• What Is Extinction Rebellion?

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What Is Extinction Rebellion?

Apr 26 2019

The Extinction Rebellion protests which have disrupted major thoroughfares and countless daily routines in London for the past 11 days came to a close this week, as the campaigners indicated they would be vacating their physical picket fences but intended to continue driving their agenda. So far, the protests have been entirely peaceful, but have resulted in the arrests of more than 1,000 people.

The movement was originally created in October of last year in a bid to raise awareness around climate change and force politicians to stop sidestepping action on the subject. The incumbent UK government has come in for particular criticism from environmentalists for its perceived unwillingness to introduce concrete targets and attendant legislation to counteract the ongoing damage that manmade climate change is wreaking on the planet.

Extinction Rebellion’s modus operandi

Extinction Rebellion was launched in October 2018 by activists from campaign organisation Rising Up, with approximately 100 academics signing their allegiance to the cause of instigating urgent action to limit global warming. The group has cited Gandhi’s peaceful protests, the suffragette movement and Martin Luther King’s civil right activists as inspiration for their cause.

On April 15th, the group occupied four important locales in the centre of London. Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge all saw massive installations and large public protests, disrupting traffic and intentionally interrupting the normal status quo in the area. A significant number of activists have indicated their willingness to be arrested and even serve jailtime in order to make their voices heard; the April protests have so far seen 1,088 arrests.

Realistic demands?

Extinction Rebellion have proposed a three-step plan to halt global warming and curb the harmful effects of climate change. The first of these involves the government “telling the truth” about the full extent of the crisis which rising global temperatures poses, instead of fudging figures and prevaricating. The second is to introduce a legally-binding target of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2025, while the third is to establish a “Citizens’ Assembly” to enforce its other goals.

Of course, the second demand is the main crux of the matter. But is it really feasible to eliminate carbon emissions altogether in just six years? While it would be possible to do so, it would involve transitioning to environmentally-friendly forms of road transportation across the board, replacing all domestic gas boilers with electric ones and significantly ramping up renewable energy production.

It would also require major lifestyle changes on an individual level, including dispensing with a meat-based diet in favour of a plant-based one and severely restricting air travel. Although it would be possible to achieve the ambitious target, it would incur the kind of restrictions on quality of life not seen since wartime rationing. As such, the demands have been criticised by some quarters for being unrealistic.

What next for Extinction Rebellion?

A formal closing ceremony for this month’s occupations was held on Thursday 25th April at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. “We will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world,” the group said in a statement. “We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency.”

However, further actions in the future are already in preparation. As well as more protests, nine candidates from the newly-created Climate Emergency Independents party (inspired by the Extinction Rebellion movement) intend to stand in the upcoming European elections, while the Youth branch of the group has written directly to MPs asking them to take stock of their demands.

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