My Rebel Grandmother - Fi Radford Obituary
'There is no Wealth but Life' - John Ruskin
When I read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's first report from 1989, I felt betrayed by older generations. Written a decade before I was born it clearly outlined the risk of global temperatures increasing between 1.5-5 degrees celsius. These business-as-usual scenarios describe "irreversible consequences" for our world. And yet, despite the Prime Minister's claim of a "successful" COP26, we are on track for a 13.7% increase in global emissions by 2030. Business-as-usual prevails.
My first and deepest reaction was rage. Rage at a "Boomer" generation who were abandoning their ancestors in their destructive wake. How could they let this happen to us? How could they turn a blind eye to the suffering of their grandchildren?
Then I met Fi. Fi was a remedy to my rage and a salvation to that disappointing generation. Today is the one year anniversary of her death. I first met her in my 2nd year at Bristol University. She helped to collaborate on a joint action with the students of Fossil Free and her group Grandparents for a Safe Earth. We joined each other in resonating songs outside a branch of her fossil fuel financing nemesis, Barclays. It was a joyous and powerful show of intergenerational action. It both helped to bridge the painful divide between us and to strengthen the "People Power" message of our protest.
From then on Fi was a constant support to me. She attended all my court hearings in Bristol and Bath. Each time she came with a fellow aged agitator and a new tech problem for me to solve. "Robin, I need to get these grandparents on Facebook!"
She was part of that grand audience of 3 that attended one of my first Heading for Extinction Talks in June 2018. As she listened I saw her sky blue eyes twinkle. They had the look of one who was ready to be both the maternal mentor and the mischief maker. Ready to give it her all in fact, even risk prison to help save future generations.
Afterwards, we were both active in setting up Bristol XR. She led Welcome sessions for new rebels and helped to create legend by getting arrested to protect Berta Cáceres (The Pink Boat) in Oxford Circus. I'll never forget the day our paths crossed in Westminster one oppressively grey morning. I was over a week into the VoteNoHeathrow hunger strike and desperately weak. As I trekked up Victoria Street for our daily protest outside the Labour Party offices, who did I see but Fi. She was with her gang of rebellious grandparents locked-on inside BEIS. Both of our groups were tired and weary from ceaseless campaigning and it gave us such a boost to cheer each other on.
I know her generation's guilt weighed heavily on her shoulders. She gave it her all and yet she felt there was something irreconcilable about the past. How could she look her grandchildren in the eye knowing what had been done to them? Being the brave and wise person she was, she actually faced such a difficult question head on. She gave a brilliant Ted Talk titled "What did you do in the Climate Crisis, Grandma?" In it, she rallies a guilty generation to become the white haired warriors willing to save the day. The "Silver Panthers". Rather than avoid the pain of her generation, she let it become the fuel for action.
In northern India, high in the mountains of Meghalaya, there is a bridge of ravelling fig roots. Built and maintained by local families, it helps river crossing during perilous monsoon seasons. It is known as the Living Bridge. Each generation must teach the next about the slow process of binding and tending to the roots because it cannot be completed in any one person's lifetime.
Fi taught me how to build living bridges. Ones based on friendship, kindness and diversity. Her legacy is part of our own living bridge. It is a service to our community and our natural world that will live on past our days.
Fi left a fund that supports young people in their climate action. Applications for grants will be invited towards the end of the year. More information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org