Thanks to photographer GUY REECE for the amazing images
Episode #81 activism and mermaids at the G7 summit with Sophie Miller
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. As our world burns ever faster and our politicians cling ever more desperately to the old ways of being and behaving, Sophie Miller of Ocean Rebellion commits her creativity, artistry and courage to bringing truth to power.
Sophie Miller trained at Central St Martins before moving on to a decade-long career in television design. Now, she gives her time and energy to Extinction Rebellion as a Red Rebel – and to Ocean Rebellion, of which she is a co-founder. She lives in Cornwall, and so when she discovered that the first post-Covid G7 summit was taking place in her country and her county, she had to ask.
In this week’s inspiring podcast, she describes the practical – and spiritual – path that has brought her to this place and this time – as an activist who understands the damage done to the Oceans -and that there is still time to change what we’re doing. We discuss the nature of policing, of totalitarianism – and the ways we can transcend the crushing forces of authority to bring something deeper and more profound to our world. This is the first of two parts. Next week, we’ll be back to find out how the activism transpired and where we all go from here.
Thanks to photographer GUY REECE for the amazing images
Manda: It is a great honour and a privilege always to talk to Sophie Miller, who set up the Red Rebels in Cornwall, is a co-founder of Ocean Rebellion, which does for the seas what Extinction Rebellion does for the Land. We spoke together just ahead of the G7 summit, which is taking place in her home county of Cornwall. And Sophie has put together a suite of actions that is breathtaking in its audacity and creativity and ability to get the message home to everyone, from the media to the police to we sincerely hope the politicians, and the people of the world. So this, again, is the first of two parts, because we realised as we were recording that we need to go back and talk to Sophie about how it went, about what she actually did. Of all the things that she planned and how it was received, whether we have in fact made the change happen, that needs to happen at a time when it has to happen. So people of the podcast, please do welcome Sophie Miller. So, Sophie Miller, welcome back to the Accidental Gods podcast. You are down near a coast, because I can hear seagulls in the background. Tell us where you are and why this week.
Sophie: Hi, Manda. Lovely to see you again. I am in St Ives, in Cornwall. I live in Cornwall, but not St Ives. And I’m over here because it is the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, which is just over the hill where I am, I can almost see it.
Manda: With the seagulls in between you and there.
Sophie: With the seagulls in between, yes. It starts this evening and it goes on for the next three days. So I’m here to do some creative activism.
Manda: Brilliant. We’ll talk about that in a moment. I read something last night that said that Boris Johnson flew from London to Cornwall, which I think is probably all we need to know about his actual connexion to what’s going on. So before we look at the actual creative activism, what do you see the G7 summit as being for from the viewpoint of the people who are there, the people that the press are taking notice of? Not the ordinary people, but the world leaders, from your understanding of what they think they’re there for? What is it?
Sophie: Well, that’s a good question. I have what I think they’re there for, and what I hope they’re there for, and they’re two different things, as you can well imagine. I think they’re there for discussing how to maintain business as usual, and how to maintain global wealth and stability by using the economy and wealth and business as usual. Basically, all the things that we need to let go of and move into a new way of being. My hope would be that they’re here to discuss climate change, how to discuss green economies, how to stop business as usual and move to something more positive. I think there’s a possibility that maybe some of them are, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope.
Manda: Actually, no. Although I was listening to Della Duncan the other day, who’s been on this podcast, she was one of my very wonderful tutors at Schumacher. And she was saying that last year the Biden administration reached out to her and asked her to put them in touch with Kate Raworth of Doughnut Economics. And Kate then went and gave a presentation to the Biden administration. And it doesn’t mean they understand. It doesn’t mean they took it on board. But at least they are aware that there are other ways of doing economics. And she will have impressed upon them this concept that we need an economy that is working for people and planet, not people on planet working for an economy. And that growth or not growth is not the question anymore. So, and that’s the president of the United States. You know, if it was Iceland or New Zealand, then…. we know nobody would listen to them. But maybe they will. I think it’s not worth giving up.
Sophie: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s that’s a really important thing to note that that did happen. And imagine that happening, I don’t know, three or four years ago, it just wouldn’t have occurred in the previous administration. And it has happened. And it is amazing. And it’s that’s quite profound, actually, to think that that the Biden administration has actually heard that and seen that. And hopefully that will filter through at some level. And even the knowledge that that has gone out there might mean that other leaders have looked for it and have found out about it and have understood, maybe not through actually having presentations with Kate, but through research. So that message is going out there and that is quite a profound message to them. So maybe there is more hope than I think.
Manda: Yeah, well, I think I’d like to find the hope, is possibly where I’m at. But the fact that they actually asked! It wasn’t that they tripped over her, that she insisted she went, they asked. Which meant they will have looked at the TED talk first and things, so she would have been able to take off there. So a few weeks ago, we had the wonderful people from the Children’s Fire came on the podcast to discuss what they were doing to build an activist movement towards this moment, towards the G7. So before you again go into exactly what you’re there for, is there… I have imagining a whole tribe of really creative activists, people congregating around St Ives and the bay. Is that happening? Are you bumping into activists from all over the world who are full of creative ideas?
Sophie: Well, I haven’t bumped into people from all over the world, but I’ve got a lot of people here from across the UK who have all been arriving over the last few days, which is really lovely. It’s like having your family come home for Christmas, I suppose, in a way. It’s really, it’s a lovely joy sort of sitting on the bench last night down by the harbour with with lots of them just chatting. So, yes, there are lots of people here, lots of creative ideas flowing as well for COP26. We’ve already been talking about that, how it will be great to get together and build on what we do now here for the future for that.
Manda: Yes. So for people listening, if you’re not familiar, COP 26 is the conference of all the parties which is effectively… each year it’s labelled by the city where it happens. So the last one was Paris, where the Paris agreement, actually the Paris accord, because it wasn’t an agreement, was was hammered out. And this time it’s happening in Glasgow, which happens to be my home city, for which I am really quite proud, although I suspect that Johnson is going to just cover it and English flags and deny the fact that it’s actually in Scotland. He also, if he gets his way by then, and this is jumping a bit ahead to where I’d wanted to go later on, but we’re here, so let’s go with it. If he gets his Police Bill through, fundamentally, being a member of XR will leave one open to potentially a 10 year prison sentence. He’s completely changing the game, I think. So, if Johnson gets his way, the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill or whatever it is that they’re calling it, to keep the Daily Mail happy, is effectively, as far as I can tell, targeted directly at XR. So if you, for instance, prevent the distribution of Murdoch’s newspapers, or sit in the street, or do anything that causes and a direct quote, ‘annoyance’, which as far as I can tell, could be walking down the street talking into a mobile phone, or even just walking down the street looking like a member of XR, you could be liable to 10 years in prison, which does, I think seems to me, fundamentally change the dynamics of the activism that XR has been engaged in so far. And it might be up and running by the end of the year when COP 26 is happening. So I’m wondering, how is that affecting the conversations? Because presumably everybody knows that this is coming down the line.
Sophie: Yeah, a good question, Manda. I think it’s just going to make things incredibly difficult for the police for a start. I mean, as you say, mobile phone or megaphone or, I don’t know, middle aged lady standing there handing out leaflets and shouting, whatever, the prisons are going to become incredibly full of all of us if it gets enacted how it’s described. From my perspective, from the creative activism perspective, that won’t change what I do. I’m still going to do it. So for me, yeah, whether the Policing Bill goes ahead or not, I’ll just keep on doing what I do. If I get arrested, it’s just what happens. It feels too important to stop. But my experience of working with the police down here, is a very heavy policing situation with all the world leaders here. And there’s, I can’t remember, I think, isn’t it 6000 police or something coming? Yeah, there’s huge numbers. They’ve got a cruise ship in Falmouth BAy that has come all the way from Estonia to house about two thousand officers.
Manda: We don’t have our own cruise ships?
Sophie: Well, that’s a really good point, Manda, because funnily enough, we’ve got quite a lot of them down here. We’ve got some very big ferries just like sitting in the river down in Falmouth, which have been sitting there for ages. So you’d think that in terms of carbon emissions and socks and knocks, they would not be bringing a cruise ship all the way from Estonia.
Manda: Apart from anything else, the whole Johnsonian thing of of Great Britain and wanting to prove that, why would you not have stuff with British flags posted all over them? Why would you want… I would be very interested to know what happens in something that is under the Estonian flag.
Sophie: Yeah, I don’t know. But the emissions on it are ridiculous. It’s the equivalent of six thousand police driving to the moon and back. It’s huge. So anyway, we’ve got a lot of police here and they’re lining the street from St Ives up to Carbis Bay. I think there’s one by every lamp post with big guns and all sorts. But the local police have been very keen to liaise with us as much as possible and facilitate what we’re doing. And we’ve had lots of conversations with them. They drove us around to look at all the sites that we were going to do creative things at. Yesterday morning we did a creative action very early at dawn on the beach here with Boris Johnson in bed with one of our big oil head people that we’ve created. So we had someone in a Boris Johnson mask and someone in an oil head mask. And first of all, they were cosying up with a cup of tea in a nice cast-iron bed with sort of brown, silky, oily looking sheets. And then they started becoming slightly more intimate with each other. And we ended up with a full on bonking. That’s what the local paper very bravely printed all the pictures, the full press release.
We had a photographer from Getty who wanted to censor some of the pictures because the oil head has got a kind of a rig in it that can make the person wearing it either vomit oil if they press the button, or they can look like they’re peeing oil or ejaculating oil. So we had some oil ejaculations going on all over Boris Johnson. So anyway, it was obviously, it was quite comic and grotesque. And also it is very much what is happening. The British government are very much in bed with the fossil fuel industry. So it was quite a blatant, not very subtle visual representation of that. But the police wanted to facilitate us doing that. And we actually had a line of police all watching what we were doing. They were lining up on the harbour wall watching, so there wasn’t any kind of, no kind of confrontation about it. My partner Rob made videos to send to the anti-terrorist squad to show what all the equipment that we’re using is, because of the oil heads have got batteries in them and oil cans and things that could look quite scary if you’re mounting a, worried about bombs and things, so we’ve decided to to be fully open about it and they’re facilitating. And from that has come, they’re quite interested in what Ocean Rebellion is doing. And we’ve actually created some slides for their PowerPoint presentation, which they’re giving to the local, to the maritime police who are coming in, to explain what Ocean Rebellion are doing, and the background to Ocean Rebellion and how important it is to protect the sea, and why it’s important to facilitate protest.
So I don’t know. Things are shifting on many levels. It’s not the substance, the kind of the power structures which are uncomfortable. But lots of people have had discomfort with it. I was replying to a Facebook troll this morning, which I sometimes do, and they were kind of on about the police. And I pointed out to them that the police that facilitated the protest. They were up in arms about what we did yesterday. And I pointed out the police have facilitated it, but also that the police understand what we’re doing and that they’re quite keen on having a habitable planet for the future, too.
Manda: So for people who are not in the UK, when we’re talking about the Met, this is the Metropolitan Police in London who are not quite a law unto themselves, but they certainly interpret the law somewhat differently than police in other areas. And I did hear during the October rebellion that you and I took part in in 2019, they did run out of Met police and were asking for volunteers who wanted over time from other parts of the country. And normally I gather from my, I do have friends in the police, when they offer over time, they’re flooded by people who go. Of course. Yes. And they had nobody who volunteered from the other areas to come down and do it, which is good. I think you’re right, there are good people in every organisation. And it does seem to me that the day that the police sit down in the streets with us is the day everything changes. And that has happened around the world. It has never happened in the UK, but it’s not an impossible thing to imagine.
Sophie: Yeah. And in October 2019, were you there, Manda, when they told everyone, where they said there was a Section 14 on Trafalger Square and they said that everyone who was there was going to be arrested. And then over three thousand people turned up and sat there, and there were speeches and stuff. One of the people giving speeches, was one of the ex commissioners or someone from the Met police. And I was a Red Rebel that day. So I was standing up there looking at everybody and seeing everyone, and him standing next to me speaking, I was like, who is this person speaking to? This is such a complicated situation, because there’s lines and lines and lines of police there who’ve’ve been told to arrest these three thousand peaceful protesters sitting here. And they’re being spoken to, all of them, by one of their ex bosses. How do they actually process that? How do they process? What do they do now? It’s yeah, you feel sometimes like there’s this knife edge that you’re on, like where’s this going? Where’s this going to tip?. Yeah, I do think there’s that possibility. Brilliant.
Manda: Brilliant. This is feeling more hopeful by the moment. So let’s return to Cornwall and and you have police in every lamppost and they’re armed to the teeth, which we are not used to in the UK. And I am in awe of your courage, I have to say Sophie, I always am. Your capacity to hold the space as a Red Rebel, which is transformational. We discussed that in the last podcast. And then the creativity that you bring to this. So how much of what you’re going to do, planning to do, are you able to tell us about, given that this will go out several weeks after the G7 is over?
Sophie: Well, I can tell you about how it’s planned to be. Obviously, I can’t tell you how it’s going to be because there’s so many variables. But we’ve already started actually, we started last Sunday. We had cream tea at Tregannon Castle Hotel with the Boris Johnson character, and the Oil Head character on a romantic date together at the Tregannon Castle Hotel where the delegates are staying, hence the relevance of going there. And they had oil, and tea pots, and lots of money kind of scattered everywhere. And some were cosying up intimately and that went well. The Tregannon Castle Hotel kind of pretended we weren’t there. They were kind of horrified. And then on Saturday just gone, we had a very early start at Marazion Beach. We took the Boris Johnson character and the Oil Head character again to sit in deck chairs while we floated a small dinghy out onto the water with a sail that read Your Children’s Future. And we set light to it through using flame bars and propane gas. It was kind of a controlled burn. And, but we got some really striking visual imagery which has gone out really, really well in the press. And basically they’re just sitting watching our children’s future burn. So, again, it’s that kind of, it’s not very subtle messaging. But as Greta Thunberg said, our house is on fire. It’s the same message. And it’s like, yeah, everything’s going up in flames while you just sit there and watch, or pour fuel on it.
Manda: Are the Boris character and the oil character, do they know each other particularly well by now?
Sophie: Well they know each other very well after yesterday! But we know each other very well anyway, because we all work together as Red Rebels. So we’ve performed a lot together in the past, and we’ve got a really good team of people who work together really well. So there’s that kind of incredible element of trust and pulling together. And, you know, when you’ve got a really good team that you can absolutely one hundred percent count on, then things, magic happens, really. So, yeah, it’s it’s really, really, really good people.
Manda: And I kind of imagine that particularly the characters taking on Boris Johnson and Big Oil must be experiencing quite a lot of energetic shift, and I’m remembering our discussion the last time, when you were talking about the difference between being a Red Rebel in the actions, and then when you became part of the oil action, when you were dressed in black instead of red, and it was a different function and that the energetic sense of who you were was completely different. And you’re not in either of these costumes. But I’m wondering, are you aware of and perhaps facilitating these people in finding a way of grounding in a way, returning to a sense of being that is separate from the characters that they’re playing? Does that make sense as a question?
Sophie: It does absolutely make sense, Manda. And I think that the people who played them, we’ve actually had two Borises so far. Teresa, who played him the first few times, said it was quite an unpleasant person to inhabit. That was her description. But all the performers are so experienced as doing Red Rebels and Oil Slick that they do that for themselves, because it’s so integral to what we do anyway as performers. It’s, yeah, it’s second nature. But it’s a really important thing, getting into the performance and moving through it, and then coming out of the performance again.
Manda: And I’m wondering…you said that Getty was there when you had this whatever we’re going to call it, on the beach between Boris and Big Oil. I don’t watch our standard media anymore. Has the BBC taken it up? Channel Four? Sky? ITV? Has anybody in the main media got to it?
Sophie: Strangely, we had Good Morning Britain on the beach yesterday morning. So, yeah, I did an interview with Good Morning Britain and they filmed it too. So yeah.
Manda: Did they broadcast it?
Manda: They didn’t censor it?
Sophie: They didn’t broadcast the whole thing. So they didn’t have have the money shots, no. But they did, they had the earlier stuff that was part of the reason for the structure of the performance, sitting cosying up with a cup of tea first. And then they filmed later afterwards when they were lying in bed, covered in oil, money stuck all over them. And so they kind of they alluded to what had happened.
Manda: I mean, they’ve got a family audience at that time in the morning. That seems fair enough.
Sophie: Absolutely. Yeah. Yes, it was good. Yeah. And the local paper printed everything.
Manda: Yeah. Which is great. But not many people are going to read whatever is the St Ives Herald or whatever, whereas quite a lot of people watch Good Morning Britain. It’s very good that the local paper did, because local papers have a tendency to be further to the right than the Mail and the Telegraph put together. But yeah, in order to get national and international reach, we would need the Mail or the Telegraph, or the broadcast media. It feels here as well as if something has shifted within certainly the U.K. media, since 2019, when we sat outside the BBC and they resolutely ignored the fact that we were there. Does that feel also to you as if things have changed?
Sophie: Yes, I think it’s coming down from… my experience is coming down to individual journalists. Because I do a lot of the press for Ocean Rebellion, and doing the press – I don’t have press training, but it’s basically, to me, it seems like building personal relationships with people and communicating with people what we’re doing. So talking to journalists, and as individuals, lots of them want to use their position to get the message out there. I do what I do, and I bring my gifts to the work that I feel that I have to do. And they sort of feel, some of them, like they have this work which they’ve been either called to do, or they’ve gone to college and studied or whatever. But it’s what they do, and they have their part to play in the climate crisis, and raising awareness of what is happening. So they have a really powerful position. I spoke to some journalists, must be getting on for nearly a year ago. And that was when we set up Ocean Rebellion, when we launched our first action, which was projecting onto a luxury yacht called The World, which is morred up in Falmouth Harbour where these super rich people basically sort of buy, rent apartments on it, and cruise the world. Huge emissions. And yeah, it’s horrible. And like something out of a dystopian fiction novel when you actually look at it, and I’m like, oh, does that actually happen? But anyway, I spoke to a journalist in The Sun about it, and she said that they wouldn’t cover it because their readership wasn’t, it wasn’t appropriate to their readership. So she didn’t think it would get through. And they have their target market. And I said, well, I understand that you don’t want to cover this, but don’t you feel that you’ve got a role to play in changing things?
So if you show things like this with your angle on it, you can actually sort of educate people, and teach people, and show people how things can be different. And, um, yeah, it was one of those conversations that you have where you feel like you may be burning all your bridges, but it doesn’t matter. And then not long after that, The Sun did their whole, they went green for the week, I think. And they had like The Sun written in green. And they did lots of environmental things about recycling and plastics and stuff like that, which is minimal, but it’s still a step in the right direction. And I think it’s having these conversations. And I think that lots of journalists do embrace that now, and do realise that that they can change things. They’re in a really powerful position?
I’ve always felt that there’s different kinds of actions that we do. Some actions, it doesn’t matter who sees them. And they can be incredibly small, and it’s more about shifting energy. So like last year, a group of Red Rebels, we costumed up and we went to a sacred site in Cornwall. And we only had, we had one photographer with us who we work with quite a lot. He’s actually, he works for Getty, but we work with him a lot and he really understands what we do. And he said afterwards, thank you. He felt incredibly privileged to be able to bear witness to what we’d done.
But that wasn’t a kind of a big outreach thing. It didn’t need amplifying. It was tiny in some ways, but huge in other ways, because we were, it was about shifting energy. And then there’s other actions where we only have a very few people there doing a performance. But what matters is that the media captures it, and the media picks up on it and that it gets amplified across the world. And that’s like having a big megaphone, really. And without that, then we don’t reach the people and our message doesn’t get out.
Manda: Yes. And your messaging clearly is getting out there. That’s the astonishing thing. Your reach is growing, I imagine. It feels to me as if it’s growing. Are you getting requests for interviews or pictures or any of your outreach from a more international market now than you were, say, two years ago?
Sophie: Yes, definitely. We also, we had, before the local police got in touch with us to kind of be helpful, we had an interesting experience where we had a police raid from a team of police who had come down from Exeter. So the boat that I live on, and the Land that I live on part time kind of between the two, my partner’s, and they, we had eight police came to the boat yard. Eight police came to the Land where I was, and at the same time in cars. Yeah, it was quite, quite surprising. They didn’t phone first to say, can we come round for a chat, or anything like that. They just turned up.
Manda: Mmm, they don’t, do they.
Sophie: But they said they just wanted a chat. Obviously, I didn’t have a chat with them. I just got their details. Yeah. So it was very, very, very heavy handed considering at the time we were just making like a wobbly greenwash machine and things like that. It wasn’t, we were not doing anything more exciting.
Manda: What is a wobbbly Greenwash Machine, just so we can build a picture in our heads?
Sophie: Just so you know, so the Science Museum have got an exhibition at the moment that is about climate change, sponsored by Shell. Yeah, I know. A few weeks ago we went up with a performance group that we called the Dirty Sscrubbers who are kind of like cleaning people. And we’re very kind of mouthy, gobby, head scarves and rollers. And one of the things we took up with us was a green wash applying machine to put green wash all over the front of the science museum and all over Shell. So we were making that. So it has switches and things on it. So when you turn it on, it starts vibrating and wobbling around a lot, and making a lot of noise, it had sirens and things on it. So we were building the machine for that.
Manda: Right. Wow.
Sophie: Yeah. So the police came, and really, too heavy handed. It was just totally unnecessary. And we called the, we made an official complaint to the police and let some journalists know what had happened, and that snowballed. So since then, there’s been a lot of media interest in what we’ve been doing. That was why the local police got in touch, because they were a bit embarrassed about it.
Manda: Also, there would be the usual Devon Cornwall rivalry. And what the heck are Devon doing sending their police into Cornwall? Probably, I mean, 16 police is is half of the Devon police.
Sophie: Yeah. It’s a thing called Project Servitor that’s some kind of, I don’t know, it sounds horribly…
Manda: Let’s give it a particularly nasty name, and then we can all run around pretending we’re important.
Sophie: Yeah. So lots of media interest. And we’ve got journalists in France who have been really interested in what we’ve been doing, in Ocean Rebellion. We had a piece in Elle magazine in France about Ocean Rebellion. I had someone contact me yesterday from The Washington Post. Trying to make it as global as possible, because Ocean Rebellion, we’re obviously in the UK. But the waters of the world touch everyone. So it needs to be global. It needs to go out for everyone. And also the issues that we’re dealing with are entirely global.
Manda: Tell us a bit more than about Ocean Rebellion, because that was just beginning to take off when we last spoke.
Sophie: Yeah. So Ocean Rebellion we set up as a sister organisation to Extinction Rebellion. I’m one of the co-founders. There’s four of us. And we felt that such a huge issue, it wasn’t something which we could shoehorn into Extinction Rebellion and just tag it on. It needs its own mouthpiece, really. I mean, the oceans cover a huge amount of the planet, more than the Earth. So it makes sense. We’ve got our own set of demands. Extinction Rebellion has their set. We’ve got our set: Tell the truth about the destruction of the Oceans, Act Now to reverse the drivers of warming, ocean acidification, sea level rises and ecological collapse by 2025. So similar to Extinction Rebellion, and Take Control. So the United Nations is to govern a common ocean heritage for the benefit of humankind, especially indigenous coastal communities, and not for the benefit of industry or finance. Whereas at the moment most of it is for the benefit of industry or finance.
Our campaigns have been largely focussed on cruise ships and shipping, and now we’re moving more into fishing. We take a lot of advice from NGOs and scientists, because it’s such a huge subject. I don’t know. We can’t be experts on it, and it’s important to listen to the experts. And in doing that, we can also find out where we can target that will actually make a difference. So what the message needs to be, how we can kind of create a change. So in, I think it was October or November, there was a meeting at the IMO. Lots of people don’t know that there’s a thing called the IMO. I certainly didn’t. It’s the International Maritime Organisation, and its headquarters are in London, and it’s basically the United Nations for shipping, for the sea. I didn’t even know it was there. So we’ve got this building there where people meet and make these huge decisions that affect the ocean.
So we’ve protested outside there a few times, and targeted conferences which they’ve been having in there with very, very, very specific messaging, even detailing papers that they’ve been talking about in our messaging to really apply the right kind of pressure. We went and projected very targeted slogans onto the French embassy, because France is, the way France voted when they were in there would have an impact on other people. Other nations would go the same way that France went. So if they made the right choice then other people would make the right choice. So really trying to make change happen in a, what to some people would be a very overt way, but a lot of people wouldn’t even recognise it. So yeah, trying to trying to find those sort of keys that you can open the door with and go through. And…
Manda: Did it work?
Sophie: I don’t think so, no. And the paper went through its first stage. But it’s all a journey. But we are doing the same now with fishing, and trying to find out what the best thing to do is. It’s basically, we need to have a, we’re calling for a global ban on bottom trawling, which is, bottom trawling releases huge amounts of carbon. It’s crazy. It’s actually more than global aviation, all global aviation put together. Because they just drag these huge things across the sea floor, churn it all up and release all the carbon.
Manda: And kill everything in the process.
Sophie: And kill everything in the process. And if anyone listening hasn’t yet seen Seaspiracy, the film, it’s a Netflix film. I’d suggest watching it. It’s very upsetting. I cried.
Manda: Watch it when you’re feeling resilient,
Sophie: But it’s worth watching. And one of the things that we struggle with, with Ocean Rebellion is getting people to connect to the sea, getting people to to make that sort of, I don’t know. For me it’s a heart connexion, but make that connexion to realise that that it’s part of everything. People see it as, people do that othering of like, oh, it’s over there. It’s somewhere that we visit, we paddle, we cover ourselves in sun cream. We get in and sun cream washes off. We have an ice cream, and we go home. And they don’t realise that the weather is made at sea; it’s our life support system. Without it, we’re we’re goners. So, yeah, it’s, I think Seaspiracy has done a lot to make people realise that they need to connect to the sea.
Manda: Yes. I’d love to put you in touch with Glenn Edney, who is a guest on the podcast right at the beginning of the year. Because his book, what he’s done is effectively to bring the Gaia hypothesis to the oceans, and for him, the oceans are alive. In fact, that’s the name of the book, The Ocean is Alive. I hadn’t understood the urgency. As far as he’s concerned the oceans will be dead by 2040 if we don’t act soon. And that’s just around the corner. But the extent to which the life in the oceans isn’t just there happily living on its own. As you said, the weather is created in the oceans, but things like sperm whale dive deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down, scoop things up from the ocean floor, bring them up to the surface, spit them out. And in doing so are part of the system that creates the cycling currents that then create things like the Gulf Stream.
Manda: Our weather system will change totally if we don’t have life in the oceans. And if people understood even that, I can totally hear we want people to have a heart connexion to the oceans. But for those who are disconnected enough that heart connexions are hard, just self-interest should be enough to get people to realise that we need.
Sophie: Absolutely, hence the banner Our Children’s Future, because, you know, it’s huge, but often sort of hitting people with things like that makes them have some kind of self-interest for the future. And with our fishing campaign, we’re going through a lot of stickering, which is communicating health issues about fishing, for mercury and toxins and micro plastics and things in fish. So ‘eat me, and you’re eating…’ naming a whole list of horrors that are in them. So it’s a bigger campaign, and it involves actually stopping the carbon coming out of the sea, and actually turning it into something which we protect. But people are probably more likely to respond if they think that it’s going to make them poorly or whatever. It’s that kind of self-interest thing, which if it works.
Manda: Yes, let’s not argue.
Sophie: That’s OK. I’m done with it. I’m not going to argue with that. It’s good if it achieves what we need it to achieve. And then maybe they start questioning things and then that will lead some people into a greater knowledge, because they’ll be like, oh, that’s interesting, really? And yeah. And then that ripples out from them. So it’s all about creating those ripples.
Manda: Yes. And have you been contacted by anyone from within the International Maritime Organisation? Have they acknowledged your existence and endeavoured to connect in any way, or are they just busy putting their fingers in the ears and shouting baa?
Sophie: Not personally. We are always trying to reach out to people higher up. I’ve had a meeting with gosh, it was ages ago. I think it might have been someone in the United Nations or something. But we are always trying to to reach out to people to communicate, and to see what we can all do together.
Manda: Yes. I will also send you a copy of Scilla Elworthy’s book, Pioneering the Possible. And she was a really interesting woman who set up something that she called the Oxford Research Centre, which of course sounds like it might be something to do with the university that we all know, and actually, just as a group of people meeting around her kitchen table. And their aim was to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And she details how they realised that their tactic in those days, this is a long time ago, of writing letters to MPs explaining how bad nuclear weapons were, was not working. But what they did instead was researched everything about the particular people who had the power to make change, from the names of their kids to where they lived, to what they read, to what they did, and started writing the kinds of letters that engaged with them. Then they published a book that had all these details in, which they were immediately told they had to remove from all publication, because it was too detailed and not safe.
But they ended up creating a meeting somewhere in Oxford, in some ancient baronial hall, and inviting people from each of the five nuclear powers. And she tells of a particular instance where they had the American general, who one assumes is quite hardcore Republican, and he’s in the beautiful Tudor hall of this room, and he’s enthusing to her about this amazing place and the atmosphere. And she’s going, well, yes, you know, built in fifteen hundred and something or other. And he goes, yeah, but the atmosphere! And she’s going, well, you know, big panelled walls. He goes, no, no, I think there’s something more. And she said, well, that would be the people meditating in the library downstairs. And she watched the barriers come down in his eyes. Because meditation was way off his scale of acceptability. And she said she had a very finite moment to make a difference. And she said, Do you remember the old man with the silver hair who served you soup at dinner last night? And he had to stop and think and go back, instead of going into his panic place. And he did remember. And she said, well, he thought it might be useful for everybody if he and a few friends were to meditate in the library. And the fact that she had personalised it made it OK. And as a result, they got a treaty banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And it sounds like this is what you are doing. You are reaching people at every level. And it’s so much more complex now than it was back in the 70s, or whenever she was doing this. But it does sound to me as if that’s where you’re heading. So as we head towards our time now, and we are going to come back and explore how things went, Tell us what you have planned for the G7.
Sophie: So tomorrow morning at sunrise, we are having a mass stranding of mermaids on the beach at St Ives. We’ve got 10 mermaids wearing, we’ve made tails out of sea waste, and headdresses, and we’ll be all made up and tangled up in fishing nets like what happens to sea creatures, sadly. And we are also taking our foghorn thingy down there as well, which is a beautiful Viking ship with foghorns on it, on wheels. So we’re going to take down that and we will be sounding the alarm at dawn, as the sun comes up.
Manda: Just outside the hotel where they’re all staying?
Sophie: Pointing towards the hotel. So the foghorns will be going.
Manda: They’ll hear it.
Sophie: Yeah, definitely. And we’ll we’ll keep sounding an S.O.S. for some time towards them. So that will be going on first thing tomorrow morning. And then at half past nine, we’re taking the dinghy up to the island in St Ives, which is a little bit of land between the two beaches. And again, you can see the hotel from it. So 9:00 at night, we’re taking the dinghy up to there with a sail, which says As the seas die, we die. And Boris Johnson and the Oil Head will be burning their sail on that boat. And then on, that’s Friday. And then on Saturday, we’re heading over to Falmouth and we have a flotilla of boats at half past eight. And then we are taking our boat to go and project onto the police cruise ship. We’ve got some key messages that we’re putting out onto that.
Manda: That’ll cheer them up, eh?
Sophie: It’d be disappointing if we didn’t. And then on Sunday, we’re not quite sure what we’re going to do on Sunday. We’re going to see how tomorrow and and Saturday goes. I know there’s a mass ‘discobedience’ planned on the beach in St Ives.But I think we might do something… because the International Maritime Organisation are meeting on Monday, I think we might do something which targets their meeting.
Manda: Are they meeting in Cornwall? Are they meeting as a follow-on to the G7?
Sophie: No, they’re meeting in London. So it’s something which might go under the radar, hidden by everything which is going on in the G7. But they’ve got quite an important meeting to discuss shipping emissions and the levels which are permitted. The paper which has been going through has basically allowed for unrestricted emissions. So it would be like having a, if it was the equivalent on cars, it would be kind of like removing MOTs, or still having MOTs, but they’re optional. And if your emissions are a bit too much on the MOT they’ll say, ‘Your emissions are a bit too much. But do what you want about it. Or you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.’ So, yeah.
Manda: Wow. For people who are not familiar with XR, you might have to explain what disobedience is.
Sophie: Disobedience is a lot of people dancing to staying alive by the Bee Gees. And there’s different moves, like this is kind of like a set dance and everybody does it together.
Manda: I have watched the practice.
Sophie: It’s quite silly.
Manda: It is. It looks like everyone, it’s this amazing vision of, maybe it’s all the people around here that join XR, but mostly white haired retirees generally. Yeah, they’ve been quite professional in their lives before they retired, all dancing to Staying Alive. It’s a fascinating thing to watch.
Sophie: It is. I’ve done it. It’s very fun.
Manda: Are you taking part? Or are you going to be doing…
Sophie: Probably not. I’ll probably be being slightly more serious and doing IMO stuff. But I have done discobedience, and I did it last New Year’s Day and had a real giggle. It was really funny.
Manda: So we have run out of time, which is incredibly sad because it feels like there’s so much richness. But what I would really like to do is to invite you back for the How did it go?
Sophie: I’d love to come, Manda. It’d be great to talk about it.
Manda: I know. What happened, and to see what the impact has been around the world, and whether we feel there have been changes in everybody’s behaviour. So with that in mind, Sophie Miller, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast and for everything that you’re doing. I’m genuinely in awe of your courage and your commitment and your integrity, and your understanding of the energetic waves that arise as a result of the actions that we take. You are just such an inspiration. Thank you.
Sophie: Thank you, Manda. It’s been lovely to talk to you, as always.
Manda: So that’s it for Sophie and the G7 and Ocean Rebellion, and all of the astonishing work that she is doing. And we will definitely be back to find out what happened with that, with the International Maritime Organisation and with everything that she has planned. So in the meantime, huge thanks to Sophie for the spirit and the courage. I know I’ve said this before. I know I said it in the podcast and I said it in the intro. But I am absolutely in awe of the passion that she brings to this, and the amount of effort and creativity, and working through the day making mermaid tails and then getting up at 4:00 in the morning to talk to Good Morning Britain, that she brings to this. She is genuinely an inspiration. And it doesn’t take each of us going to a beach at four o’clock in the morning to make the world different, but it does take each of us taking inspiration from this, and then learning what we can learn of the things that touch us, and holding the conversations that need to be held with everybody. Because now is the time, and we are the people. So go out there, people, learn what you need to learn and hold the conversations that need to be held. And if you know of anybody else that would like to be part of the generative dance of the world, please do send them this link.
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