Futures Forum: Climate change > Extinction Rebellion and direct action
And again last month:
Futures Forum: Climate change > Extinction Rebellion in Exeter
This sort of action is becoming mainstream:
Futures Forum: How 2018 turned environmentalism from a radical niche into a mainstream trend
Here's part of an overview in the Baffler:
Striking at the End of the World
Extinction Rebellion proposes a new paradigm for climate-change activism
IN RECENT MONTHS, hundreds of people from coast to coast have confronted politicians in their offices and asked them to take action on climate change. Activists with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization whose mission is to halt climate change and “create millions of good jobs in the process” swarmed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill in February, urging him to support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey’s Green New Deal, which McConnell was planning to torpedo by holding a premature vote. Days before that, a group of young children had done the same at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco office. In December, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco and D.C. offices were both occupied, and before that . . . well, you get the picture.
Few of these political leaders seem to be listening, however, and it’s become clear that a form of climate denialism—or at least, in Ocasio-Cortez’s recent parlance, climate delay—remains a bipartisan consensus. When all is said and done, neither party seems interested in enacting bold, transformative policies within the timeframe scientists warn is necessary to avert climate apocalypse. So, in the face of this inaction, and with a renewed sense of urgency, people of all ages and backgrounds have begun taking directly to the streets and participating in mass disruption events in the United States and beyond. One notable event was coordinated late last year by the relatively new group Extinction Rebellion; on November 17, they successfully shut down five major bridges in London through a series of swarms, flash mobs, roadblocks, and other forms of direct action.
Extinction Rebellion was launched by activists from the organization Rising Up! at the end of October 2018, shortly after the publication of the groundbreaking UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which outlined the mere twelve years we have left to radically transform all aspects of the global economy in order to avoid full-blown climate apocalypse. On October 31, the group held their first action, convening an assembly of more than a thousand people at Parliament Square, where they formally declared rebellion against the UK government and performed a sit-in on the roadway which resulted in fifteen arrests. Extinction Rebellion continued coordinating relatively small disruptions during the first two weeks of November, all of which lead up to November 17. These smaller actions included road blocks, a banner drop over Westminster Bridge which read “Climate Change: We’re Fucked,” and a gathering where protesters glued themselves to fencing outside Downing Street.
Larch Maxey is an organizer with Extinction Rebellion in the UK. From the movement against Heathrow airport’s expansion to anti-fracking and anti-genetic engineering efforts, Maxey has been involved in some way with non-violent, direct action around climate change for the last quarter century. Last year, he used his annual leave from his day job to work full-time with Extinction Rebellion and helped to coordinate the November 17 protests. “That was one of the largest civil disobedience events in the U.K. for decades,” Maxey told me. “We had probably 6,000 people out on the bridges blocking traffic for seven minutes. We’d block traffic in one location for a few minutes, then we’d disappear into the crowd and suddenly pop up elsewhere. It was enough to cause massive economic disruption and block the whole city.”
According to Maxey, one of Extinction Rebellion’s goals for their direct-action events is to have as many people arrested as possible. The police in London were well aware of this strategy during the demonstration and had a no-arrest policy throughout—though eighty-five people were still arrested despite this. “We had hundreds more willing to be arrested,” Maxey explained. “The theory of change behind Extinction Rebellion comes from non-violent direct-action movements in history, from the suffragettes to Martin Luther King Jr., where we see that getting arrested and going to prison is part of a movement which brings about change through pressure.”
The strategies used by Extinction Rebellion are not intended to antagonize the individual bystanders being disrupted, though—they’re ultimately aimed at building a mass movement. During the November 17 Rebellion Day, they used a number of tactics to ensure that they did not alienate the drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who were being blocked. “People were making flapjacks, we were offering chocolate bars. You offer them a gift, you say sorry for the disruption, we’ll only be here for seven minutes,” Maxey recalled. “The first day [we blocked traffic], we were like, oh, it seems the taxi drivers are really pissed off. But then by the third day, I had a whole flurry of taxi drivers who were thanking me for doing what we’re doing, saying I really get it, what you’re doing is important.”
Since that November action threw Extinction Rebellion into the international spotlight, they’ve been launching chapters all over the globe, including dozens across the United States. Building on the already existing activist networks of groups like the Climate Mobilization—and with help from people like Zack Exley, an organizer who played a key role in the Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Democratic Primary campaign—Extinction Rebellion U.S. is growing quickly.
Striking at the End of the World | Robert Raymond