This is not a time for complacency, insists the ecological activist group GIVE A FUCK. But nor is it a time for despair – for every positive action, however small, helps make a difference on a larger scale
Text by Ross Aston
Our emblem is the ancient symbol of the ouroboros, used to invoke the message that the world is one interconnected whole,” says the co-founder of Give a Fuck, the climate and ecological action group. Formed in September 2018 by three women in the creative industries – a journalist/stylist, a fashion designer and a DJ – the organisation’s numbers soon swelled as international branches joined their ranks. The particular member who spoke to us for this piece requested that we refer to them using the collective’s initials, GAF, remaining anonymous for good reason. “Right now, we function more as a community,” GAF explains. “There’s an anarchist quality to what we do and we intentionally have no leader or figureheads. Whenever you have one person representing a movement, people tend to attack them and it becomes a weak spot. It could also limit our scope and outreach. We want anybody to be able to see themselves as part of this.”
The group’s protest acts have included mobilising alongside Greenpeace in front of the Total oil headquarters; hanging banners emblazoned with “Your money is your voice” across Los Angeles’s main thoroughfares; and, during the first Extinction Rebellion week in London, they led the soundtracks played on XR’s boat, the Polly Higgins. Music and dance are an important tool in Give a Fuck’s repertoire; they also participated in 2019’s record- breaking Marche du Siècle climate rally by bringing together Paris’s party collectives for a one-off event. Requesting that all participants adhere to a charter of operations, they based the affair around the premise “Destroy nothing”, stipulating that there should be portable ashtrays, glass receptacles and no disposables.
“It’s an amazing way to reach out,” GAF says of its parties. “Music and dancing are very effective ways to form connections with others. They could be part of the revolution that is hopefully going to happen soon” – a coup that will, they believe, upturn the current order. “The innovations needed for our world’s issues might change how we see the progression of different countries. Those that are some of the poorest and already impacted by climate chaos might lead the way, simply out of necessity,” GAF explains.
With an instantly recognisable online aesthetic, Give a Fuck has ensured that its message cuts through the internet din, garnering awareness for any petition, action or event that requires it. Lesser acknowledged truths are given equal airtime: the community recently posted about the ills of cocaine production, calling to recreational drug users to see how getting high is a contributing factor in high levels of deforestation and violence in South America. But it’s not all abstaining from straws and coke. At its heart, Give a Fuck grapples with concepts surrounding wide systemic change, noting the toll that educating yourself on such issues can take on your mental health: “There are a vast number of things that we as a species are currently doing wrong,” GAF admits. “Research the bad things, but every time you do so, also look at the solutions and encourage alternative approaches. Otherwise it’s all too easy to get into a depressive rut about the possible future that we face.”
All of our everyday actions have repercussions, and it’s something that Give a Fuck asks us not to forget. “We worry that the political powers that be want to make you feel that you’re a little drop in the ocean, which if true would mean that advertising wouldn’t exist.” The angle that they take is to show people that shifts in lifestyle behaviours have big consequences, and once you understand this, people around you might change too – it’s how societal shifts begin. Looking at Give a Fuck’s output, you are reminded of the power of the individual, you can’t help but want to look inwards because you feel hope – a sense that is vital to the cause. “If you’re positive, people engage,” GAF says. “People are more open to hearing what you have to say and join in.” It’s sitting by solo in the convenience of inaction, pushing the envelope on to others that got us into this mess: “It’s important not to be alone,” GAF concludes. “The energy you get from people is really important in facing these issues and when you do something, you feel good. Yeah, you feel good.”