MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 23-Apr-19 13:10:59

Guest post: “Climate breakdown will affect us all.”

Catherine Webb talks about how her own experiences led her to form Mothers Rise Up who will be marching to demand government action on climate breakdown.

Catherine Webb

Mothers Rise Up

Posted on: Tue 23-Apr-19 13:10:59


Lead photo

“This is not about polar bears. Without rapid, systemic and far-reaching change there will be serious loss of human life.”

TLDR: The Mothers’ Climate March is on 12 May; Hyde Park corner to Parliament square. Come and join us.

I am not usually the sort of person who organises marches - I’ve never been an activist or a campaigner.

I really, really hate conflict. And asking people to do stuff.

But being a mother has changed me in some quite profound ways. If my kids are threatened, you can bet I’ll be there to protect them. If they need me to advocate for something, I’ll make myself do it; I’ll arrange meetings, write letters and have difficult conversations. In my time, I’ve thrown everything into getting them into good schools or trying to get my DS help for his SEN. And now I’m organising a march with a group of mums called Mothers Rise Up. This time it’s not just for my kids - it’s for everyone’s kids.

I’ve known our kids’ futures are threatened for some time now. For me, this knowledge has mostly manifested itself as an underlying sense of dread, humming in the background alongside a feeling of absolute powerlessness. A desire not to look. I’m talking about the C word.


Climate breakdown, more specifically. You may not have heard of the IPCC report (it didn’t get loads of press)  -  it’s a collaborative report commissioned by the UN and worked on by hundreds of climate scientists. These scientists make predictions about how the climate will change and recommendations for what to do about it.

Historically they have always underestimated the speed and severity of climate change. Their most recent report is the first one I’ve read all of. I’d known about climate change - as much as we all know - and knew things were bad, but I hadn’t let myself realise quite how bad.

Our children are already out there on the streets protesting, striking from school and demanding government action, but this mess is not theirs. We wholeheartedly support them, but they are too young to take this burden alone.

This report, I believe, is what has inspired the recent protests and documentaries such as the Youth Strike, Extinction Rebellion, and the recent David Attenborough documentary. The narration is in plain language, but it paints an alarming picture of what will happen to the world in our lifetimes if we do not all act quickly.

This is not about polar bears. Without rapid, systemic and far-reaching change there will be serious loss of human life. Climate breakdown will affect us all. Our food supplies, our homes and the other resources that we need to live are all under threat. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, spreading deserts and natural disasters like forest fires, floods and typhoons will become more and more commonplace. This scenario is on track to happen in my old age, when my children are in their thirties and forties. Their kids, if they have them, will face threats and hardship unlike anything our generation has known.

This will not be solved by individuals diligently separating their recycling. Arresting climate change is possible, but it will require radical, systemic and rapid change.

Our children are already out there on the streets protesting, striking from school and demanding government action, but this mess is not theirs. We wholeheartedly support them, but they are too young to take this burden alone. It should be us who are out there demanding change and protecting them. This is something the current government needs to act on. It’s time for us to sort out this mess.

A group of us have come together to form Mothers Rise Up. On our own, we felt worried and powerless. As a collective, we are not powerless. We are organising. Our first step will be a march to demand government action: The Mothers’ Climate March is on International Mother’s Day, 12th May and will go from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square in London.

This guest post is your invitation to join in. To come to the march on Sunday 12th May, to email your MP, to make your change, to find a community that shares your concern over the future of our shared home. You can find us on Facebook or follow us on twitter @MothersRiseUp

Join us! Everyone is welcome. Like Mumsnet, we are powered by mums but we are not only for mums; anyone who cares about the future of our shared home will get a warm welcome. My DD is making cookies for the march so if you spot me and give me the Mumsnet wink I might persuade her to part with one.

This post is also your invitation to chat. I’ll be back in a few days to answer your questions. I also have a personal Mumsnet account @traynorbird where I generally lurk about giggling in AIBU and Classics. I’m happy to have a conversation there too.

First though, I have a question for you. Should there be a climate board on MN where we can form community around this issue? I think there should be.

Catherine will be returning to the guest post on 26/04/2019 to answer some of your questions

By Catherine Webb

Twitter: @mothersriseup

Nigel23 Tue 23-Apr-19 14:46:14

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

DuesToTheDirt Tue 23-Apr-19 15:01:12

Nigel23, what part of this do you not believe?

As for "do your own research", are you suggesting we all go to the Antarctic and study the penguins? Or go to Greenland and measure the glaciers? Because that is what research is, and there are plenty of scientists doing just that, and they all say pretty much the same thing about climate change.

Or by "do your own research" do you just mean trawl the Internet and pick and choose your facts?

SilverySurfer Tue 23-Apr-19 15:06:01

Unusual to see a voice of reason on this board re climate change - thank you Nigel23.

The Planet has shifted its own climate from ice age to tropical and back all by itself for billions of years and if you think you can stop it happening for the next approx 3.5 billion years left of its life, I wish you luck.

DuesToTheDirt Tue 23-Apr-19 15:15:47

SilverySurfer, if you think this particular climate change is not a) man-made and b) potentially catastrophic for us all, you really have got your head in the sand.

onalongsabbatical Tue 23-Apr-19 15:19:17

I haven't read the whole post. I'm in Extinction Rebellion, and I've been intermittently an activist for nearly 50 years.

Just this point - Should there be a climate board on MN where we can form community around this issue? I think there should be.

There already is;

Watching people re-invent the wheel over and over again (not just on this topic) is one reason I'm not hopeful for the human race. How did they pass this as a guest post without telling you that the thing you are asking for already exists? It's not well used, because apathy and fear and overwhelm prevent people from really engaging with this (not to speak of sheer stupidity and denial, as in a couple of comments above).

madeyemoodysmum Tue 23-Apr-19 15:24:18

Regardless of whether you believe in climate change or not there is still plenty we can do to protect our environment and the animals that live here.

we all need to cut down on plastics.

The rubbish around us is affecting our seas and our natural animals and insects.

We need to find new clean resources for fuel and light, this will benefit us all.

We need to reuse and mend where possible

We need to be recycling as much as possible, people need to stop littering and fly tipping, its unsightly disgusting and dangerous for our animal life. I would Support harsh penalties for people doing this

We need to plant things in our gardens that will attract butterflies and bees, we need to stop using fake grass, we need to be planting more trees, not only do they look nice they are better for us in the long term, prevent flooding and help with our wildlife these reasons are enough for me to do my bit whether climate change is real or not.

The human race is very selfish we need to stop otherwise children won’t have the world that we have enjoyed, pictures of tigers bees Lions will be something to be seen in a book like the dinosaurs. New diseases will emerge if we can’t provide an off food and vegetables or fruits to survive insect species are crucial to our survival.

Saying climate change doesn’t matter is irrelevant to all of this. These issues ARE real and they WILL matter.


MsLayla Tue 23-Apr-19 15:31:01

I'm sympathetic to the cause. I'm worried about climate change, as many of us are.
I try to limit buying plastic, cut back on non-necessities, recycle etc & it seems a bit futile.
But - and this is a genuine question - what is the point of marching? The government and wider world don't care if we hold demonstrations. What good is it going to do? What is the overall aim of this March and will it have any impact at all, really.

Maybe see you on the 12th smile (undecided).

LondonJax Tue 23-Apr-19 16:15:15

In all this talk about what government should be doing re climate change (which I totally agree with by the way) and how people should try to give up meat, cars, travelling by plane etc., I never see the people organising these marches mention the fundamental fact that we, humans, need to limit the number of children we keep having.

In the early part of the 20th century, with no vaccinations against common childhood diseases, no old age pension and no NHS you needed your children to support you as you grew older and you needed a fair number of kids as they wouldn't all make it adulthood.

But now we have relatively good health, an NHS that does its best, pensions that aren't great but are better than my great grandparents could have dreamed of.

So why aren't we being encouraged by this movement and Extinction Rebellion etc to tell our kids to think small families are beautiful (two children at most), is the way we should live in future, is the correct thing to do.

We wouldn't have problems with so many cars on the road, so much land being used for raising animals for meat, so many planes in the sky if we didn't have a rising population. When are human beings going to face the fact that we cannot control the environment if we cannot control the number of children we bring into this world?

I was born in 1963. I've not even reached pensionable age yet and the world population has doubled to 7.7 billion people from the world I was born into. We are increasing the number of people on this planet by about 1 billion people per decade.

Every person, in theory, has to be fed, watered, bathed, clothed and medically cared for as well as being housed and transported to work/school etc.

We have to use the same amount of water as our grandparents had back in 1950 when the world population was about 2.5 billion people. We have to use the same amount of land they had to grow food on or feed our food animals on and supply housing for an additional 4.5 billion people.

We won't magically make water or land appear. What water or land we have on this planet is what our great grandchildren will see. But less of it if they are trying to get water and food to 10 billion people plus.

My son is 12 years old. If we carry on like this, his children will see a population of 12 billion people by the time he reaches my age...climate change will be the least of his problems.

You can march all you want, you can insist governments do something but unless you're prepared to face the fact that we need to bring the population down (and that can only be done by controlling births obviously), our children and their children will face the same dilemma in years to come.

SilverySurfer Tue 23-Apr-19 16:18:31

madeyemoodysmum All excellent points and I totally agree.

scaryteacher Tue 23-Apr-19 16:39:11

LondonJax Exactly. Nobody wants to talk about there being too many people on the planet.

bodgeitandscarper Tue 23-Apr-19 17:46:04

I also have to agree with LondonJax. Climate change is said to be human made, and yet we keep on producing more humans to add to the problem.

I also think that no matter what measures we put in place, (I'm sure I've seen reports that the UK only contributes 1% to the carbon emissions of the planet,) unless the bigger players like the US, China and other developing countries get on board it will probably be a pointless task acting in solidarity.

I do think we need to act, but I don't think that we stand much chance unfortunately. sad

Traynorbird Tue 23-Apr-19 17:46:09

Hi @LondonJax yes you are right, rising human population is a huge issue for climate change. The best evidence shows that decreasing child mortality and increasing girls education reduces the number of children a woman is likely to have in her life time. This number has dramatically decreased in our life times. From the UN report on world population:

'In recent years, fertility has declined in nearly all regions of the world. Even in Africa, where fertility levels are the highest of any region, total fertility has fallen from 5.1 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 4.7 in 2010-2015.'
'Europe has been an exception to this trend in recent years, with total fertility increasing from 1.4 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 1.6 in 2010-2015.'

The human population is expected to top out at about 11 bn (A lot I know!) in 2100, and we can predict this pretty accurately as the birth rate has already massively declined.

We at Mothers Rise Up support those women who are on #BirthStrike due to climate, as I'm sure you do too! However, we have already had our children and would never presume to tell anyone what to do with their own fertility choices.

Traynorbird Tue 23-Apr-19 17:58:53

Hi @MsLayla I completely understand how you feel about this! Our hope is that if we are out in numbers representing a large mainstream group of 'mums' rather than the stereotype of hippy environmentalists (which I should say I think is an absolutely bollocks stereotype but it has stuck to climate change), then it will add weight to the movement and be less easy for politicians to dismiss.
We also find solace in being part of a community that have similar convictions and problems, its nice not to be on your own with these kinds of worries. We know that a lot of damage has already been done and that some of the problems that we fear are almost certain to happen, but that doesn't mean we can't try to mitigate them. I think of it this way, a fire has started in the house and its definitely going to destroy the kitchen, instead of shrugging and thinking, well there goes the house, we try to put it out. Yes, the kitchen will be damaged, but most of the house will be saved and later when we have saved up some money we can repair the kitchen... Does that make sense?

CupOhTea Tue 23-Apr-19 18:29:30

Nobody wants to talk about there being too many people on the planet.

Bollocks they don’t! It appears on literally every thread re climate change. Pretty quickly.

@LondonJax does have a point though. David Attenborough has spoken publicly about over population too and used to be one of the faces of Don’t know if he still is.

It isn’t a secret. I don’t know why people always say “nobody wants to mention the elephant in the room”. It’s the most discussed elephant since frigging dumbo grin. But is very important, so worth discussing.

Traynorbird Tue 23-Apr-19 18:58:50

Hi @onalongsabbatical blush duh! I hadn't seen the climate board and I did look for one! It didn't seem to come down in the talk drop down menu. I can understand why seeing new things starting up over and over might feel frustrating (especially after 50 years of activism). Our aim is not to compete with XR, but to add to their momentum. We want politicians not to be able to dismiss the movement as 'fringe' or 'just a few hippies' as they have often done in the past. We are also keen to engage people who would not naturally be activists (such as myself) and who are not ready for the tactics of trying to get arrested that XR employ. I know there has been lots of discussion around this and we are hoping that this will feel like a 'safe' way to show politicians that we want rapid action.
Thank you for being in XR, lots of us do go to their protests, I have been to one myself and Mothers Rise Up comes from a meeting of mums at an XR event. Peace and solidarity x

Firecarrier Tue 23-Apr-19 19:01:13

Nice one Nigel, couldn't agree more grin

Unusual to see someone who's not completely brainwashed on Mumsnet!

bluejelly Tue 23-Apr-19 19:22:43

I wish climate change wasn't real but it is... The days of scientific doubt are over - there is near unanimous agreement amongst the scientific community. And yes it is manmade - and it's getting worse.
What matters now is how we deal with it. Do we try and limit our impact on the natural world and live in harmony with it? Or do we sit back and say it's too difficult/complex/expensive to deal with?
Personally I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye and say I tried my best.

SleepDeprivedCabbageBrain Tue 23-Apr-19 19:23:26

Well I'm definitely going to be there and I've invited all my friends. See you on 12th.

bluejelly Tue 23-Apr-19 19:27:32

Regarding previous post about population. The average American produces 32 times more C02 on an annual basis than a Kenyan.
Rich people use far, far more resources than poorer ones. Arguably we should limit population in the rich world. Or start to live within our means...

DateLoaf Tue 23-Apr-19 19:38:55

Good for you organising this. Mums (and Dads) have a stake in the future in our children who are already here. As a parent I find it embarrassing how primary school kids are making more noise about the environment crisis than a lot of adults and parents are. I feel very anxious for their futures and I can only imagine how furious they will feel with us all in the future if we just sit back and let them deal with this crisis when it reaches monumental catastrophic proportions. When we could have been anticipating some of it and heading off some of the problems now.

Very very important that our politicians and the media realise that environmental issues are massively mainstream, urgent concerns for all of us to deal with. This is a great contribution to that. star

PlinkPlink Tue 23-Apr-19 20:33:38

Did anyone see Frankie Boyle's show the other night? He had a guest speaker on who was brilliant.

Changing your cotton buds from plastic to bamboo is not going to make a huge difference. Ultimately the biggest change needs to come from the corporations. It needs to come from us on a personal level too, dont get me wrong. But the corporations and governments are the big ones.

On a personal level, changing to a plant based diet would be one of the biggest changes we could make. Less demand for cattle, less methane.

And yes, the world does go through cycles. The temperature does rise. But not as quickly as this over such a short period of time. Our actions have exacerbated the cycle. We need to do something before we reach the tipping point.

Personally, I will be switching to a plant based diet. I signed up to Greenpeace too and signed some of their petitions. The more petitions and protests will surely make it clear to the government that this is something we all want. We all want change and we want it now.

onetwofive Tue 23-Apr-19 20:36:07

Thank you for this post. It does feel truly terrifying sometimes and I get that feeling of wanting not to believe it or trying to forget about it, and at other times it's so scary I can't bear to think about it, especially to think of the horrible effects affecting our children. I do so desperately hope that something can and will be done. Not sure if I'll make it to the march or not (very very far away) but so glad you're doing it and hope you have a fantastic turnout.

jasjas1973 Tue 23-Apr-19 20:51:31

Good to see there are still a few climate change deniers about!

Its the rate of change and that is unprecedented, as for overpopulation, the damage done by the industrialised West was done when we had relatively small populations, our wealth is built on the destruction of the world's ecosystems and climate.

Individuals can do a little but unless our Govt grasps the nettle and changes how we live i.e huge investment in public transport, nuclear, new build insulation, discounts to upgrade existing homes, rewilding... its going to v difficult to hit Paris targets let alone what is really needed.

Cathmidston Tue 23-Apr-19 21:10:24

The science isn’t settled ,... this is a good debate for anyone new to questioning this hysteria

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