Is Extinction Rebellion the answer to the climate crisis?
Two of our writers, Tom Marsan and Chloe Coules (Bath Time’s Design Editor) share their differing perspectives on this question.
Tom Marsan: Extinction Rebellion is not the answer.
I think I’d describe myself as someone who cares for the environment. I recycle, I don’t eat meat, I take public transport, and I even have a slightly leaky keep cup. I definitely feel like I do my bit. When I was crushed against a dozen other unfortunate commuters, watching as the bus we were on inched mercilessly away on a half hour diversion, I really did feel like buying shares in BP and using a plastic straw out of spite. Whilst I really like the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement in principle, when everyone is hours late to work and the deadline for the report you’ve got due tomorrow hasn’t changed, it really is hard to get behind. Last time I checked, I’m not, and neither is anyone I know a fossil fuel executive. Why the XR movement felt that, despite this, they would block every road to my job, I’m not sure.
Throughout my placement I encountered people from across the corporate world, both in the UK and abroad. As far as I’m aware, I didn’t meet a single climate change denier. In my office the topic came up fairly regularly, always revolving around key themes of ‘why like this and what’s their aim?’. As the protests dragged on, the sentiment permeating the office steadily shifted from ‘great to see young people so engaged’ to ‘can they please stop, I can’t do anything even on weekends’. Extinction Rebellion was brilliant for getting people to talk about climate change, but sadly the majority of the conversation is now about how these protests were inconvenient and ineffective. Seeing people chain themselves to railings, glue themselves to tubes and block roads just made people fed up with the whole movement – especially as the rebellion itself seemed to lack any concrete, achievable aims other than their grandiose unattainable targets. What did they hope to achieve beyond awareness? And who wasn’t already aware of climate change?
According to Comres, the majority of Britons believe climate change is real and poses an imminent threat to our planet, yet the majority of Britons do not support Extinction Rebellion. To compound the PR problem Extinction Rebellion seem to have, watching XR representatives make outlandish claims such as 97% of the global population would die within 2-3 decades, and seeing them be discredited on various media outlets only served to further sour their reputation. Climate change is so obviously real and there are so many genuine arguments that can be made about its devastating consequences – it is utterly baffling why representatives from the movement are choosing to make claims so ridiculous that they would be more at home amongst the denial crowd. If spokespeople for the movement are disagreeing with climate scientists on both the scale and timeline of the current crisis, who do they expect people to listen to?
Having seen support drop and the damage done, maybe recycle, don’t rebel.
Chloe Coules: In Defence of Extinction Rebellion
With protests causing disruption all over Central London and over 1,100 people already arrested, Extinction Rebellion is the source of much controversy. Many are questioning their methods, condemning how much their protests disrupt the lives of individual commuters. However, with the scientific evidence pointing to disaster, and the Government burying their heads in the sand, the question is: do extreme times call for extreme measures?
According to Ethan – an active member of Extinction Rebellion and student at the University – the answer is a resounding yes. He told me that in an ideal world, the Government would listen to the groups concerns and respond to them, but in the absence of any Government cooperation, Extinction Rebellion is left with only one choice: ‘peaceful non-cooperation’. By this he means that their tactic is to have as many protesters arrested as possible, causing inconvenience to the state and wasting resources in an act of defiance. He, like many others, made an active choice to be arrested at the last protests, and that number of arrests has already been surpassed this time only 5 days into the protests.
Extinction Rebellion are clearly doing what they set out to do, but it’s not difficult to see how the group have come under scrutiny for their actions. With disruptions and a blatant disregard for the law, its unsurprising that they are being demonized. However, when talking to Ethan about his experience within the group, there is an overwhelmingly contradictory sense of camaraderie and love that it is hard to imagine that this is the same group I had read about in the media. Whether it be the meticulous planning that went into making sure they could clear a path for an ambulance as efficiently as possible, the ‘infinity groups’ that they form upon arrival in order to support their members, or waiting for each other upon release from custody – these people care.
Ethan told me that the biggest misconception about Extinction Rebellion is that they are disrupting people’s lives for the sake of it, and I agree with him. They are not troublemakers and criminals. They are grandparents wanting a future for their grandchildren, students from our university and others wanting the chance to experience life and grow old, people wanting nothing more than to exist years from now. They are acting out of sheer desperation for the impending loss of our planet. They have done everything within their power to reduce their own carbon footprint and all of those of the people around them; but they, like the rest of us, are left with the depressing reality that it will never be enough. Not when our Government, and many like it, do not take climate change seriously. They are left with no other option than to act out in the hope that someone pays attention. This truly is the last resort.