have a massive empathy for dispossessed people around the world. Climate change is dispossessing an enormous number of people.

What was it like on the ground?

It was really remarkable being with so many people in a festive atmosphere but with no drugs and no drink and people actually behaving incredibly well. We behaved well, the police behaved well. The poor old police did not know what to do. It was completely outside their experience. It was a magical week because it coincided so well with the David Attenborough programme and Greta Thunberg coming to Parliament. I do a fair bit of press, and the mood in terms of the way the media handled us was transformed.

For every dozen they arrested there were two dozen waiting to come and be arrested

What was the atmosphere on the bridges?

Really quite remarkable. It's a movement, not an organisation, so there's no top-down command. It's marvellously chaotic. But there was just enough organisation to hold each of the sites. It was quite a difficult thing. In Parliament Square we had five different roadblocks and they were all physically quite separate from each other. Our greatest asset is that there was a lot of people there a lot of the time. For every dozen they arrested there were two dozen waiting to come and be arrested. It was all worked out beforehand and it just went by the book.

What's next?

We've cracked the first stage - to get more media attention - but the problems remain. There's still eleven trillion dollars of investment planned for further fossil fuel exploration through to 2040. The whole of our society is a machine for burning fossil fuels. Every single thing we do from morning till night is dependent on that.

To transform our society we have a long way to go. We're continuing to organise and I hope that Sheffield is going to be a major spoke in the wheel. We're giving more talks, as it's a complicated problem but the solutions are even more complicated. Somehow we're going to have to get enough people informed and motivated to keep the profile of the issue high.

We need to have different political attitudes at every single level, from local to international. Locally they've declared this climate emergency but without any commitment. The government does a lot of green-wash, but avoids any form of commitment. I think the last fortnight has been miraculous, it's exceeded all our expectations. But I'm now steeling myself to the long-haul.

The key is to stick to our three demands. The first is to raise awareness, which we've done, and get the government to admit they're not telling the truth. The second is to aim for the UK to become carbon neutral by 2025. The last thing is the citizen's assembly. We are going to have to keep going.

Sam Gregory

Read our report from the front line of the Extinction Rebellion.

More News & Views

Can Sheffield end new HIV transmissions by 2030?

In anticipation of next week’s Festival of Debate panel, Rei Takver speaks with Sheffield doctor and HIV specialist Dr Claire Dewsnap about what the city still needs to do to tackle the virus.

More News & Views