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Ex-investment banker joins Extinction Rebellion

Campaigners to stop the traffic in Finchley Road on Monday

07 February, 2020 — By Tom Foot

A RETIRED investment banker says she has found a new lease of life with Extinction Rebellion (XR) and experienced an uplifting “sense of joy” from attending the protest group’s meetings.

Sarah Gunton, who lives in Belsize Park, volunteers for the Camden XR group which believes there are 10 years left to save the world from irreversible climate change.

They are due to hold a trademark traffic-stopping protest in polluted Finchley Road, close to Holy Trinity school in Swiss Cottage, on Monday.

Ms Gunton, who has described herself as a “hypocrite”, said: “I used to shout at taxi drivers every morning on the way to work. I used to be so stressed about being late and having little time. That stress stopped me being a decent person.”

“How can an investment banker who earns enough to call it a day in seven years be OK with the fact that she is dumping on a taxi driver who earns so little? I was not being a good human.”

She added: “I joined the rebellion on October 9 2019. I got off the tube and I saw a stall with the XR principles and values, and immediately I felt like I’d come home. There is a real sense of joy you get from the meetings.”

“You see that we are all part of the problem, and how no individual can confront the climate crisis on their own. We are all hypocrites, we have to embrace that. It is about working towards systematic change.”

She added: “But a big part of XR that is a bit inexplicable to people is the amount of time spent in the meetings on being with your feelings. An XR meeting starts with a check-in. You check in, share one sentence about how you are feeling that day, one thing you are grateful for.”

XR has been criticised for attracting mainly middle class people with time on their hands and for failing to inspire struggling people who are overwhelmed by day-to-day problems such as paying bills or poor ­quality housing.

But Ms Gunton, who was a parent-governor at Fitzjohn’s primary school, said: “What do you say to tired people, or people who are worried or angry about how to pay the rent – what can they do? Organise a meeting. Open your door to three or four of your neighbours. It doesn’t matter what sort of place you live in, there is no judgment.”

“Or, if not that, come to one of our meetings and see how we learn not to be aggressive with stress, avoid blaming and shaming other people. “The better and happier we are, the more energy we have to fight for those who need us. “You will see such a difference, from being in a shouting, aggressive crowd, to coming into a non-violent space.”

She added: “Being blinkered [about the climate crisis] is not effortless. When you take those blinkers off, there is a real sense of joy. There is a real beauty and joy to accepting the consequences of the climate crisis. You find a beautiful place of peace within yourself.”

”But then you look at fires in Australia, look at the rate the ice caps are melting, at the inability of governments to be truthful about what the consequences of ‘business as usual’ are – and that is traumatic. You go from liberation, to trauma. The only way to square that circle is to act.”

Monday’s action in Finchley Road is part of XR Camden’s new “10:10 Campaign” which aims to “strengthen bonds in our local community and drive momentum towards mass mobilisation” in the spring.

Ms Gunton said: “We are going to Finchley Road because Holy Trinity school playground is there, it sits on top of the Finchley Road. It breaks my heart that the playground and school is so horribly polluted. Of all the greatest offences, to me it is that spot.”

Those who can’t join the protest are invited to spend 10 minutes thinking about how they can “bring about systematic change”.

If the action proves to be effective, it could be taken up by ­other branches across the country.

More details of Camden XR can be found at event/xr-camden-weekly-meeting/

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