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Silent Rebellion’s antidote to consumerism at Grand Arcade




The fifth Silent Rebellion took place at the Grand Arcade Saturday (January 25), with three dozen Extinction Rebellion activists meditating in front of the John Lewis store to draw attention to the benefits of reducing consumerist activity.

XR’sSilent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell
XR’sSilent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell

“At the four Silent Rebellions so far people tell me they experienced a palpable sense of stillness and love,” said organiser Jeremy Peters. “At this simple event everyone is welcome - to bring stillness to a shopping centre. During the sit, members of the Silent Rebellion team hand out leaflets to passers-by and have conversations about choosing contentment over consumption.”

The non-disruptive activity is moderated by Cambridge Buddhist Centre’s Buddhist practitioners. The leaflets handed to passers-by showcase the Silent Rebellion ethos: “We need to live simply so that others may simply live.”

XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605888)
XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605888)

One of those handing out leaflets, Julie Wyard, said: “The response from the public has been overwhelmingly supportive, almost everybody is taking leaflets and the conversations taking place have considered possible solutions to the climate crisis in terms of transport issues and consumerism in Cambridge. Transport could mean trams, or electrifying transport, and cutting out cars.”

As in a congestion charge?

XR’sSilent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppel
XR’sSilent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppel

“With the congestion charge the thing is that it’s okay for those that can afford it, but makes life difficult for poorer people. We need clean, affordable, accessible-to-all solutions, it’s got to be sustainable and connect to the villages too. I don’t know the answer to that. This action is about consumerism. People here are looking at the Tesla shop but more electric cars isn’t the answer because it’s still hurting the planet and causes problems where the cobalt is mined. That’s why I’m cycling everywhere but I know I’m lucky that I can and am healthy.”

XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605890)
XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605890)

Cobalt is a key component in batteries for electric cars, phones and laptops, and the Dominican Republic of Congo supplies more than three quarters of global demand. Tens of thousands of children as young as six dig for the toxic metal in artisanal mines in the country’s southeast, without protective clothing, human rights groups say. Eradicating the use of cobalt in electric vehicle batteries is technologically challenging, though Royston-based Johnson Matthey has been researching the use of manganese in vehicle and phone batteries. Johnson Matthey has cut cobalt use in half using its manganese-based alternative, and has a factory opening in Poland in 2022 devoted to the production of batteries using manganese alongside the more ‘traditional’ elements including copper, graphite, lithium and nickel.

XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605884)
XR Silent Rebellion in the Grand Arcade. Picture: Keith Heppell. (27605884)

Manganese is mainly mined in South Africa, Australia, Gabon, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Ukraine and Malaysia - 70 per cent is from Gabon, which is fast-tracking new infrastructure for investment and, inevitably, exploitation.

“All we consume is taken from nature,” says Silent Rebellion. “Mass consumption results in mass pollution and waste.

“If the seven billion people on this planet were to consume and waste as rich countries do, we would need three more planets. Because of the climate emergency, let’s learn the art of living well with less.”



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