Extinction Rebellion protesters continue to block Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in third day of action

Extinction Rebellion: Who are the climate change activists and what are their aims?

Group has used very noticeable tactics to bring attention to climate change and environmental breakdown

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Wednesday 17 April 2019 12:21

Protest group Extinction Rebellion has been taking part in its most high-profile and largest actions yet: shutting down large parts of cities including London.

The latest action has brought more attention than ever before to the group and its aims: addressing the widespread damage that is happening to the environment, and the threat of climate change.

But it has also brought new focus from critics, who argue the group is disrupting normal people’s lives unnecessarily and who are not clear about what the group is trying to achieve.

What is Extinction Rebellion?

Extinction Rebellion has emerged as the premier protest movement for climate change activists.

Since its first demonstration last year the group has injected fresh energy into the environmental cause, capturing headlines, recruits and high-profile supporters.

It has grown into an international movement backed by celebrities, academics and writers, calling for “radical change in order to minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse”.

Where did it come from?

In its first protest on October 31 last year, the group assembled a protest on Parliament Square in London, expecting a “couple of hundred people” – before 1,500 showed up.

The group said: “The energy was contagious! The next few weeks were a whirlwind.

“Six thousand of us converged on London to peacefully block five major bridges across the Thames.”

Chapters now exist in dozens of countries including the US, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa and India, it said.

On April 15 protests in London began, with campaigners saying they will bring the capital to a standstill for up to two weeks.

Activists in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries will hold similar demonstrations on environmental issues, campaigners said.

What are their aims?

Extinction Rebellion (XR) says direct action is needed to force governments to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”.

It is calling for an ecological emergency to be declared, greenhouse gases to be brought to net zero by 2025, and the creation of a citizens’ assembly to lead action on the environment.

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XR says the systems propping up “modern consumer-focused lifestyles” will lead to mass water shortages, crop failures, sea level rises and the displacement of millions.

“Only a peaceful planet-wide mobilisation of the scale of the Second World War will give us a chance to avoid the worst-case scenarios,” it says.

Why are they disrupting London’s transport?

The aim of Extinction Rebellion has always been to cause disruption, bringing attention to their cause and hoping to force powerful people to heed their warnings about the climate.

As such, the latest disruption to the transport system serves much the same function: aiming to get in the way of the normal running of the world to help raise attention to those environmental concerns.

It has involved stopping trains from running as well as shutting down bridges.

But the work has drawn criticism from some who claim to be sympathetic to Extinction Rebellion’s cause.

“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,” Sadiq Khan wrote on Twitter.

Additional reporting by agencies

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