Arthur Perez left Paris for London’s East End eight years ago. When he left he had no idea he would become part of one of the biggest grassroots political movements of the century.
Today, Perez is a member of Tower Hamlet’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) group. He talks to Eastlondonlines about his veganism, the environmental crisis and climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
“At the end of the day, it is our planet, and it is beyond politics,” says Perez. “If there is no planet, it doesn’t matter if you are voting labour or conservative, if you are left-wing or right-wing. When we have to fight for water and food, none of that is going to matter anymore.”
Perez first realised the severity of climate change earlier this year. “I read this book on the potential climate breakdown”, he says, referring to Raphaël Stevens and Pablo Servigne’s “Comment tout peut s’effondrer” (“How everything could collapse”). Reading and understanding their theories on the impending collapse of industrial civilization was an emotional tipping-point for him. He says: “I could no longer be in denial, I knew I needed to make a change.”
Joining Extinction Rebellion Tower Hamlets in March, it has quickly become a large part of his life. He explains: “We meet up weekly and some of these people have become my closest friends”.
At the moment, XR in Tower Hamlets have around 150 members including people of all ages. Declaring climate emergency in March – agreeing to become carbon neutral by 2025 – Tower Hamlets Council was the second borough in London to do so. “From what we’ve heard, the council has a plan that sounds promising”, Perez says.
As for XR’s future plans in Tower Hamlets, Perez explains: “We are planning actions to engage the council to divest all fossil fuel investments from their Pension Funds.
“Friends of the Earth have been campaigning for it for a while now and we fully support their amazing work. It doesn’t make sense to have declared a climate emergency and still have more than £91M invested in fossil fuel companies – especially when over the last 5 years the fossil fuel-free indices have out-performed the same index with fossil fuel companies in them.”
Born in the South of France, Arthur studied at Université Nice Sophia Antipolis. He explained: “When doing my Bachelors, I studied subjects like philosophy, psychology and art history. It really broadened my perspective.”
In 2011, Perez and his partner moved to London. Since then, Arthur has been working as a marketing and strategy consultant for several businesses.
“When first moving here, my girlfriend and I lived on Brick Lane, above one of the curry houses. Brick Lane is interesting but very busy, we didn’t get much sleep living there.
“My girlfriend became vegan a couple of years ago. It is a process. Sometimes when you go to a café with meat, vegetarian and vegan options and they all have the same price. You’re like, why?
“The environmental impact is not counted into the price of meaty dishes. I’m not fully vegan yet, but I am trying. It is all about the little things, you know. When you go food shopping, bring your own bag. Use less single-use plastic and little things like that.”
The Guardian said: “The 1,800-page study will show people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate.”
Extinction Rebellion was established in 2018, as a socio-political movement protesting against climate change and the risk of human extinction. Since then, it has rapidly become a global movement, inspiring environmental campaigns around the world.
Roger Hallam, Founder of Extinction Rebellion, told the Guardian: “The fact of the matter is finally settled. Not the fact that if we do not stop putting carbon into the atmosphere our children will starve. That was settled three decades ago. Rather that the only way to prevent our extinction is through mass participation civil disobedience – thousands of people breaking the laws of our governments until they are forced take action to protect us.”
“In less than a year Extinction Rebellion has gone from 15 people in a room to creating the biggest organised civil disobedience campaign in British history.”
When mentioning Swedish schoolgirl and climate change protester Greta Thunberg, he smiles instantly. “Oh, Greta!”, he says, forming a heart shape using his hands. “She’s so young! And it is so refreshing to see young people getting involved.”