I hear swathes of positivity from all the groups with success and expansion on many fronts. To quote Regen, there is a ‘flowering’ of support everywhere with a reaching out to countries outside the UK. XR is happy to work within and alongside Europe!
Huge thanks to everyone who sent in up-to-date news from the groups. I know how frantically busy you all are as we move towards April’s Mighty Big Push. My hunch is to keep reports here short and informative, as you have done in this issue, so it’s not another dreaded job to do. Think of it as joining the inner dots. Can you also please send photos and images to pretty-up the text.
Along the same lines, I query including an essay here. I’m not convinced it’s the right place as this is primarily a catch-up briefing. I’d welcome your thoughts. This time around, I’ve adopted Matthew’s suggestion of adding a few inspiring quotes, in tune with the mood for April.
I sign off with some about-time good news from the media: ‘The Guardian will now publish the Mauna Loa carbon count, the global benchmark, on the weather page of the paper every day.’
The next internal newsletter will be out after April 15th. Now that will be an exciting issue!
The people of London have come through for us massively and we have ~250 spaces for rebels in London being hosted by other activists scattered throughout the two weeks, if you are wanting for accommodation with a personal touch hit us up. On the open spaces front we have finalized 7 free locations of various sizes ranging from 10-100 capacity in London, but only for evening sleeping space.
We are still looking for spaces for day time respite for our brave overnight blockaders! We won’t stop till we we do!
Land & Respite:
This subgroup of Regen is really flowering. We now have close to 70 Open Homes as part of our network, willing to take activists on respite for a few days and in many cases, provide food. On the Land side, we are making excellent links with social farms around London, and the national Permaculture Association. After April L & R will split into two subgroups. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The original renegade international blog has retained its identity separate from the main XR websites, and we are now pleased to announce that we are in the process of expanding outward to other global movements such as Earthstrike, Youth Strike, Earth First and Reclaim The Power. We will henceforward be an international mass civil disobedience blog. Please bear with us during this transition phase, which will at some point include a name change. Interim Contact: email@example.com
The newsletter team has continued to enjoy its long-awaited regular output schedule: sending an issue every Wednesday has allowed us to find a steady rhythm in terms of content-writing. We’ve recently added a short new section called ‘Act Now’, the idea of which is to encourage our wonderful readers into taking small and immediate actions which will (theoretically) lead to bigger ones. We’re also working on a plan for how best to deal with the daily pace of news beginning from the 15th. All of which will hopefully be made lots easier by the addition of four new friendly faces to the team!
The press team is working on all cylinders to cover the build-up to International Rebellion, and also to develop a game-plan for the 15th onwards. We’re building relationships with journalists as ever (but even more hurriedly!), and are liaising with the rest of the M&M team to ensure we have a presence at all of the Rebellion’s locations. We should have some fairly big coverage coming out towards the end of this week to set the scene.
International Support Team
The international support team have been working on facilitating conversations among different national XR teams in different countries, to build more connections across the international network. We’re working on twinning city/local groups and bringing representatives from specific work areas such as media and messaging together with similar national working groups in other countries, to ensure that folks internationally are as up to date as possible with one another.
On the weekend of 30th March, XR rebels from over eleven different countries came together in Brussels for a weekend gathering of workshops, discussions and delicious vegan food. Some were familiar with each other from months of online calls, many were meeting face-to-face for the first time, and others were completely new to the movement!
We sang, danced, did theatre workshops, chatted about biodiversity, regenerative culture and internationalist solidarity, and ended the weekend together by joining the climate march and announcing rebellion week on stage, much to the crowds enjoyment! It was a truly wonderful weekend, connecting many different groups and sharing experiences and stories.
The rebellion is near – get yourself trained up now! Green and Black Cross (GBC) have provided three more Legal Observer trainings before April 15th:
The Legal working group is also offering two Online Arrest Watch trainings on Saturday, 6th April, 6-9.30pm (register here), and on Thursday, 11th April, 6-9.30pm (register here). Arrest Watch trainings are not the same as Legal Observer trainings and are not meant to replace them. They are much more about providing rebels with insight into the full arrestee support system (rather than just what’s going on at an action) and showing them how they can become part of it. You can find more information here.
We’re still in urgent need of more legal observers (LOs) and back office supporters for the rebellion! If you can help us out, even if only for one shift, please sign up on our rota. Only people who attended the full 5-hour GBC LO training should sign up for legal observing. Anyone can help out in the back office but it’s preferable that you attend an Arrest Watch training beforehand.
Talks and Trainings
Rather excitingly, we have developed an XR meeting facilitation training together with a bunch of professional facilitators, including a lot of input from Seeds for Change (thanks to you guys!). This training is now being trialled for the first time. It introduces rebels to facilitation techniques as well as XR meeting culture. If you are a facilitation trainer and would like to deliver this format in your local area, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org . There is a massive demand for this kind of training so don’t be shy!
To end on a very high note:
So far there’s confirmation for over 70 Affinity Groups attending next week’s rebellion, which means we’ve got an absolute minimum of 700 highly trained and motivated people joining us on Monday.
And here’s an article just published by James Westcott in Impakter:
With the clock ticking down to International Rebellion starting 15th April, XR’s Earth Marchers may have blisters on their feet, but spirits are soaring as they approach the capital from north, south, east and west.
“Our cause, like those of our predecessors who
have marched in order to be heard and witnessed before us, is founded in an
urgent plea to those in positions of power and control to listen to the voice
of the People. We are marching for the future of the land beneath our feet, our
winding rivers, our shorelines, the oceans and the very air we breathe.”
the Cornwall contingent set off, more than a thousand people from across the country have joined groups from in
Brighton, Colchester, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Ashdown
Forest and other urban centres, buoyed by the enthusiasm and generosity of friends
and strangers along the way who offered food, accommodation and moral support.
The Cornwall group continued through Bruton, stopping
by Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh’s office, while the Bath and Bristol group passed
through Bradford on Avon and Devizes:
Other groups started out from Cardiff, Manchester, Peterborough, Cambridge and Brighton, meeting curiosity, support and goodwill en route. Rosie Jones reports that those who joined from Wales now “have blisters on their blisters” and shared this photo of Bed Time, Earth March style:
“We march for our children who, unless we are
heard, might not live to know the Natural World, the richness and diversity of
this ‘Blue Planet’ as we have been privileged to know it: these lush, green
Islands as they are today. We march for the millions around the world already
suffering the cruel and destructive effects of this ecological emergency.” – Jackie Dash.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN IN!
See here for a developing map of Earth
And if you’re already in London on
the 14th of April, please consider coming to support our incredible
Earth Marchers. They will be
staying at sites around the edge of London over the night of the 13th, and on
the 14th will be greeted by a welcome reception at Hyde Park which will include
speeches, music, dancing and food. Marchers and rebels alike are encouraged to
set up tents to stay in Hyde Park overnight, ready to join the rebellion as
soon as they rise in the morning.
Cornwall: On March 12th around seventy people turned out at Land’s End at the southernmost tip of the British Isles to march to London in protest against the government’s failure to legislate against climate chaos and ecocide.
Between Land’s End and St Buryan the pilgrims made a detour past a primary school –
where the headteacher turned the march into a “teachable moment” by bringing all the children out to bear witness.
“It was moving for us all, especially since it is their future and those who come after them that we are fighting.”
On arrival in Penzance the pilgrims were welcomed with cheers, mugs of tea, good Cornish ale – and a contingent of new recruits.
The next day the weather did its worst – but after a pub lunch by a roaring fire, the sky brightened and they continued. Local police joined them briefly: though supportive and friendly, they were clearly on a fishing expedition – from which they left empty-handed. In the afternoon the wind picked up and the marchers were caught in a hailstorm, but they laughed their way through and were treated to a rainbow in its aftermath. Most of the walk was on B roads with no pavements outside of the villages, which meant meeting many drivers who were forced to slow down.
“What’s surprising and enormously pleasing is how many were supportive, with waves, tooting horns and thumbs up.”
They arrived at Praze an Beeble exhausted but happy – thoughnext time an XR march comes to your town, can you please make sure the pub is open?
Day Three was sunny but windy. The marchers met the local labour candidate who “made all the right noises” – but the highlight of the day was meeting some alpacas in a field.
“The dog didn’t know what to do as they all came over to see us at the gate. Perfect selfie opportunity, with all those funny faces – theirs or mine?”
The group stopped at Four Lanes for soup, home-made bread and vegan flapjacks provided by Suzy of Falmouth XR, then walked along old paths and bridleways to Lanner, then up the hill to Cusgarne Organic Farm.
On Day 4 they gathered on Lemon Quay at the head of The Truro River, where there was a good turn-out of supporters: more than a dozen extra Rebels joined the march along with Youth Strikers on their way to County Hall for their monthly protest.
“They are all our futures and there were some warm and mutual exchanges between us.”
The first hitch of the day was on the way to Pencalenick, when the group’s support vehicle couldn’t make it under the low tramway bridge and was forced to make a 27-point turn in the narrow lane. Here the wind gave three of the pilgrims some kite-surfing experience when their Big Black Banner billowed so forcefully it was a fight to reel it in. Then Mike, a stubbornly independent and intrepid wheelchair-user who joined them earlier in the day, found his nearside wheel nut jammed between a concrete post and a stone wall. A local couple came to the rescue with a crowbar and the group was on its way again.
Five days in, with a little regrouping, the contingent was on its way to Grampound in the middle of Cornwall, looking ahead to the A39 and some easier stretches off-road, and onward to St Austell.
“I learnt about and tasted 3 varieties of foraged wild greens as well as getting advice on how to collect and include seaweed in my diet. I thoroughly recommend joining them for as long as you can manage even if it’s just for a day.”
On Day Six they travelled from St Austell to Lostwithiel: by now bad weather and ill health had taken its toll but the group enjoyed an unexpected tea break on a farm, spectacular views back of St Blazey and the sea, and a couple of unsolicited donations from a passing motorist and some pedestrians in Lostwithiel.
Some days later the group set off from Liskeard after making its presence felt outside the office of of MP Sherryl Morgan, who was in need of a green wake-up call. Rebels in Callington, Calstock, Liskeard Gunnislake and Tavistock gave warmth, hospitality and commitment as they continued on their route to Westminster.
As they were about to cross the Tamar into West Devon, The Western Morning News – a key newspaper for Devon and Cornwall – asked for an interview.
“Things have been going well on the media front and this felt like another step in the right direction. The article looks pretty good in this morning’s paper”
On March 20th the group walked along the A390, using the cycle path and pavements, flying its striking black and white banner on the high ground above the Tamar Estuary. Approaching the river at Gunnislake was a demanding hike but they reached the bridge in high spirits – only to encounter new hazards on the other side, in the form of speeding cars.
Once out of the gorge, the walking group continued along a mixture of roads and stony track-ways and were welcomed by local supporters in Bedford Square, Tavistock, where the Quaker Friends laid on food and the Tavistock Times sent two reporters.
Here some Rebels had to leave the group after crossing the 90-mile length of Cornwall on foot.
“Sad to see them go, but good to know that they would be joining us once again as we approach Westminster….People are just so kind and we give gratitude for all that Community and Friendship is giving to this Pilgrimage for The Planet.”
On day 10, the wild expanse of Dartmoor lay ahead, and an intrepid group of Rebels set off up the hills out of Tavistock. Once on the moor, the fog closed in, shrouding everything in a ghostly grey mist. After an overnight stop at Powder Mills, the group struck out for Moretonhampstead on the Eastern side of the Moor, where they were again joined by Keith Rossiter, the environmental editor of the Western Morning News, who had already published one article on XR and was ready for an update.
“That is one of the main drivers for Earth March; to be seen and heard locally as we travel the country, contacting media groups ahead, so that we are given Local News coverage…the only thing that travels faster than the wildfires we have witnessed burning across the World is local news, gossip and conversation in the community and this is what we’re tapping in to!”
Meanwhile on the Swansea to Cardiff leg of the march, Rebels – including an 87-year-old – were en route in glorious sunshine, supported by the local schoolchildren and hundreds of car-honks and thumbs-ups from passing drivers.
“I won’t say anything about the negative comments we received, like “So what?” , “Who cares” and “There’s no such thing as Climate Change”, and I won’t mention at all about BBC Wales who locked us out / locked themselves in at BBC studios Reception!! Were we really that scary??!”
“How amazing will it be when all the walks from all over the U.K. join up, and march into London on 15th April for XR International Rebellion Week and occupy the bridges there for a week, to demand the Government acts on the Climate Crisis…. before it’s too late.
Be a part of the change! Start walking today!”
The Earth March continues, and is open to anyone wanting to join, for however long or short a journey – and don’t forget to send us your stories, from wherever you are marching! You can check out the routes here:
Click on an icon to see info about that leg of the march. Use the control top right to change background map. Use the arrow button to plan a route to save to a GPX file for use in electronic navigation devices, and ideally email them to email@example.com so they can be added to the map.
The last few weeks have been frantic, frenetic and fabulous. The groundswell of awareness and support for XR continues to grow exponentially. Well done, Team XR!
XR is full of admiration and respect for the children and young people who skipped school to make their voices heard across the globe on Friday, March 15th. They are so right and so justified to shout about the state of the planet they will inherit. The numbers who turned out were staggering. We salute and support you! More in the main newsletter.
And so we move towards the upcoming Dover blockade on 30th March, described in the main newsletter as ‘one of their most turbulent actions to date to highlight the extreme vulnerability of the British people to our food insecurity.’ Climate change will without doubt induce famine – something barely touched on in the mainstream media.
To more practical matters… we have a useful new form – Integration’s latest way for working groups to ask for more volunteers (replacing the old method which involved writing a role description) which will be put on this page.
There are also rumours that the tech team, after weeks of hard work, will be unveiling a new XR website in the near future.
Does your working group use online meetings?
Do you sometimes struggle to find room for a meeting-slot in the Goto calendar?
Have you ever had your meeting cancelled by another group who wants your slot?
If you’ve experienced any of these problems, please be aware that as well as the Goto Meeting account, XR also has 4 separate Zoom accounts which can be used for working group meetings. If you’d like to have the login details for one of these accounts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The legal team has spent quite some time producing this; a document that contains valuable expert advice and information about your legal rights if you are arrested. Do read it if you are thinking of direct action and are wondering what to do – and what you need to know – if you are arrested.
From Lynn Michell:
I’m the enthusiastic novice now in charge of this newsletter, replacing the overworked Doug. I’d love each group to nominate someone to be responsible for communicating with me and for getting reports and longer pieces in. Some photos and artwork to go with your pieces would be very welcome to make the newsletter as buzzy as your real life activity.
My sincere thanks to all who’ve found time between the planning and the plotting and the protests to send in reports for Inside XR #4, even as we move with passion toward April’s momentous events. It’s important we all keep in touch.
Rolling out a very serious flag manufacturing program and new patches
Producing 100s of thousands of beautiful new poster and flyer designs for promotion of April’s rebellion!
Finishing the new website – almost there!
Arts and cultural groups are expanding, putting pressure on institutions to declare emergency and hosting workshops to train ready for a performative rebellon.
We’ve passed 70k followers on Facebook, and over 55k on Twitter – thanks for your support! We’ve also shot up to over 40k on Instagram, partly thanks to interest from the schoolstrikes and a shoutout from Jack Harries, a filmmaker and influencer who was arrested with the #Petroleum9 for blockading International Petroleum Week in London.
NEW EVENT UP! We’re kick-starting the callout for a worldwide week of MASS FLYPOSTING to tell the truth on the climate emergency and ecological collapse, starting from March 30th in the lead up to International Rebellion.
Over 10,000 Rebels are already listed as Going or Interested to the Facebook event for International Rebellion event starting April 15th – but we want MORE, so invite all your friends! This takes two minutes, but it could be the most important thing you ever do on social media, so please do it. Together we change the world!
The press team is working hard to keep up with covering the many events now happening and upcoming. Alongside the usual writing of press releases and liaising with journalists, we’re also looking to place features in publications outside of our normal audience, so that we can reach out to and bring as many people on-side as possible before we get into April.
Calling Affinity Groups to share their stories for the international XR Blog and beyond.
Are you part of an affinity group that has participated in direct action? We ask for your stories of courage, struggle, compassion and collaboration, of whatever you have experienced together, from when you first formed to where you are now. This is an offshoot of the #HumansofXR project, to show the world that this movement is their moment too, and demystify NVDA to encourage more to get involved. Creative writing and mixed media all considered. Please email email@example.com with your A.G. name in the subject line.
If you are interested in being a photographer/videographer of your affinity group’s ongoing story, particularly in April, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please get permission from all AG members before printing names publicly, or choose pseudonyms.
Additional blog news: we are considering expanding our remit to cover more than just XR, to be a blog space that brings together all radical nonviolent civil disobedience movements that are happening internationally, to promote greater solidarity and revolutionary cohesion moving forward. Get in touch to give your views on this either way, as we are yet undecided.
Note that the international blog is separate from the main XR websites, so we have a lot of freedom and tactical manoeuvrability. (What a great word!)
Through the amazing work of those who’ve joined us, the external newsletter team is excited to be on the very cusp of regular weekly output. We’re also really happy with our new International Highlights section which showcases the sometimes under-appreciated global magnitude of XR. Going forward, we’re hoping to grow the team to include a role focussing on readership growth. If you’d like to include an announcement in the next newsletter, please email email@example.com.
A sanctuary space is now ready in our London offices, hosting regenerative workshops, massages and healing sessions. Our kitchen is also opening up on Wednesday with an inaugural pot of soup! Any London-based healers/space holders/therapists/masseuses/cooks wanting to get involved, please contact Iain on firstname.lastname@example.org
Land and Respite
The UK network of respite hosts continues to grow. We continue to receive enquiries from individuals, places and organisations who want to support Rebels. It is also nice to see more requests for respite coming in. Please keep them coming. Look after yourselves! Please get in touch at email@example.com if you know anyone/where that would be interested in growing this network, or if you would like some respite time in an XR person’s house, resting up and being fed. We have hosts all over the country, including near London.
In preparation for April and all future Actions/Work, the team is building a new database of Land Support around London. This will include all common land, parks, open spaces, land squats (or potential), farms and private holdings where Rebels are free to roam, organise, take respite and engage in civil disobedience. Longer-term into the autumn and into 2020, this City Support Belt could potentially provide a larger strategic role. This is just our intuition, so it’s up to all of you, especially strategy people, to think of how this could be useful, if we’re right!
We are also exploring which sites around the city could welcome Earth Marchers on their way into the centre.
Watch this space as we develop a Land Support map for London for all Rebels to use.
We are reaching out to the horse-drawn community, to see if any would join the Earth Marches to provide support (carry bags/food/tents/people) and perhaps join us in the middle of London mid-April. We have put a call out, but if any of you have direct links, please get in touch. Wouldn’t you like to see a bunch of horses and wagons in London? And a big pile of horse-shit in Parliament Square? Help us make it happen!
Finally, we urgently seek a techy person to maintain our Land and Respite map of the UK, and to begin and maintain a Land Support map for London. This is a new volunteer role. Please get in touch if you can help.
Please come to our Arrest Watch Training this Sunday 24th March
It will give you the skills to prepare you and your group for arrests at actions. It will be a day of skilling up so that the next time you are out on the streets and someone gets arrested next to you, you’ll be able to support them. It’s also about skills for the action day so that there’s a framework in place to support arrestees on the day itself and to get ready for post arrest. Please send 1-2 representative(s) from your local XR group down to this training so they can skill their local rebels up in how to watch arrests. There is a lot we need to get through so prepare yourselves for a full-day training.
Bring some food so we can have a shared lunch together – we’re looking forward to training with you!
Talks and Trainings
In February, Events Organisation has helped to set up 36 talks and 22 NVDAs. In March they organised 41 talks and 20 NVDAs. And these are only the ones we know about… which is pretty amazing!
If anyone else is organising speaker trainings or NVDA Train the Trainers, please do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can put them into our calendar and get as many attendees as possible.
Festivals group has confirmed 8 festivals over this summer. We’ll be there with our Rebel Rebel tent including Noisily, Shindig, Glastonbury, Byline, BlueDot, Wilderness, and Boomtown!
We are looking for more volunteers to join our Events Organisation team from different regions.
Other than that, we’ve finalised our new talks and workshop scripts in time for April, and now we’re ready to go on all fronts! We are looking to decentralise even more by helping to support more Talks & Trainings working groups of Local groups, all thanks to Robin’s new Local Links idea.
The regional development is pleased to welcome aboard a raft of new super proactive regional coordinators in the South East, South West and the North! We are now setting up regional art factories across the UK to ensure that the rebellion is fully equipped and colourful in April. Local groups are now preparing themselves for April by gearing up with more talks and NVDA trainings. We are still looking for regional coordinators in the Midlands so if you are keen and prepared to give just a few hours a week then please contact us at email@example.com.
The main priority within Integration is bringing in committed volunteers with regular availability into key organising roles for the International Rebellion. We’ve advertised loudly for new volunteers and are inviting working group coordinators to update us on current requirements using THIS online form.
The Tech group has been working on a number of projects including bringing a new ticketing system online for tech support requests at firstname.lastname@example.org, bringing our Basecamp system more in line with the Self-Organising System structure, getting our new website up to production standard, and increasing security and data protection across the XR organism. Talk about a busy month for Tech!
The International Support team has been working on facilitating conversations among different national XR teams in different countries and to build more connections across the international network. We’re working on twinning city/local groups and bringing representatives from specific work areas such as Media and Messaging together with similar national working groups in other countries to make sure that folks internationally are as up to date as possible with one another.
A European gathering has been organised for the 30-31st March in Brussels, bringing several national teams from across Europe together for the first time in the same space to meet face-to-face.
Finance and Fundraising
“Calling All Rebels” at the beginning of March gave a huge boost to our Crowdfunding campaign: an extra £40,000 in 10 days. But we are not there yet. Tell people around you that we have a rebellion to fund!
This is an extract of what donors wrote: “Extinction Rebellion is the Earth’s last best chance – so there’s just no choice – we’re donating what we can afford and will be in London for the 2 weeks” – Jenny
“inspirational work – gives us all hope! Thank you to everyone who puts themselves out there to change hearts and minds” – Margaret
Self Organising System
We have a wonderful new, visual version of the XR Organism which shows who is a coordinator in different working groups. Check it out here.
Recently our recommendations for an XR Constitution were approved by the Anchor Circle. An exciting step towards a functioning Self Organising System! Curious about what the Anchor Circle is? Check out our explanation post here.
We are delighted to have a few new members on the team who will be looking at how we can share the SOS system with local groups, general trainings and to structure our debrief/feedback systems.
Please make sure you send us all the key documents and videos for your group to add to this spreadsheet. Info on how to do this here.
If you need help setting up the SOS system in your group please get in touch with email@example.com
Briefing: What’s faith got to do with Extinction? Learning to hold the world in our hearts
We live in a secular society where, for the last few hundred years, affairs of the heart and spirit have been firmly kept separate from the “worldly” affairs of power and politics. And yet many are longing for a deeper connection to one another and enlisting in actions of civil disobedience. This demonstrates that the craft of civil disobedience as a powerful force for societal transformation when held from the heart and with the intention of non-violence (see in particular Mark & Paul Engel’s book “This is an Uprising”).
We’re a group of people who practice our faith in many different ways: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, shamanic, healing practices, meditation, humanist and ‘nothing in particular’, to name a few. We have already developed several strands of action. Our first activity was to support a civil disobedience action, the ‘Blood of our Children’ on 9 March when some of our group held space at the beginning of the procession and helped hold the “field of intention” as we all gathered to hear the children and youth speak their truth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW02kNbpAmU&feature=youtu.be
One comment on the event: “This was an extremely moving event – more than I imagined, to be honest. And in part to this holding of sacred space.”
Creating “sacred space” may be no more than just telling people to put a hand on one another’s shoulder as we gather together, a remembrance of touch and togetherness uncommon in our atomised culture, the “sacredness” coming through an alignment of intentions through an action that, in its own small way, opens the heart.
We also now have an online “intention field” Facebook group, “Holding the World in our Hearts”, which we invite you to join. Together we hold the intention to move through our planetary crisis with “love in action” and “love in stillness”. We lean into the riches of our imagination and curiosity and through our hearts into leadership. Please join us and dedicate your sacred practices to this vision. We are planning regular ‘virtual meetups’ where we can contribute our love, our intentions and our spiritual and heart-led capacities for creating a more beautiful world. Please join us!
As we move towards International Rebellion, we intend to build our supportive capacities for working with civil disobedience action. We are also reaching out to faith communities in their churches, synagogues, mosques and other spiritual centres to invite them to the International Rebellion, to demonstrate “love in action” from each of their perspectives and help XR become a fractal pattern of the dynamic diversity we need to be. We are also supporting XR through creating materials to help in the transmission of “XR’s DNA”. We gave a taster of what we hope to bring to such DNA transmission training at the Spring Rebellion. There are plans for this to be rolled out as a “train the trainer” set of materials.
One member of our group is a professional who is not of any particular faith and said he felt a little bit excluded by many in our group who are on “journeys” of spiritual transformation. When he heard the statement below he felt it spoke to him, an ordinary guy in a job he liked and wanted to keep, but who felt fear at what he was hearing, wanted to protect his children and wanted to be reminded of what was important in life as it was easy to forget in a busy and stressed life. So finally, we would like to hear your thoughts on this: Does this speak to you, would you like to hear it read out at the beginning of the Regen Statement for XR meetings?
If you could please take 1 minute to answer “yes/no/yes with minor amendments” in this poll that would be AMAZING:
We went to the radical climate group’s offices to hear their plans for civil disobedience.
A coffin inside XR’s temporary headquarters. Photos: Jake Lewis
On Tuesday, as temperatures in London spiked at 21.2C – the warmest winter day on record – Extinction Rebellion (XR) gathered national media to lay out their next steps.
At the climate activism group’s temporary headquarters near Euston railway station, members spoke to the audience as brilliant February sunshine poured through the windows, as if to serve as a troubling reminder of why radical action is necessary. In XR’s case, that means mass civil disobedience as a way to force the government into actually doing something about our rapidly degrading environment – and if that ends in them being arrested, so be it.
XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook was fresh from an appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court. She and five others had been charged with criminal damage – Bradbrook allegedly spray-painted “frack off” on a government building – and all had pleaded not guilty. It had been an emotional day, not least because the judge was, coincidentally, sending them for trial on the 16th of April, a day after XR begin their full-scale international rebellion with coordinated actions on the 15th.
At times, Bradbrook appeared upset as she delivered an abridged version of XR’s frank and profound talk on the appalling state of the climate. We heard how when it comes to damage control, all we have done to date is “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic”, and were repeatedly reminded of how “fucked” we all are. But Bradbrook offered nuggets of optimism too, and issued a call to arms to help restore our world.
Hope at XR comes in the form of action. “We can’t just leave it to the COP, we can’t just leave it to the Climate Change Committee’s review of the UK’s long-term target to sort it out,” insisted Farhana Yamin, a climate change lawyer and XR activist. “Because the entire system is out of kilter, out of touch, and it is certainly not working fast enough.”
XR is planning a relentless campaign of disruptive yet peaceful civil disobedience ahead of the dawn of the sustained rebellion in April, when it is expected that tens of thousands of people will shut down London indefinitely, until the government takes meaningful action over what XR call the “environment emergency”. Multiple actions over the coming weeks will serve as a means to “normalise” mass uprisings, but are also designed to educate and entertain. Some, however, will perhaps trigger shock and even alarm.
A torrent of symbolic, artificial blood will flood Downing Street to create “a sea of red” on the 9th of March, when hundreds of XR members say they are prepared to be arrested as part of The Blood of our Children protest. The idea is to make the gravity of the climate crisis viscerally clear.
Banners in the temporary XR headquarters
“There will be parents and children, as well as people taking on arrestable roles, like me, who want to make a point about intergenerational injustice,” said Paolo, an XR member. “The idea is to find that sweet spot where the police are obliged to arrest you, but it’s totally non-violent and peaceful. The people who’ve committed criminal damage will sit on the ground and wait to be arrested.”
Young people who have “inherited” the climate crisis are also mobilising among themselves. An XR youth faction was formed just days ago and now has eight members. Robin is 24 and a founding member of XR Youth. He joked that it’s his mum’s 60th birthday soon and that he might not be around for it if he’s arrested.
“We want to represent the youth voice,” he told me outside XR HQ, where he was about to lead a non-violent direct action training session for a group of young people. “If you were born in 1990 or later, you’ve never experienced a normal climate, so we’ve set that as our age range. We are the generation of fucked up climate, and we are the generation that’s going to take it forward.”
The temporary XR headquarters
Training people in peaceful rebellion is key to XR’s mission. Workshops are held most days of the week in local groups across the country, but next month will see the movement stage “mass rebellion training for thousands, with a festival atmosphere” at its Spring Uprising in Bristol.
More than a dozen music acts are confirmed, and there will be an art factory, a regenerative sanctuary and solution-focused talks. Alongside the training, this party element of the weekend event is key, said XR member and festival organiser Tiana Jacout, who was introduced to me as the “brains behind the bridges occupation”, i.e. the action in November of 2018 when thousands of XR members blockaded five bridges in central London.
The temporary XR headquarters
But perhaps the most effective way to seize people’s attention is by going after the very thing that is consuming the nation: Brexit. Although XR does not take a view on leaving the European Union, it is gathering hundreds of people to block the motorway out of Dover as part of its No Brexit on a Dead Planet event on the 30th of March. The action is designed to demonstrate that we could be looking at rioting on the streets if food supplies collapse, not because of Brexit, but climate change.
“It’s phenomenal that while your house is on fire, all the government can do is squabble about getting a slightly shittier trade deal with their closest allies,” said Jacout. “People are squabbling over how food will get to England and not looking at the larger picture of whether there is food available to come to here in the first place.”
Next week thousands of Kiwi students will leave school in a strike for climate change action.
In a suit and tie, retired fund manager Charles Drace is not your typical rebel. California-born, he was once a theatre and film actor, with bit parts in the spaghetti Western ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ and war movie ‘Patton’.
Now, from his neat town house in central Christchurch, the 74-year-old is plotting how to get arrested.
“For years and years now, we’ve been playing nice. And I think one of the things that has been recognised in the last year or so is that it’s not working. We just can’t be nice anymore.”
Drace is a climate activist, a member of the global movement Extinction Rebellion. It began in November, when thousands of protesters paralysed London by disrupting traffic. Since then, it’s caught fire across the globe, with around a million members in 35 countries carrying out acts of civil disobedience.
They’ve glued themselves to buildings and spray painted “frack off” graffiti, closed five major London bridges, swarmed Fashion Week and gone on hunger strike outside Westminster Palace.
In New Zealand, ‘zombies’ have paraded through Wellington airport, held a funeral for Planet Earth in Nelson, and shut off the water supply to Environment Canterbury’s headquarters. Last week, 35 activists banged on the glass windows of BP’s Auckland office, chanting “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Next month, they’ll join groups across the world in a week of civil disobedience and attention-grabbing stunts.
It’s bigger than just a march. Extinction Rebellion’s goal is to trigger an enormous political and cultural shift, big enough to save the planet from certain doom. They say they need 3.5 per cent of the population on board to make radical change. Numbers in New Zealand total about 2000, so about 165,000 short.
“We are declaring rebellion against the government for criminal inaction and what Extinction Rebellion sees as a climate and ecological emergency,” Rowan Brooks, 29, says.
“One of the core things which XR is saying is we need to tell truth and start acting like it.
“We need to stop pretending that we will sort some things out, and that we’ve got 50 years. Disruptive protest is a way of motivating politicians and the powerful to do things.”
Athlete and small business owner Gene Beveridge, 26, joined the BP protest, the first time he’s ever got involved with a political movement.
“Personally, I’m not really that interested in marching around but if that is what we need, then I’ll do it … I want policies to be a better reflection of science and public opinion.
“Over the past three or four years, with the Trump phenomenon and Brexit, I’ve just realised that the discourse is quite heated. That’s what woke me up.
“I couldn’t rely on other people, there isn’t enough goodness in the world for things just to work out. I had to get involved myself.”
Until now, climate activism has concentrated on pollution, plastics, the impact on animals and forests or the melting of ice-sheets. Extinction Rebellion goes much further, warning of the collapse of civilisation, famine and the extinction of mankind.
“We have to be dramatic, we have to make the point so strongly that the Government is forced to listen, instead of listening gently and coming back with platitudes,” Drace says.
Their message might be extreme, but you won’t find more polite subversives. They are non-violent, against damage to property and use graffiti paint that washes away.
Brooks, a community garden co-ordinator, frequently interrupts himself to make sure others in the group get a fair say.
Drace likes formal dress for protests, because environmentalists are often stereotyped as “hippies.”
“I have tried to break that mold,” he laughs. “I guess I would be described by most people as being in a fat cat type of occupation. But there are an awful lot of professional people who really care.”
The Christchurch branch, with around 150 members, is planning their first ‘swarming’ road blocks in the city. They’ll last ten minutes each, and volunteers will hand out water, snacks and explanatory pamphlets.
“We are going to be doing really short stints just around the place, to practice and to start little moments of disruption,” Brooks says.
“It’s not about the motorists. It is about saying maybe we need to stop what we are doing for a second and look at the gravity of the situation.
“Once traffic isn’t moving through a city, then that has a flow on effect which is economic. People aren’t managing to do their things as well. And then people start saying [to] council, government: ‘what are you going to do about these people who say there is a climate emergency’?”
A group called Extinction Rebellion turned off water at the ECan offices and chained themselves to the water mains in protest to the way ECan has been dealing with Canterbury’s water.
Aren’t they worried about frustrating people?
Brooks says Kiwi cities won’t suddenly grind to a halt, largely because the movement is in its infancy.
“In New Zealand, with the two degrees of separation, once you have people who are willing to put their bodies on the line, then everyone who knows them, trusts them, maybe starts to believe that action is actually legitimate.”
Brooks was one of five protesters arrested after the group turned off the taps at ECan. They were all released with a warning.
“We opened the thing on the street and turned the tap off,” Brooks says. “Some people sat on the cover … a plumber came and turned on another tap. We went and borrowed some tools from some workers down the road, turned that off and sat on top of that one.
“We are deliberately doing things which we are not supposed to do, because we are saying the government is not doing what it is supposed to do,” Brooks says.
He and Drace are fully prepared to go to prison for their actions.
“We are talking about a dying planet … we face mass extinction, including human extinction. If, tactically, me being in prison is going to help [prevent] that, then lock me up.”
Drace agrees it is “his duty.”
“It is the only honorable thing to do. To get out and fight.
“I don’t believe there is any chance we can stop global warming, but I think there is a big chance that we can delay it and let the next couple of generations at least have some kind of decent life.”
In England, members have described meditating and performing yoga in holding cells after protests. Co-founder Roger Hallam said: “The action itself is not as important as going to prison, which has cultural resonance, you might say.”
Not everyone in the movement feels that way. Marine scientist Sea Rotmann runs a consultancy and her work involves international travel.
“It would be career limiting if I was … arrested or convicted because all of my work is with international governments … for the work I do – which I think has a lot of benefit in terms of finding solutions – I need to be able to travel.”
New Zealand police say there is no ‘national operation order’ for Extinction Rebellion.
But a spokeswoman added: “Our role is to ensure the lawful right to protest while allowing members of the public to go about their daily business safely, and we will respond appropriately to any issues regarding disorder or public safety that may arise.
“We urge anyone planning or undertaking protest activity to keep the safety of themselves and others at the forefront of their minds.”
Rotmann says joining Extinction Rebellion’s Wellington branch has been empowering.
But she says it’s unusual for a scientist to join a direct action campaign.
“Science is a profession which forces us to be overly conservative with how we describe our data and our facts and our modelling. We are not meant to be catastrophising, to be emotional, or show our frustration, anger and grief … I am a research consultant – not an academic. So, I am able to speak out.”
Rotmann says her scientific knowledge has left her distraught.
“I’ve been dealing with a lot of grief for many years. I have what many environmental scientists call pre-traumatic stress disorder which is the same as PTSD except you are having it because you know what is coming and you can’t do anything about it. You feel powerless.”
Like many of Extinction Rebellion’s key players, Rotmann has a background in activism. She is involved in court action over the extension of Wellington airport’s runway. Simon Oosterman, the group’s media liaison, is a seasoned campaigner and trade unionist who organised the first Starbucks pay strike, and was arrested for taking part in a naked bike ride to protest vehicle emissions.
Brooks and Drace campaigned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, with Brooks organising protests.
Rotmann, Drace and his fellow Christchurch team member Torfrida Wainwright, are all Green Party members.
But even though they are pushing the Government to do more, they don’t see a conflict with their party. Especially as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called climate change her generation’s “nuclear free moment.”
“It’s great leverage,” Wainwright, 68, a veteran feminist and climate campaigner says. “It is something we can use. We can say to her: ‘You are saying this and now act on it.’
“You couldn’t say that to John Key because he and Bill English denied there was a problem anyway. All you could do is beat at the walls.”
Rotmann has twice stood as a candidate for the Greens.
“Extinction Rebellion is completely non-partisan and I think it is really important that it stays that way. But, in a lot of ways, the New Zealand Government is not as anti-environment, and is promoting climate change [action], in a way other governments aren’t.
“I mean, it would be different under a National government.”
Despite this affinity with the Government, the protests are demanding carbon neutrality by 2025, not the 2050 timeline proposed.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the rebels aren’t alarmists, and he gets their frustrations.
“They are deeply concerned that we do everything we can to limit global warming to help limit the impacts of climate change,” he says. “I share those concerns … Our aim is to be carbon neutral by 2050. That goal is consistent with the science outlined in last year’s IPCC report about what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
“We may find that solutions and the momentum of change to low emissions options enable us to meet that net zero goal sooner than 2050, in which case I hope future governments will want to move faster.”
He says he is concerned about public safety and property.
“I understand the organisation’s depth of feeling about climate change and their commitment to ensuring the issue of climate change is not ignored. Civil disobedience is a longstanding means of drawing attention to issues of public concern. All I would ask is that they do not put themselves or others at risk of harm through their actions.”
Drace remains frustrated and wants the Government to immediately halt all oil exploration – not just new permits
“The Government will say ‘oh, we are doing all we can’ and yet nothing significant, nothing effective is happening,” he says. “And so there is a widespread feeling that is growing dramatically – and the students’ strike is part of this.”
Next week, school children across the world will go on strike, part of a growing international youth movement inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Extinction Rebellion Christchurch members have been working closely with local kids.
Drace ran a half-hour workshop for the junior demonstrators, taking them through planning and advertising, dealing with police, avoiding trouble and even which spray paints and stencils to use on their placards.
Twelve-year-old Lucy Gray is organising the March 15 rally in the city’s Cathedral Square. About 1000 students are expected to ‘strike’ in 20 cities – joining millions of children across 51 countries.
“The strike is a campaign for kids to be able to share their voice with the rest of the world because although we can’t vote, we still have a voice, and we need to be able to use that to get the government to realise this is our future, it’s matters to us and we want to stand up for our future,” the Beckenham pupil says.
While Extinction Rebellion’s message is doom-laden, Gray and her friends are much more positive.
“I am worried but I try to convert my anxiety and fear into action because the more action we have, the more we can do.
“I try and stay positive because if we let it drag us down we are not going to have energy to do the things we need to do, we are not going to have that fire inside us that we need to keep burning.”