Dr Diana Warner’s Statement, 22.09.2020
Thanks to everyone who is supporting and has supported me. Thank you for the wonderful emails, cards and letters I have received from all over, including Belgium, Spain and Australia. Thank you for the whole-hearted support from my family and the support from both prison officers and fellow inmates. All this warms my heart and gives me joy.
My especial thanks go to fellow doctors and healthcare professionals who are examining doctors’ own wider responsibilities to look after the public’s health, in terms of the climate and ecological emergencies and the health emergency caused by huge inequalities of power and money.
While in prison I started a hunger strike.
I had two-fold purposes for this.
1. To highlight that the plea of necessity, doing something to prevent a greater harm, is a vital safeguard in law. I see no justification for courts to disallow the use of this plea by activists or to instruct a jury to ignore these arguments, as has been done in court recently.
2. To bring into the mainstream a discussion by doctors of what our duty to protect the public’s health means in terms of the crises of climate, ecological and equity emergencies. These are all interlinked, as is the Covid crisis.
My friend and colleague Alan Kellas let me know that such conversation among medics is entering the mainstream. I then decided to end my hunger strike on the sixth day.
My main motivation over the last two years has been to help change doctors’ conversation around climate change. Again, I thank everyone who has helped me to do this and I am grateful to everyone who is now seriously thinking about it.
I am making this statement on my release from prison. I hope that with more people hearing it our way forward becomes clearer. I speak to fellow doctors and to everyone. Please listen and help me and let me help you.
I have set my heart on survival – survival of the natural world, and survival of our children. This is what drives me. I believe that my work now is no less important than at any time during my 35-year career working as an NHS doctor and GP.
We must change our lifestyles and behaviour substantially if we are to survive. It is as if we have a life-threatening illness. I understand that our present government is leading us to destruction and cannot be turned from its course. We only have a few weeks to get the changes in motion. We can do this if we change now to a new type of government that uses sortition and Citizens’ Assemblies. The Burning Pink Party does understand this and that is why I have joined them.
Citizens Assemblies can put us on a new and constructive path that can have the backing of the great majority of people. For example, shortly after the Brexit referendum a Citizens’ Assembly was commissioned by academics to look at the form Brexit would need to take. I am told that this Citizens’ Assembly immediately identified that the Irish border would dictate the form Brexit needs to take and they understood that only a soft Brexit would provide a workable solution. The UK government still do not accept a soft Brexit, and this had led to the fiasco of our government threatening to break international law.
Last week the report of the Climate Assembly commissioned by parliament was published. This report is a direct result of the declaration of climate emergency by parliament last year, which in turn was a direct result of non-violent direct action (NVDA) by Extinction Rebellion in late 2018 and April 2019. However, as things stand, the government can ignore the whole report.
The Climate Assembly report also shows how Citizens’ Assemblies can make relevant, trustworthy and acceptable decisions. However, the Climate Assembly report throws up further questions that must be addressed if humans have a chance to survive. I suggest that these questions are best answered by new Citizens’ Assemblies. We all need to insist the results are followed and that they set the stage for new processes of government.
Further questions that must be answered include:
1. Is the 2050 target safe, in view of what we now know about feedback loops that are already coming into action, such as wildfires and polar melting? If not, what further actions need to be taken? Do the recommendations need to be modified?
2. How are the recommendations of the Climate Assembly to be incorporated into the extensive blueprint for change already set out by the Committee on Climate Change report published in June this year? How do we make these legally binding? How, at the same time do we address the equity and Covid emergencies which can be seen as part of the same problem?
3. What new government processes will allow us to make the rapid changes needed within weeks rather than months? What powers need to be devolved to local and regional governments, and what other changes are needed so that there is seamless operation between these, the civil service, academia and business to produce the best results? Do we need a formal constitution and what form could it take?
4. The Climate Assembly has put forward recommendations to share goods and that we change systems of land management in order to nurture the environment. The Committee on climate change and other prominent reports highlight the need for circular economics. All these are incompatible with the growth economy mindset and the pursuit of ever-increasing GDP. A further Citizens’ Assembly can look at alternative economic models such as Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model, more suited to 21st century requirements.
The UK’s place on the world stage
The UK is not an insignificant world player on the world stage compared to Russia, China and the USA, the UK has greater influence than its size would suggest. Reasons include its colonial past and its position both as a money launderer and as an arms trader.
1. The UK has great influence over world culture, education, and judicial processes because of its historical position as coloniser, and because Britain led the way to democracy. However, right now the UK government is eroding fundamental safeguards of our democratic systems. Courts have declared that protesters using non-violent disobedience cannot plea necessity (that they are breaking the law in order to prevent greater harm). By insisting juries discard the arguments of necessity, judges are eroding the independence of the jury system. We need to spotlight important cases due to come up in the courts from November onwards.
2. The Russia report this year (paragraphs 49-51) recognises the UK as an important centre for money laundering. UK government joined the call two to three years ago to stop money laundering by a Swiss bank, but at the same time appears to be doing everything in its power to continue the UK’s own potential to launder money.
Without the ability to launder money, dictators such as Lukashenko in Belarus would never have been able to get to positions of such power. As well as causing havoc abroad, UK money laundering through property sales increases house prices and rents and makes people in the UK poorer.
3. The UK is a major seller of arms to oppressive regimes. These weapons are used by foreign governments to put down their own citizens. In the case of Saudi Arabia, British weapons are being used to devastate Yemen and to kill countless civilians, including children. Such UK arms sales fly in the face of our own laws.
This is a complex statement which addresses complex problems that I believe need to be seen as a unified whole. I am asking everyone to consider this statement with the same care I have taken to research and write it. I ask fellow doctors to see this whole system as a matter of public health concern and to join with me to address it. These are issues of climate and ecological emergency, equity crisis and Covid crisis. All are interlinked.
I may be unique in taking up my own position. I am able and willing to give up my freedom to make sure our world becomes safer. I ask each of you to join forces with me, even if you disagree with some of my methods. I am working as a doctor, as you are, in order to protect the publics’ health and to safeguard the health of our children.
At this time, more than any other, we need excellent governance that has the confidence of ordinary people. Citizens Assemblies and sortition can do this. That is what Burning Pink and Extinction Rebellion are about. That is why I’m here today.
Dr Diana Warner
22 September 2020