Extinction Rebellion

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (comprising thousands of the world’s foremost climate scientists) issued their latest report in October 2018. It stated that we have a maximum of 12 years to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In these 12 years we need to reduce global carbon emissions by 45%, which will require what it describes as "rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems."

After such a resounding call, our governments must surely be communicating the message far and wide, summoning support for the changes needed, and creating something akin to a war economy (only even more important, more extreme) to give humanity itself, along with much of the natural world, the best chance of surviving Apparently not. The silence is deafening. The lack of action: maddening. In the recent autumn budget the phrase ‘climate change’ wasn’t even mentioned once. The British government continues to support fracking and to subsidise fossil fuels, while actively opposing the renewable technologies that have the potential to help lift us out of this dire situation.

Extinction Rebellion was created to rebel against this insane situation. It is a campaign and a movement, born out of the Rising Up network. Their demands – given the science – appear completely reasonable. Not only are they reasonable; they may be our best chance of survival. They are, simply:

  1. That the government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, it reversing all policies that not in alignment with that, and must working alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change.

  2. The government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emission in the UK to net zero by 2025 (the government’s current target is 2050).

  3. Creation of a Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes required, because of distrust in the ability of government to treat climate change with appropriate seriousness.

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The difference between XR (as it’s often abridged to) and other environmental movements is that XR have seen that traditional methods of protest – letters to MPs and marches – have had seemingly no effect on climate change policy. And so instead they are taking inspiration from other historic movements – Ghandi’s Salt March, the suffragettes, and the civil rights movement – and urging their supporters to engage in acts of civil disobedience, to willingly risk arrest for the cause. And their supporters have heeded the call. On Saturday 17th, in the largest action so far, over 6000 people blockaded 5 of central London’s iconic bridges for much of the day, creating disruption and gaining widespread media coverage. This week has seen ‘swarming road blocks’ in London, closing key roads for short periods during peak times, and causing further economic disruption. The plan is for continued, escalating acts of civil disobedience until the government negotiates with them on their demands.

The UN has described climate change as a direct existential threat to humanity. We are living through, and driving, the 6th mass extinction event: having lost 60% of our wildlife in the past 50 years. Given these stark facts, it is very difficult to image humanity surviving under a business-as-usual scenario.

Extinction Rebellion offers a way to come together with those who are similarly concerned about what is happening to our world and the life support systems that sustain us – to face the facts and the grief together, and with compassion, and to fight as if our lives depend on it. Because they really do.

Local Action

On November 14th philosopher, academic, and activist Rupert Read gave a talk on The Need for an Extinction Rebellion. The talk had only been suggested a week before but - thanks to superhuman efforts by the volunteers involved – still impelled 120 people to cram into a meeting room fit for about 90, to learn more about the cause. The excitement and energy in the room was palpable; and many of those in attendance were inspired to take part in the Rebellion Day on the 17th., but also to form a local XR community. The impacts of climate change will be dreadful for Norfolk, being low-lying and flat, and posing grave risk to many farmlands: the need to protect our families, communities, and livelihoods is clear.

If you would like to get involved we would urge you to read more about Extinction Rebellion, speak to your friends and family about climate change, join the XR Norwich group on Facebook and, if you feel suitably moved, join us in acts of civil disobedience.

Written by Matthew White who is the founder of Car Free Norwich, Fossil Free Norfolk, and the coordinator of Refill Norwich.