Extinction Rebellion is not just about saving what we can of the ecosystem, it’s about establishing a new order
When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 Warming report was released in autumn 2018, for many of us the penny dropped. The data showed us that greenhouse gas emissions were rising, despite governments’ assurances that the issue was in hand. People rose up: Greta Thunberg’s weekly school strike hit international headlines, the school strikes began, and Extinction Rebellion (XR) declared rebellion in the UK’s Parliament Square. Suddenly, climate emergency was on the agenda.
This isn’t about ‘saving’ the world: we understand that some breakdown is now inevitable. This is about salvaging something. For young people, for future generations, for those creatures who have no voice.
XR worked hard to keep it there. We organised, we disrupted. We had done the research; had learned why some social movements had failed, and what the most effective had done to create change. We put this learning into action, with, amongst other things, a decentralised working system, a commitment to non-violence, a strong messaging strategy and a regenerative culture.
This last element was key. Many of us old activists had seen valuable crew members succumb to burnout before, so we created a circle to focus on developing resilience, mindfulness and building strong communities. We embedded this regenerative culture in our work through simple actions like ‘checking in’ and ‘checking out’ of meetings, and reading a regenerative statement to help ground us before meetings and during conflicts.
We know that climate breakdown is coming. Many of us have given up our careers, some of us our freedom, all of us our time and energy to do what we can to prevent this crisis from getting worse.
As weather extremes and food shortages become more common, we are at risk of eco-fascism and humanity is at a turning point. We either succumb to more authoritarian rule, or build something better.
This isn’t about ‘saving’ the world: we understand that some breakdown is now inevitable. This is about salvaging something. For young people, for future generations, for those creatures who have no voice. We hope to help lay the foundations for something better.
This thinking underpins our third demand: for the government to be led by a truly democratic citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice. I’ve watched ordinary people lie in roads before oncoming traffic to get the climate emergency on the news. I’ve seen them put their careers on the line and take leadership while world ‘leaders’ look the other way. I have no hope in the current system, but I do have faith in ordinary people to help turn things around.
As weather extremes and food shortages become more common, we are at risk of eco-fascism and humanity is at a turning point. We either succumb to more authoritarian rule, or build something better. Anyone who takes a stand now will help to light the way. XR is working on a new way of living. When we talk about system change, we mean building from the bottom, working without leaders, working with mindfulness, engaging in conflict resolution processes when conflicts arise. We ask constantly, what does a society in which people thrive look like? Is it so hard to imagine? Who does the economic and political system currently benefit? Isn’t it time that it changed?
This change will not come from anyone but ourselves. We are used to having things decided for us by so-called leaders who have led us into this unfolding crisis with their eyes wide open. I’ve spent years in activist groups tackling one issue after another. Over time it has become obvious that these issues have only been symptoms of a deeper problem: a corrupt, unjust, broken system. A system that benefits only a few – if amassing wealth can be seen as the ultimate goal in life.
When we talk about system change, we mean building from the bottom, working without leaders, working with mindfulness, engaging in conflict resolution processes when conflicts arise.
Being alive at this time, on the cusp of great change, means that we all have a choice to make. So many of us have put so much on the line for this cause: we’ve been arrested, imprisoned, pepper-sprayed. We carry on because we know that this work is crucial – but we cannot do it alone. We need everyone to make a stand.
For more on this topic, check out Alliance’s ClimatePhilanthropy2030 commitment.
Zion Lights is a member of the Media and Messaging organising committee of Extinction Rebellion