-0.2 C
London
Friday, December 9, 2022

XR: Extinction Rebellion is back – but what does it want?

Must read

Paytm’s board is considering a share buyback proposal on December 13

Digital financial service provider Paym on Thursday said the board will meet on Dec. 13 to consider a share buyback proposal, taking into account...

Rupee gains 19 paise to $82.19 on dollar weakness and solid stocks

Forex According to traders, the continued outflow of foreign funds weighed on investor sentiment and limited appreciation bias. Thursday has the rupee Settled...

No evidence found in Iowa dig after woman claimed father was a serial killer

A three-day search in southwest Iowa that followed a woman's claims that her late father was a serial killer turned up no evidence, state...

UK regulator says it is not responsible for Virgin Orbit mission delay • londonbusinessblog.com

Virgin Orbit is targeting a launch that would take place next week from Cornwall, England - and that would be the first spaceflight to...
Shreya Christinahttps://londonbusinessblog.com
Shreya has been with londonbusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider londonbusinessblog.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Abseiling in from Tower Bridge at 7am on Friday like a slogan-savvy SWAT team, Extinction Rebellion is deploying its weapons of mass disruption on London once again. Stop the traffic, save the world.

Protesters blocked Tower Bridge Road, with two people hanging from the bridge by suspension cords and others hanging a huge banner over its side demanding “End fossil fuels now”. But this is just the beginning. The April Rebellion starts now. Extinction Rebellion (XR) has promised to gum up the city’s works with new tactics it claims will “create the most roadblocks we ever have”.

“The action has taken place at the gateway to the City of London – the root source of fossil fuel funding in the UK – and on the eve of the April rebellion which begins tomorrow at 10am in Hyde Park”, said XR in a statement.

Mass protests are planned over this weekend and next week. They’ll have to cope with a heavy-handed Met that has abandoned the pretence of patience, and the existential threat of Priti Patel’s unborn police, crime, sentencing and courts bill seeking to boot sticky-handed XR types off the street, rejected for a second time by the House of Lords last month and opposed by both Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition.

XR has called on supporters to make sure they are free until 17 April, making this “rebellion” shorter than the previous fortnights of protest the group has staged, but organisers say they hope to return to the streets on subsequent weekends. In an effort to avoid having their impact hampered by police, they plan to be more adaptable. “We are going to try to be really mobile as well”, an XR source told the Guardian.

Either way, a lot has changed since the first time XR occupied the streets of the capital in 2019. A pandemic, obviously, but also a catalogue of frightening environmental emergencies that mean XR has been upstaged by its own message. Last July, London counted the cost of a month’s rainfall in 90 minutes. Basements and street levels disappeared. Sadiq Khan has already pointed to flash flooding as evidence that “the dangers of climate change are now moving closer to home”. Wired magazine went as far as to say that TfL’s engineers are in “a race against time, and the climate crisis, to protect the London Underground”.

And Britain has got off lightly. Record temperatures have piled up across the Northern hemisphere; floods drowned hundreds in Western Europe and the Far East; all-consuming fires have struck place names off maps from Canada to Crete. The WWF declared “the worst wildfire in modern history” in Australia back in 2020.

In November, COP26 — the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference — was hosted in Glasgow. But “things have got worse,” says Gail Bradbrook, XR’s co-founder, who has a PhD in molecular biology. When XR first stopped up London in 2019, it was a “Save the Planet” carnival basking under blue skies. Now, the IPCC, a group of scientists endorsed by the world’s governments, has issued a “code red for humanity”, warning of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and habitable temperature limits being broken in just over a decade. “I feel a sickness in my stomach most days,” says Bradbrook. “Most of us thought it was going to happen to someone else, somewhere else, some other time.”

It is government policy to “maximise economic recovery” of oil and gas from the UK’s continental shelf. According to the Government’s energy white paper, promoting their extraction ensures that “the UK remains an attractive destination for global capital”, which is “the best way to secure an orderly and successful transition away from traditional fossil fuels”. Ridiculous, says Bradbrook. “You don’t pour petrol on the fire.”

Clearly, their purpose burns as bright as ever, but inside XR there’s been some catching up to do. Membership plunged during the pandemic, though it added 2,000 members in the fortnight prior to its August protests (there are 650 groups in 45 countries) and raked in £250,000 in funding as the latest protest nears. But the movement has been through a public trashing. It nearly ran out of cash in 2020. There’s still the stain of the PR disaster of the Canning Town action in 2020, at which two XR members glued themselves to the top of a Tube carriage. Commuters hurled drink cans and tried to rip one activist from the train roof. Increasingly, XR struggled to get a grip on actions that were perceived as tone-deaf and out of step with the public, even a public that was broadly sympathetic to the aim. Since 2019, XR protests have cost the taxpayer more than £50 million in policing, and in order to police these protests, Scotland Yard has warned that officers will have to be diverted from vulnerable communities where they are focused on tackling knife crime and other serious offences.

Still, there’s evidence opinion seems to have shifted. Juries and judges sympathetic to the climate cause are giving eco-activists an easier ride. In May, seven XR activists who had admitted causing £25,000 damage to Shell’s London headquarters in 2019 were acquitted by the jury. Judges quashed several verdicts this month amid a tide of appeals against convictions for highway obstruction.

And XR has new allies. “If I don’t see the change, I create the change,” says Marvina Newton, founder of United for Black Lives and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Leeds. She’s been working with XR since the turn of the year on “decolonising” its white, middle-class aesthetic. A lack of diversity has been a big criticism of XR, and Newton has been firm in “baby stepping” it in the right direction. “I want this to be a movement of movements,” she says.

It’s a helpful perspective. Newton, a single mother, recently divorced, knows that many people are left cold by the idea of protesting for two straight weeks without childcare. Born and raised in east London, she says that talking about the oversize impact of air pollution and flooding on poorer London boroughs cuts through more than waving pictures of polar bears around. A black woman, she points out that volunteering for arrest smacks of privilege. “No one is saying Extinction Rebellion is perfect, but they’re doing the work,” says Newton. “And it helps that people like me are saying ‘I’m watching you’, because we need you to do better.”

Critics of XR would say that they’re lacking in pragmatism — and point to initiatives that suggest the Square Mile is moving in the right direction. The City of London’s “Climate Action Strategy” aims to make it net-zero in its carbon emissions by 2040 and a group of law firms have adopted a “greener litigation pledge”. It’s a start.

But it’s not enough. “To skirt around it is not good for you,” says Etienne Stott, 42, a Team GB and slalom canoe Olympic gold medallist at London 2012 and an XR member. “I’ve watched the fires, and I used to canoe in the German rivers that burst their banks.” He’s been arrested four times at protests for obstructing roads, a “nice Olympic man” driven to action. “I’ve seen this city at some interesting moments. London 2012 was one. London 2019, at XR’s first protest, was another.” If you want to row at the Olympics, he says, go to the gym; if you want to save the planet, get out on the streets.

One thing you notice if you hang around XR enough is chapter and verse learnt by rote. Britain’s rampant financial sector drains £170,000 per household. More than 70 per cent of emissions come from 100 companies. Some 60 per cent of the mammals that are on this planet are livestock, 36 per cent are humans, and four per cent are wild. They say it’s all fact-checked, it’s all gospel.

But a life with noses glued to headlines bring deep spells of anxiety and anguish. “I’ve had my share of meltdowns this year,” says Bradbrook. She tells members to seek out the Climate Psychology Alliance and take time away from social media and the news. Newton will be holding an “anti-burnout” party in Vauxhall. “You can’t always be in the space of fight, fight, fight.”

Savage, a university lecturer, is “putting all of her eggs into the XR basket” for her daughter, Kat, an 18-year-old XR Youth member. “COP is a failed process,” says Kat, pointing out the 25 previous summits that have failed to fix the planet. “Inaction is the reason I don’t have a future.”

This is an updated version of an article that first ran 23 August 2021 under the headline ‘XR: Inside the return of Extinction Rebellion – is London ready?’

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article

Paytm’s board is considering a share buyback proposal on December 13

Digital financial service provider Paym on Thursday said the board will meet on Dec. 13 to consider a share buyback proposal, taking into account...

Rupee gains 19 paise to $82.19 on dollar weakness and solid stocks

Forex According to traders, the continued outflow of foreign funds weighed on investor sentiment and limited appreciation bias. Thursday has the rupee Settled...

No evidence found in Iowa dig after woman claimed father was a serial killer

A three-day search in southwest Iowa that followed a woman's claims that her late father was a serial killer turned up no evidence, state...

UK regulator says it is not responsible for Virgin Orbit mission delay • londonbusinessblog.com

Virgin Orbit is targeting a launch that would take place next week from Cornwall, England - and that would be the first spaceflight to...

Airtable fires 250+ as CEO mentions importance of ‘being a streamlined organization’ londonbusinessblog.com

To get a roundup of londonbusinessblog.com's biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3PM PDT, register here. Hello, happy Thursday....