For the past few months, Extinction Rebellion has taken charge on climate action in the UK. Their symbol, an encircled hourglass warning of time running out, can be found emblazoned on tube stations, traffic lights, and pinned on tote bags and coats of Londoners both young and old.
Describing themselves as “an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency,” the global environmental movement has made their message of urgency in which climate change needs to be addressed clear through civil disobedience — and in doing so has garnered global attention.
It began in May 2018 when 100 academics signed a call to action which helped initiate the group’s first protest (which occurred in November of 2018 when the five bridges that cross the River Thames were blockaded by protestors, causing major traffic havoc).
From there, the movement worked up its momentum and gained more support and followers while simultaneously angering more and more people through the disruption of public movement.
In April of 2019 protestors camped out on one of the crucial bridges that connects into the city. (A disruption similar to camping out on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles.) More recent demonstrations include standing on top of tube trains and grounding flights.
Although they have spotlighted themselves as a group that is prompting change, the problem initially was that their demands were not clear and therefore didn’t amount to any actual policy change. As the group has grown, they have become more articulate on the actions they are commanding from the UK government, including:
1 | The declaration of a “climate and ecological emergency” so they can work together with other institutions to help spread the message of change.
2 | Stop the loss of habitat and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
3 | The formation of a special group called a Citizens’ Assembly, which would decide how to solve the climate crisis, with advice from experts.
With a strong foothold in the UK and the movement spreading to continental Europe, Extinction Rebellion has now set their sights on the US. However, given the US’s hideous climate change track record as exemplified most recently by the official withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the demands they are requesting in the US differ slightly from the UK’s, and include:
1 | The government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergencies, must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position, and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities, and businesses need to do.
2 | The government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half the planet’s worth of resources per year.
3 | The formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
4 | A transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty, establishing reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and poor communities for years of environmental injustice.
While the movement has a slower momentum in the US, local chapters have been popping up across the country and actions are already beginning. However, the fact that a general denial of climate change still exists in the US is a testament to how slow moving and difficult it will be for the movement to create a dialogue with legislators. It is also questionable whether the government will tolerate the same level of public disruption which is required by the movement — so, while valiant, it is yet to be seen if any climate action will actually come from their US movement.
To join an upcoming action near you, find out more here.
Let’s see if we can make some noise and draw attention to arguably the most pressing issue of our time. Our survival depends on it.