Mark speaks to Aimee Gabay, a Gibraltarian studying journalism in London, who spends an admirable amount of her days in the city demanding change.
What first gave you the thought of becoming an organiser?
AG: When I first started protesting with Extinction Rebellion, I never intended to organise or lead. I just turned up on the first day ready to block some roads and found myself coordinating the group at Elephant and Castle the following day. The police were hassling the original coordinator because of his bail conditions and were threatening to arrest him if he didn’t leave the area. It was only the first day in a series of non-violent actions so he didn’t really want to get pinched so early on in the week’s escalations. He got everyone together and asked me if I was happy to coordinate and picked out another young boy to do the opposite road. Since then I’ve always put myself forward to be as involved as possible.
Climate is the key challenge, but how do other values like feminism or workers’ rights fit into your worldview?
The way I see it is that climate change cannot be seen solely through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions and a warming planet; it’s the inevitable result of a broken system. In order to fully address climate change, we need to dismantle the interlocking oppressive systems that exist today – the same systems that oppress women and disregard worker’s rights – so we can achieve true climate justice and a more equal society.
Climate change cannot be seen solely through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions and a warming planet.
Gibraltar performs poorly on female representation and a number of other areas of gender equality; how do we change this in a place where politics is dominated by male lawyers?
Unfortunately, male domination in politics today is largely due to that same broken system I mentioned earlier. One thing I propose is making politics more accessible, not because women find it any harder than men to involve themselves in debate, but because the (also) broken school system taught us nothing about politics at all. Then we are expected to leave school and make responsible decisions all on our own about something as detrimental to our future as Brexit but with no knowledge about the political system whatsoever. It’s really just not an appealing avenue unless you’re really passionate about it.
Do you think a more representative politics might result in a proactive green agenda?
What do you say to the people who stress the importance of individual change over wider collective change?
This is a topic I’ve been grappling with a lot recently. Earlier this month I attended a talk by David Wallace-Wells, an American journalist and author of The Uninhabitable Earth. He shared his sobering and terrifying vision of the unfolding 21st century to a crowd of 600 people. Overwhelmed by startling depictions of climate catastrophe – from heat deaths to conflagration and mass migration on a scale one hundred times greater than the Syrian refugee crisis today – one audience member stood up and asked David if he was supposed to cancel his flight to Ethiopia the following morning. It was a legitimate question, one that made me wonder whether the recent influx of climate uprisings may have failed to highlight the importance of individual accountability. For David, solutions through politics and direct activism are more important. He is not wrong, direct action is arguably more effective for targeting the issue on a transformative scale. However, I feel there is something very dangerous about ignoring an arena of lifestyle changes that have been scientifically proven to make an impact too. It’s a confusing one. System change is the only viable option to actually meet the targets that will keep us below 1.5 degree warming but individual change isn’t unimportant. Cutting meat will punch a hole in the market and ultimately hurt the economy and nowadays that’s the only thing that makes politicians wince – the economy.
Even a tiny rock can make massive ripples.
What did you make of the Gibraltar climate strike in March?
Honestly, I have never felt prouder to be a Gibraltarian. Some might see Gibraltar as too small to make an impact, but I believe even a tiny rock can make massive ripples.
Have you come across climate deniers and how have you dealt with them?
I haven’t come across any deniers, but I’ve come across people who know of climate change and blatantly don’t care. I don’t know what’s worse. It’s quite frustrating but the best way to deal with it is to not come across as some radical vegan alarmist. Usually, prompting them to ask the questions and setting the facts straight without coming across as someone who’s trying to change their opinion is the best method. People hate being patronised or looked down on. It’s not a lecture, it’s a conversation.
Can you give me three book titles that have helped form your values?
You can’t make me choose three books only – that’s criminal. Let’s narrow it down to the last three months maybe: Firstly, Other Minds: The Octopus and the evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith – incredibly fascinating, not only because of the explanation of how single-celled creatures led to us but also because of his exploration into consciousness and the similarities we share with cephalopods. Second would be Noam Chomsky’s Global Discontents – I’ve ready four of his books this year already. You don’t have to agree with absolutely everything he says but you can’t deny his breadth of knowledge and understanding about the world. Lastly, I’d go for Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. She made me hate capitalism and I feel like I understand the world better now (also, I recommend her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”).
People hate being patronised or looked down on. It’s not a lecture, it’s a conversation.
To keep with the theme of three then, can you recall three journalists that inspired you to study journalism?
Naomi Klein, George Monbiot and maybe Jason Hickel. However, since we’re on the topic of journalists and the media, I would like to point out that today’s major news outlets are severely failing us. Vested interests, the media being run by big business and their inability to report on the severity of the climate situation means people are truly unaware the crisis that surrounds them. I’ve recently been more into the less mainstream, more investigative, small outlets like Byline Times, Open Democracy, The New Republic, Common Dreams, Democracy Now and Truthout – highly recommend them all for good journalism!
Can you please give us a little message of hope?
My message of hope comes from Extinction Rebellion – these people give me so much hope and I’m so empowered by each and every one.