• Tom Marshall

My Activist Story

I never thought I’d be a climate activist. It sounded too radical.

I was eating the fruits from our economic system - capitalising on my privileges as a well-educated, white man; working in a big company, investing in the stock market and travelling the world.

I read about the climate crisis, but felt powerless to change anything. I felt like a tiny ant on a massive planet. I couldn't make a difference. Recycling, flying less and turning off the lights were good acts, but felt useless within a failing system that was greater than me.


I'm sure many of you have felt like this. Maybe some of you feel like this right now. But we're wrong. As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has."

Throughout history, individuals organised together to create relatively peaceful, democratic societies, here in Western Europe. People died so that we could have a democratically elected government, so that woman could vote, so that we could assemble on squares around the world. We're standing on the shoulders of giants. And to say that we can't change the world, is to disrespect everything our ancestors fought for.


Individually, we are weak and alone. But together, we are strong and united. I realised this during my first Extinction Rebellion action in October 2019. It was 05:30 in the morning. I was standing in a blockade of almost 1000 rebels on a road outside the RijksMuseum. The energy was electric. With people singing, dancing and waving banners.

When you're on the streets with a community of people, all fighting for the same thing; magic happens. There's a mutual respect for the dedication of the people standing beside you. A shared belief that we might just turn the tide of our climate and ecological catastrophe. That together, we might just change the course of history.


That action was one of the best days of my life. It's the day I realised I could make a difference. Empowered by this belief, I've grown both as an activist and as a human being.


I've liberated myself from many of the toxic myths of our economic system. People are not bad, they are good – willing to make sacrifices for other people. I feel a sense of belonging that I've never felt before. Behind every activist I’ve met is a wonderful human being with so much love for all life. I feel that my life has meaning. That my work as an activist matters.


Being a climate activist isn't always easy. By definition, change requires conflict, even when we're peaceful. But remember, all the activists that our society nowadays brands as heros, were once branded as villains.


Whether that's Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Gandhi: The government, the media, and the public all branded them as radicals - or as terrorists in the case of the suffragettes fighting for women to vote.


Extinction Rebellion are often branded as radicals. Family, friends, colleagues won’t all understand why we’re rebelling. History always repeats itself, because biologically, human beings are still the same.


And yet, it's so clear to all of us, that whatever happens, we will be on the right side of history. This strength in conviction will fuel our love and our rage.

We are unstoppable. Another world is possible.