This week, climate protesters from environmental group Extinction Rebellion (XR) have organized large scale protests in a number of cities, grinding them to a halt. The protests aimed to draw attention to government inadequacies in addressing the global climate emergency within critical time frames. XR claims 2,300 people have signed up to the U.K. part of an international week of protest, which will see protests in around 80 cities in more than 33 countries, a self-proclaimed festival of creative resistance, centred around art actions, talks and other forms of non-violent protest. Protests have been centred in London with round-the-clock blockades at five of London’s most iconic locations: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Parliament, Marble Arch and Waterloo Bridge, intending to occupy them for at least 72 hours, aiming to shut London down until 29th April. An itinerary of protest describe a first night on Monday as the beginning of protest, and on day two, if the government has not responded, XR will shut the city down across these five sites and further inaction will lead to ‘rebellion for as long as it takes with an escalation of civil disobedience. Protests in Oxford Circus and centred around a large pink yacht with “tell the truth” emblazoned on its side, and a giant heart at Waterloo Bridge.
The urgency of climatic deterioration has been highlighted by Antonio Gutteres, UN Secretary-General, who recently declared we must “act now to save our planet and our future from the climate emergency.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has shown support for the protests, stating he “shared in the passion” of the activists, however, he stated he was “extremely concerned” regarding plans to disrupt underground services on Wednesday. In regard to climate, Sadiq Khan has said the use of public transport in tackling climate change as “extremely crucial”. Urging protesters it would be counterproductive to disrupt the tube networks on Wednesday: “Targeting public transport in this way would only damage the cause of all of us who want to tackle climate change, as well as risking Londoners’ safety, and I’d implore anyone considering doing so to think again.” This sentiment has been echoed by hundreds of Twitter users, supporting the cause, but feeling that they are taking the brunt of the protests, instead of their target, the government.
Civil disobedience is an effective non-violent tool, when it causes considerate disruption and is undertaken en masse. It is not optimal that it is everyday people that will be disrupted by these protests, however the governments inactivity leaves little choice. The government of the U.K. and others around the world continue to improperly size up the looming environmental crisis we face. If the government reacted to the environmental crisis with the same fervour as an economic crisis we could avoid environmental catastrophe. That is why the only course is to disrupt the economy, as this is the only thing short-sighted government sees.
The environmental crisis is one of the largest facing society today, it is therefore laughable the lack of action governments are undertaking. We are approaching a critical threshold, before which we can reverse damage caused and revert back to a healthy climatic system.
Extinction Rebellion is a large environmental group, responsible for multiple protests since its launch last year. Calling war on the British Government for its criminal inaction on the climatic emergency, it is using non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change to minimize the risk of human extinction from climate change and ecological collapse. XR demands that the government starts telling the truth and calls an environmental emergency and reduces greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, instead of the current 2050 U.K. government target.
They notably campaigned with semi-naked activists occupying the Houses of Parliament earlier this month whilst MP’s discussed Brexit. Standing semi-naked with environmental slogans painted on their bodies, in an attempt to draw attention to the elephant in the room. In November XR protesters occupied five bridges in central London, crippling transport infrastructure, with at least 85 people arrested. Large scale protests have also been seen in Edinburgh, Scotland with 29 arrests made as some 300 protesters block the North Bridge. Furthermore, XR demonstrators occupied The Hague displaying banners, before 22 arrests were made.
The desperation of the acts of Extinction Rebellion highlights the urgency of the problem, as governments must come to realize the levity of the situation we face. The non-violent tactics employed by XR are highly effective, giving great exposure to the cause and disrupting the economy, something which the government will not ignore.