Activist Richard McLachlan Talks Tough on Climate
Since June, activist New Zealander Richard McLachlan, 68, regularly gives talks on the New York subway, warning riders “we are sleepwalking into a catastrophe”.
McLachlan is a member of Extinction Rebellion, an environmental action pressure group founded in the United Kingdom last year to draw attention to climate change.
“I know you don’t want me standing here shouting at you in the subway and I really don’t want to do it myself,” he told passengers on a Brooklyn-bound Q train.
“But I feel I have no choice. All of us need to wake up and not look away because this is so painful,” McLachlan pleaded.
The sexagenarian, long concerned about the planet, joined Extinction Rebellion’s New York outfit after watching campaigners in London shut down parts of the British capital in April.
A few weeks later, McLachlan – who has lived in New York for seven years – was travelling on the subway when he struck upon his idea.
“I looked at what people were doing and it was playing Candy Crush, or flicking through Tinder or Instagram, and I thought, I’m going to talk to them,” he said.
McLachlan went home and wrote a speech that he admits was “clunky”, but he plucked up the courage to read it aloud to a bunch of strangers on their daily commute.
“I got up there and I hyperventilated for quite a long time and then finally I started shouting and nobody told me to shut up. It was awkward but it was ok,” he recalled.
New Yorkers are used to hearing speeches when they travel underground, but they are usually from needy people seeking a dollar or two to get by.
After his first attempt, McLachlan – a retired public servant who has also worked as a sheep shearer, a jeweller and a truck driver – refined his speech.
It is personal. He said he is “incredibly sad” the lives of his five grandchildren are going to be “much more painful than mine or many of yours”.
It is apocalyptic. McLachlan talks of mass extinctions, forest fires, droughts, flooding and hunger caused by crop failures.
And it is imploring. “Talk to your family, your friends, your lovers, your workmates. And if you’re like me, talk to complete strangers in the subway. It’s not that hard.”
Original article by Aljazeera, October 24, 2019.
Photo by Don Emmert.