Extinction Rebellion

Climate change has been in the media spotlight several times over the past few months thanks partly to the release of the frack-free three from Preston prison in September, which was followed by the launch of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ at the end of October.

Both stories highlight the increasing use of non-violent direct action in the UK in an attempt to mobilise a response to the impending climate emergency and ecological crisis (the recent IPCC report warns that we have around 12 years to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep warming to 1.5°C).

To tie in with the launch of Extinction Rebellion, an open letter was published by 94 academics spanning multiple disciplines, endorsing Extinction Rebellion and its key demands:

  • To admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  • To enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  • To establish a national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

The open letter read:

“While our academic perspectives and expertise may differ, we are united on one point: we will not tolerate the failure of this or any other government to take robust and emergency action in respect of the worsening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are incontrovertible, and it is unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making ... We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with about 200 species becoming extinct each day ... When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The ‘social contract’ has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”

Image: Extinction Rebellion

At Extinction Rebellion’s launch in London’s Parliament Square a ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ was announced and a letter laying out the movement’s demands was later handed to 10 Downing Street by film-maker brothers Jack and Finn Harries.

In absence of a response from the government, two weeks of civil disobedience commenced across the UK with the largest demonstrations taking place in London:

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was occupied in London – highlighting “the havoc being wrought across the UK by fracking, which the government is undemocratically supporting.” The BEIS is said to have met with fracking companies more than 30 times in the last three years, compared to zero times with anti-fracking groups – despite much local opposition and national anti-fracking campaigns.

An estimated 6000 people descended on the capital on Saturday 17th November, blocking traffic on five of London’s central bridges: Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth.

This was followed by a symbolic tree-planting ceremony in Parliament Square where three trees – a plum, an apple and an evergreen – were planted whilst a crowd sang a Sufi song called ‘Always in Love’. Several swarming ‘roadblocks’ took place in Vauxhall, Tower Bridge, Earl’s Court and Elephant and Castle, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Many were willingly arrested during these weeks of ‘rebellion’ to highlight the criminal inaction of the British Government in the face of the ‘climate emergency’. Future bursts of civil disobedience are planned to continue and escalate over the coming years in the face of continued inaction by the government.

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