What is Extinction Rebellion? (In 700 Words)

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Extinction Rebellion are the people-power led movement that have held up London roads for the last two weeks. They are calling on the British Government to restructure the economy in the face of a 12-year countdown to serious climate change.

As well as the “international rebellion” in the British capital, XR Cardiff have held a series of Critical Mass style bike rides in Cardiff to put pressure on the Welsh Government to also declare a Climate Emergency. The rides also serve to recruit new members to the cause, get Cardiff cycling, and support the London “rebellion”.


This week was also the 87th anniversary of the 1932 Kinder Scout trespass in England’s Peak District. Working class people from the unpleasant industrial cities of the time illegally walked up the privately owned Kinder Scout mountain. This mass breaking of the law led to social and political changes which established that everyone has the right to enjoy nature.

What do Extinction Rebellion want?

XR are acting on scientific evidence given in 2018. We have 12 years to act to prevent the Earth warming up by another 1.5 °c. This will require rapid restructuring of the economy, infrastructure and public sector to prioritise sustainable solutions. They want the government of the UK, and other countries, to declare a climate emergency and work towards a radical, sustainable economy. Read more about that here.

Why are Extinction Rebellion breaking the law?

Extinction Rebellion in the present day have similar aims to the Kinder Scout trespassers in 1932. In the below video, founder Roger Hallam, a researcher at Kings College London, explains that 30 years of “professional” green activity has achieved little. XR believes that, to get Government to take climate change seriously, you have to break the law.

And break the law they did- with over 1000 arrests in London over two weeks. This week’s Critical Mass rides in Cardiff did not involve arrests, although some XR Wales protesters were arrested at a previous event in Cardiff.

Who funds Extinction Rebellion?

People are, according to Roger Hallam in the video above, quitting their jobs to work for no pay to organise events. People are turning up to events with signs made and paid for out of their own pocket. XR raise funds through the Compassionate Revolution vehicle and their Fundrazr page.

What criticisms do people have of Extinction Rebellion?

Reactionary national media outlets have levied of criticism at the XR protesters, with the Mail naming and shaming participants (calling two organisers a “failed organic farmer” and a “middle class fanatic”) and the Telegraph helpfully pointing out that celebrity participant Dame Emma Thompson flew 5000 miles from the US (how else would she get to the protest on time?). It reminds me of the famous Matt Bors cartoon, Mister Gotcha; sure, everyone’s a bit hypocritical, but it’s not about individual action. It’s about asking governments to enforce some societal, structural change.

Having said that, there are some legitimate criticisms of the movement. Many people of colour see it as too white and middle class – this fantastic and rather viral piece from Gal-dem went to town on the movement. Mostly, the problem comes down to how XR engages with the police. People of colour have been historically brutally treated, and this author feels that XR is downplaying the historical relationship between activists and the police.

Ben Smoke, one of 15 protesters arrested for blockading a Stansted flight full of deportees in 2017, writes that XR arrestees should be “careful what they wish for”. Aside from the obvious negative consequences of arrest, he says, it sucks time and energy from you that could have been spent better fighting for real change.

In this video, Hallam says that the protesters aren’t getting arrested quick enough. He is also contravening the Green and Black Cross guidelines that protesters should not talk directly to the police.

More Info:

VICE- Extinction Rebellion: What Comes Next?

ITV Wales- Extinction Rebellion protest in Cardiff rush hour

NationCymru- Welsh Extinction Rebellion warn of civilisational collapse

The Sprout- The Law and Your Rights

XR Cardiff are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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