From April 15th-25th, the non-violent civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion, of which I am a member, shut down the city of London to protest government inaction concerning climate change. You may have already heard of us. You may have discovered our existence as footage of the rebellion spread online. Or, you may have no idea what I’m talking about.
Extinction Rebellion was formed in late 2018, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that brought to light the urgency climate change must be treated with, and started a fast-ticking 12 year clock on our civilisation. If action is not quickly taken, climate catastrophe will slowly lead to the extinction of our species, along with many others. This may sound dramatic, but 97% of climate scientists agree.
When I found out the facts, I was 100% scared. I still am, as are many people. This led me to join Extinction Rebellion, a group that is engaging in civil disobedience until the government meets these three demands:
- Tell the truth by declaring a climate emergency to the public.
- Act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizen’s Assembly on ecological justice.
Sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the existential crisis we have inherited has meant that direct action has become essential. I, a quiet and anxious student, followed Extinction Rebellion online before plucking up the courage to attend a meeting of Liverpool’s local group, and subsequently threw myself into activism.
This led to my attendance of the International Rebellion, spending five days protesting in London, among like-minded people, many of whom shared my fears for the future, but also shared a determination to fight for it. I camped with my affinity group at Marble Arch, enjoying the nightly live music within a community of activists, while also being fed from an on-site kitchen. I danced near the iconic pink boat at Oxford Circus, cheering and thanking those brave rebels who were arrested. My favourite day of the rebellion involved a scorching afternoon in the middle of Waterloo Bridge, dancing barefoot and speaking to people I had never met before as if we had been friends for years. Later that day, when Parliament Square was flooded with a sea of yellow police coats, I rushed to man the barricade, camping there with my fellow Scouse rebels.
I don’t say this to be admired, but to show that while this was a rebellion about the most serious and urgent issue humanity has ever faced, it was also an exceedingly enjoyable experience and not as scary as you would think.
Instead of being afraid of the police officers, I was instead shocked by their solidarity. Whether they were greeting my group good morning as we started a shift on a barricade, or dancing with us in Oxford Circus, it was always clear they were doing all they could to facilitate our movement, while also being obligated to do their job through arresting rebels.
I was constantly amazed and grateful at the kindness exhibited and the sacrifices that were made. I had the best week of my life at the International Rebellion, where a community was built out of strangers finding commonality in their passion for the planet as we breathed the cleanest air these parts of London have had in decades. I felt part of something important, something historic as my anxiety slipped away. Once hesitant to join in public chanting and singing, often having the quietist voice in the crowd, I found as time went on my voice grew louder by the hour. This is what a rebellion did for only one person.
With the UK Parliament’s recent declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’, they are beginning to tell the truth about climate change, but this does not mean the rebellion is over. Extinction Rebellion will continue to rebel until all three demands are met. So, a non-violent and inclusive movement, where every part of everyone is welcome, may just start a revolution.