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The most pressing global issue facing the whole of humanity is climate change. It is a complex phenomenon, consisting of a variety of multilateral issues and effects, with global impacts implicating virtually every human activity. This has motivated the campaign group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ to encourage global leaders to examine and constructively change their climate policy. On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion held an organized non-violent protest in central London, demanding the U.K. government to take greater action to tackle the existing and impending dangers of climate change. Thousands of demonstrators occupied Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges, causing “significant traffic disruption,” according to the Met. Over 85 arrests were made.
BBC environmental analyst, Roger Harrabin, stated that “we haven’t seen a British green group quite like this before. It thinks marching with placards has failed, so it’s aiming to make mayhem instead.” This echoes what members of Extinction Rebellion have said about their choice of action. Tiana Jacout explains that those protesting the government’s approach to climate change “have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions,” but nothing has triggered significant change. Gail Bradbrook, of Extinction Rebellion, also notes that “change comes when people are willing to commit acts of peaceful civil disobedience.”
Extinction Rebellion has called for U.K. carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025, according to The Guardian. Many have questioned whether this is realistic, particularly given the government’s inability to take climate action seriously, as seen in its investment in fracking and non-renewable energies. However, approaching climate change ‘softly’ does not do justice to the environmental destruction we, as a global community, are inflicting. Moreover, investing in more fossil fuels, including natural gas through fracking is simply irresponsible and complacent. For Bradbrook, this demonstrates that “the ‘social contract’ has been broken… [and] it is therefore not only our right but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty and to rebel to defend life itself.”
Climate change should not only be daunting but should force people into immediate action. It is a global security concern, with the reduction of arable land, shortages of water and threats of flooding occurring now around the globe. The notion that climate change is not a matter for global security is neglectful of those around the world already facing the harsh effects of climate change on their health, homes and livelihood.
The U.K. government should be responsible for its failure to act and Extinction Rebellion aims to demonstrate the drastic need for significant climate policy change. This action follows in the footsteps of Black Lives Matter U.K., who in 2016 successfully shut down London City airport. The BLM protest aimed to expose Britain’s historical responsibility for global temperature changes, while the U.K. remains among the least vulnerable countries to the direct effects of climate change. It also aimed to show that black people and poor people globally suffer the most from environmental impacts. It is notable that not only is Extinction Rebellion’s resistance necessary for the future of the planet and the course of humanity; it is also necessary given the current consequences of climate change.