Why We are Asking You to Consider Going to Jail

Click here for The Ecologist’s version.

How do you fancy being plunged into the grim abyss of the latest climate science and then getting politely asked if you are interested in being arrested or going to jail? Hundreds of people across the UK have recently had this experience, whilst attending talks about the Extinction Rebellion. Led by the group Rising Up, Extinction Rebellion is breaking the mould of traditional communications about the ecological crisis and taking this perspective: it is time to tell people the truth and ask them to act accordingly.

Scientists are increasingly breaking ranks to state in no uncertain terms the existential threat we are facing. Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber for twenty years the head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and a senior advisor to the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pope Francis, said this year “Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.” Schellnhuber says the issue now “is the very survival of our civilisation”.

The Extinction Rebellion is urging British Citizens to fully face the hellish reality we are entering, including the “biological annihilation” of this mass species extinction event. We acknowledge the grief and fear this can cause. Our experienced though, suggests that working through those painful feelings can lead to a new determination to do whatever it takes to make this a lesser catastrophe, to save what we can.

So what does it take? We don’t lack imagination or ideas, there are many policy solutions out there, what we lack is political will, in a democracy captured by the interests of profit. Fortunately we can turn to the social sciences for information on how to generate political will. The evidence is overwhelming  – change comes when people are willing to commit acts of peaceful civil disobedience. They must be disruptive and sacrificial and whilst a critical mass is needed, it is a relatively low number of people. 50 people in jail (for a short time, such as a week on remand) is likely to raise the ecological crisis into the public consciousness. Following up with just a few thousand arrests, in a short space of time could cause a political crisis. Between 1 to 3.4% of the population (around 2 million people) in active support of a rebellion (including many in support roles) would probably see an end to this destructive political system.

These are small numbers. Consider what this means to us as individuals, what power it gives us. We can choose to be one of a relatively small number of people, willing to stand up in a principled way and help decisively change the suicidal direction of humanity. Peaceful civil disobedience, as mastered by Gandhi, can be a dignified way to express your dissent. Actions could involve peacefully spray chalking buildings or blockading transport infrastructure, whilst being willing to face the consequences of being a Conscientious Protector.

The Extinction Rebellion talk is online. We are presenting evidence and a plan. We are asking you to please watch it and then ask yourself if you are willing and able to offer your service? Stepping forwards to live an honourable life, as all that we hold dear is threatened and dying.

Dr Kate Marvel from NASA’s Goddard Institute says

“To be a climate scientist is to be an active participant in a slow-motion horror story. As a climate scientist, I am often asked to talk about hope. … audiences want to be told that everything will be alright in the end. Climate change is bleak, Tell us a happy story. Give us hope. The problem is, I don’t have any. We need courage, not hope.”

I hope enough of us find our courage.


Dr. Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion

Further information:

Extinction Rebellion (XR) needs you! We are calling for a national mobilisation on the biggest scale ever.  We demand that carbon emissions be reduced to zero by 2025.

This aim is in line with The Climate Mobilisation (TCM) in the USA. We can do this, but we need your help.

Please ‘like’ our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellion/, follow @ExtinctionR on Twitter,  and message us to offer support.

As well as the civil disobedience on the frontline, we seek media specialists, writers, editors, public speakers, software designers, performers and artists of all kinds to help spread the XR campaign. Extinction Rebellion is also working to make links internationally, for future iterations planned next year.