You’ve probably seen them in the news, most recently for climbing on top of a DLR train carriage at a London station or possibly their protest at the BP Portrait Awards in The National Portrait Gallery where they stripped naked and covered themselves in fake oil. But who are Extinction Rebellion, really? And what do they want?
“Our world is in crisis. Life itself is under threat. Yet every crisis contains the possibility of transformation. Across the world, heralded by the young, people are waking up and coming together.” That is part of the mission statement on Extinction Rebellion’s website which also lays out the global movement’s demands. There are three and they set out clearly and succinctly:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.
- Government must create, and be led by the decisions of, a citizens' assembly on climate and ecological justice.
It was founded almost exactly one year ago by two Brits, Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook, supported by around 100 academics who signed a call to action in October 2018. They were joined by further activists from the campaign group Rising Up! And one of their first actions was to blockade five of London’s Thames bridges. In April 2019, Extinction Rebellion staged an occupation of Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, and around Parliament Square.
This is by no means all. Gluing themselves the gates of Downing Street, occupying Scottish Parliament, swarming roadblocks during Fashion Week, spraying the Treasury with fake blood. Their methods are intended to disrupt, with over 1,800 people being placed under arrest in the International Rebellion protests in October this year alone. This is intentional and the leaders have cited the suffragettes, the salt marchers in India and the Civil Rights Movement as inspiration. Co-founder Roger Hallam has said "letters, emailing, marches don’t work. You need about 400 people to go to prison. About two to three thousand people to be arrested."
Some have condemned their methods, most predictably the British red tops, as Extinction Rebellion continues its efforts to bring the capital to a standstill. Actions such as the previously mentioned incident which saw protesters climb on the top of DLR train at Canning town at rush hour have actually been condemned by Extinction Rebellion itself for being dangerous. The footage is hard to watch as furious commuters drag a man from the roof and start to attack him protected only by station staff and one or two people waiting on the platform.
Stunts like this have given those against the rebellion ammunition to further condemn the protesters - an unfortunate development considering what they’re fighting for. As for us, what do we think about the whole thing? Well, firstly, it should be an incontrovertible truth that the Earth is in the throes of a climate crisis - that’s one of the main reasons we started this company. And people like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion’s claiming that not enough is being done by Government to avoid an eco-apocalypse is true. Secondly, civil disobedience has long been a mainstay of any important movement and it is effective - although endangering others should never be the aim. Finally, although inconvenient, being late to work seems like a small price to pay when the world is at stake.