Extinction Rebellion, Explained
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Extinction Rebellion's climate protests have garnered plenty of media attention, and it's not always been positive.
Here's how the movement was formed, and its actual objectives.
What is Extinction Rebellion?
Extinction Rebellion (also known by its abbreviation ‘XR’) is a global environmental social movement, founded on the principle of everyday people coming together to take environmental action.
XR is a decentralised organisation made up of various local groups. So, providing that they respect the values, every local group can organise events and actions independently of the main XR group.
The movement was launched in the UK in 2018 by Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook. Today, XR is not only popular in the UK but is also successful globally with the movement currently boasting 1,142 groups in 72 countries. The logo of the group uses a circle representing the earth with an hourglass inside to demonstrate time running out for humanity.
What are its aims?
Extinction Rebellion is purely environmentally driven and has three main demands:
1. Tell the truth
Governments must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
2. Act now
Governments must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
3. Beyond politics
Governments must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Why does the group use disruptive tactics?
Extinction Rebellion uses nonviolent civil disobedience in its attempts to achieve its aims during protest. XR believes that in order for the movement’s protests to be successful in achieving its aim, disruptive tactics must be used, which tend to result in protesters being arrested. They cite previous successful social movements such as the Suffragettes who used similar tactics.
Co-founder Roger Hallam declares "letters, emailing, marches don’t work. You need about 400 people to go to prison. About two to three thousand people to be arrested”. This can be seen with the 1100 arrests during the April 2019 XR protests in London.
The main criticism of the social movement is its controversial and extreme tactics, and justification of criminal acts as a ‘necessity’ to further its cause. This can be seen with the XR protesters blocking the printing of News Corp newspapers in September 2020 due the newspapers’ “failure to report on the climate and ecological emergency”. This resulted in claims of an attack on the free press by The Sun and backlash from the government, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that it was “completely unacceptable”.
Despite controversy around its tactics, Extinction Rebellion has certainly been successful in gaining attention for its cause. The organisation currently boasts 429,000 followers on Facebook and 363,000 followers on Twitter.
However, one question which arises is: how far does protecting the environment justify using disruptive tactics? What rights, such as freedom of the press, do we need to sacrifice in order to protect the planet? Are there other strategies to achieve the same goal?
Visit our Climate Crisis section for more informative analyses of current environmental issues.