On Monday 7th October 2019, more than 30,000 environmentalists “devoted to disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience in protest against ecological collapse” descended on London to shut the city centre down in protest, and the movement is global.
XR groups in more than 60 major cities around the world released their plans to peacefully occupy key locations in their cities, including Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Prague, Bratislava, Dublin, Budapest, and many cities across India.
They are aiming for eventual critical mass in all countries, which XR points out is “the involvement of 3.5% of the population to succeed – in the UK that’s about 2 million people” based on the research by Erica Chenoweth.
The movement began on 31st October 2018 when 1,500 XR supporters assembled on Parliament Square in London to announce a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK Government.
Over the next few weeks, 6,000 converged on London to peacefully block five major bridges across the Thames, planting trees in the middle of Parliament Square, and digging a hole to bury a coffin representing humanity’s future.
On their website it continues:
Our actions generated huge national and international publicity and, as news spread, our ideas connected with tens of thousands of people around the world.
The Guardian reported that those arrested will be prosecuted and linked XR’s comment “We are asking the police and legal system to concentrate on issues such as knife crime, and not non-violent protesters who are trying to save our planet” with “Stop bothering us non-violent protesters; focus instead on those frightening inner-city neighbourhoods, where black children carry knives”, attempting to plant seeds that XR are racist.
XR received even more news coverage the weekend before the launch of October rebellion, with the campaign promising disruption to emergency care (Telegraph) thanks to the “eco zealots’ blueprint for mayhem” – an article the Daily Mail originally called: “Extinction Rebellion ‘will stop the Queen’s Speech’ as it reveals its battle plan to stop London”.
The Daily Mail even gloated “At Last!” as Police took preemptive action and raided a warehouse, arresting ten people and confiscating XR equipment.
“These tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest”, he argues, and the UK Shadow Minister of State for Policing, Louise Haigh, agrees.
The mainstream media, of course, ignores the cause of the protests (the fear of ecological collapse due to a politically corrupt system), and instead focuses on demonising XR, but the fact that XR are receiving so much press, rather than being ignored, means that someone high up is concerned about what this movement could potentially mean.
What makes XR different from other climate change movements is that this movement has a clear focus on the problems, and the solutions they require.
On the XR website, 3 areas are identified as the “symptoms of this toxic system”:
- A debt- and interest-based, deregulated finance sector.
- A fake and decaying democracy.
- A media captured to the interests of exploitative rich people and corporations.
XR identify 3 key areas that need to change in order “to create a world fit for the next seven generations to live in”:
- A democracy where people have real agency in decision making by devolving power to the level closest to people and communities.
- An economy designed to maximise well-being for all people and minimise harm to each other, our fellow creatures and our home planet.
- Creating a healthy, resilient and adaptable regenerative culture that can “heal and improve .. on all levels, including individuals, communities, our soil, water and air.”
The Bill for Parliament
XR working groups around the UK in consultation with the campaign group Power for People drafted a bill for the UK parliament (a proposal to significantly change current law).
The Bill would require the UK Prime Minister to declare a climate and ecological emergency, and to establish a citizens assembly of 500 to 1000 people.
Citizens would be randomly selected from across the country, and the process must be designed to ensure that the Assembly reflects the UK “in terms of characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography”.
The Spiritual Calling
The organizers of the movement also clearly have an understanding of spirituality, ideas like self-discovery and self-improvement.
XR emphasise “ongoing questioning, reflection and learning” and getting out of our comfort zones because “We have a duty to disobey this system which destroys life on earth and is deeply unjust”.
XR refer to indigenous cultures as inspiration, stating XR “is a rebellion against the heartless, loveless and lifeless delusion of seeing Earth as dead matter”, instead seeing humanity as “earth-guardians” and “nature defending itself”.
XR state they are beyond activism alone and always seeking new ways to support positive change, which may include “ceremony and prayer (in ways that are neither dogmatic nor expected) as formats to find inspiration from things bigger than ourselves”.
“We are about political change”, they continue, “not personal change (though we welcome the latter)”.
The Take Away
This movement is linking climate change to a broken economic system and the need for higher spiritual values like their vision of “a new world of love, respect and regeneration”, and the reaction in the media demonstrates that it is causing concern among those wishing to keep GDP going and business running as usual.
It seems that XR have potential beyond that of Occupy Wall Street to raise a global movement, mainly because they have a clear focus on serious deep rooted problems, and a clear strategy for realistic and achievable positive change.
Of course those in power are never going to devolve it freely, but XR claim they will occupy for the next two weeks and not stop until their demands are met.
Whatever happens next, this latest example of the global, solutions-focused movement is another sign that humanity’s conscious, collective evolution is underway.
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