Members of 'Extinction Rebellion' are gluing themselves to buildings
Roger Hallam wants to get young people sent to prison. Not thieves, drug dealers or delinquents, but the best and brightest - those who understand the scale of the global climate change problem.
Roger is a co-founder of an entity commonly known as XR. Standing for Extinction Rebellion, they themselves stand for direct action and civil disobedience. The sheer number of people involved in the movement, as well as its unusual primary objective, is what sets XR apart. At this scale, protests of this nature haven’t been seen in decades.
The primary objective is as many arrests as possible. This could involve anything from blocking a road, defacing a government building or even glueing yourself to the area of protest. However, this isn’t enough for Roger.
The secondary objective is imprisonment. “The action itself is not actually that important,” he explains to the Guardian, “it’s the going to prison that has cultural resonance.” The third and final objective is to save the world. (Specifically, to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.) Though not everyone believes that XR are going about this in the right way.
In October, the same month that the movement officially launched, XR orchestrated a series of protests in London. Thousands of people blocked five major bridges, causing hours of delays for Londoners. They then descended on Parliament Square to drive the message home to lawmakers.
Eighty-five arrests occurred, the key issue for the police being the potential “threat to life” that comes with blocking a bridge. XR argue that, should an ambulance need to cross the bridge, they would move instantly. Furthermore, whereas more established environmental organisations tend to rely on a combination of petitions and marketing, Roger believes that this approach has had its day.
“The emailing, writing letters, going on a day march is no good,” he explains. Instead, XR rely on the notoriety associated with disobedience, arrests and jail time. This should come as no surprise considering Rodger believes we have only 10 years before mass starvation occurs.
A “holacratic” movement, XR is decentralised - allowing members to autonomously coordinate their own action. Combined with the fact that many members are entirely new to protesting, it’s thought that this is how XR has grown so quickly. Furthermore, first signatories of their two open letters to Parliament include notable academics such as Noam Chomsky and A. C. Grayling as well as former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Clearly, although their methods may seem extreme, they are still gaining support from a broad spectrum of concerned individuals.
“Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis,” states the second letter, sent last month. “If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable,” it continues. “We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonisation and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. Extinction Rebellion in the UK). We must collectively do whatever's necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty. Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.”
XR is notable in that members are encouraged to pledge to be arrested. However, its proponents believe the sacrifice is worth it. “Right now, our children are not safe,” explains Dr Gail Bradbrook to the BBC. “Climate change and the crisis, the ecological crisis, is not something that’s going to happen to somebody else, somewhere else, sometime in the future. This is not even a political issue in the sense of wherever you are on the political spectrum, especially if you’re a parent, you have a responsibility to the future.”
However, XR believes the media should change the way it reports on climate change and the BBC themselves have also come under fire - when they protested outside their offices last month.
The British government have responded to XR’s demands stating that, as a country, the UK is a world leader in tackling climate change. However, for Extinction Rebellion, this is too little too late - and only a drastic global change will save humanity.