Newsletter 21 – The New Normal: Eco-action sweeps the globe
May 16, 2019 by Newsletter team
Welcome to our 21st newsletter!
One month on from our wave of International Rebellion, and the ripples are still being felt.
The environmental narrative has been irrevocably changed: public concern is at an all-time high, with a clear majority of UK voters now backing (comparatively) radical action. The shift of consciousness is spreading fast across the world, with regional governments in New Zealand today joining the British Parliament in declaring a climate emergency.
Our message is also resonating in the cultural world, with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts pledging to prioritise the issue, and the UK’s new poet laureate doing likewise. Revolutions don’t get televised, but maybe rebellions do?
It’s getting increasingly difficult to cover all the amazing work that’s being done in one weekly newsletter. From our continued and staggering growth, both in terms of membership (60,000 new rebels since April 15, and ever rising!) and scope (welcome XR Hong Kong!), to our many policy impacts (‘Runway 3 or not runway 3?’), XR shows no sign of slowing down.
There’s no doubt that we’ve made incredible progress, and there’s no doubt we’ve earned a bit of a rest. But, while we hold regeneration as paramount to a sustainable movement, we’re not looking to rest on our laurels. Even less so in a world where plant-growth is under threat due to the rapid extinction of pollinators, as revealed in a recent, damning UN study. 1 million species face extinction, but some even bigger numbers expose government and corporate priorities: a recent IMF report has calculated $5.2 trillion in fossil-fuel subsidies worldwide.
We have every right to celebrate the progress achieved in the non-violent fight for ecological justice. Next week’s Global Climate Strike serves as a welcome reminder that the (de-)central cause of XR is one shared and furthered by so many others. We’d encourage rebels all over the world to join and support next week’s action. Same goes for so many brilliant initiatives like those of Ende Gelände, Reclaim the Power and Zero Hour, all happening later in the summer.
As for Extinction Rebellion: this rebellion is only beginning. Though the regeneration and debriefing process continues, there are already plans for a number of major actions over the coming months, leading up to the next major Rebellion period in early autumn. In the meantime, groups are encouraged to continue taking autonomous Extinction Rebellion actions, in accordance with our aims and values.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can help, please check out our guide.
To connect to rebels in your local area, get in touch with your nearest XR group. If there’s no active group near you, you can start your own! Stay up to date with local upcoming events here, or start your own event by filling in our talks and trainings form!
If you can’t spare time, but can donate money instead, please see our fundraiser page.
If you’d like to help us organise on a national level, we could use your skills in all sorts of areas from writing to tech to ideas to logistics. To join the effort enroll in ‘XR University’, a buddy scheme for integrating new rebels into the ranks.
If you’re new, or haven’t fully got to grips with everything XR, have a read of this to get to know our history and the principles and values that guide our work.
If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter and would like to sign up the mailing list, you can now do so here!
- Recent Activity
- Upcoming Activity
- Act now
- International Highlights
- News & Recommended Content
Notre Sang – Our Blood
12 MAY | Esplanade du Trocadero, Paris
Blood and flowers covered the steps of Paris’ Esplanade du Trocadero. A terrifying and gut-wrenching message, but one XR rebels in France hope could not be expressed any clearer. Alongside the symbolic scene, rebels held banners warning of the 6th Mass Extinction, making it obvious that walking by is no longer an option.
As the blood poured, a speaker declared: ‘We live in a completely absurd world, all the alarm signals are red, red, red, yet we continue to exploit all the resources.’ After several other statements of warning by rebels, those gathered held a watchful 30 minute vigil and then washed the blood off the steps and collected the flowers.
They left the space as they’d found it, but there’s no doubt that many hearts and minds – both in France and around the world – have been altered by this action’s tragic symbolism.
International Mother’s Day March
12 MAY | Parliament Square, London
Photo by Anne Sherwin
On Sunday 12th May thousands of mothers, families and rebels from all walks of life took to the streets in London for the International Mother’s Day March, Mothers Rise Up climate march. Among them were 11 year old children to represent the 11 year window of time to act, all demanding urgent action on climate change. There was a real feeling of solidarity with families and children across the globe for the climate emergency happening now. A banner called for ‘the mother of all uprisings’.
Families and individuals arrived in Parliament Square to a warm welcome from the lovely XR Art Blockers and decorated some t-shirts whilst watching the crowds of marchers pour in. On stage, speeches and song both heartbreaking and hopeful took place in the afternoon, including an address from Rosamund Kissi-Debrah whose daughter Ella died from asthma. Representatives from Mothers Rise Up, Youth Strike, Birth Strike and others gave moving speeches and calls to action. Emma Powell of Mothers Rise Up spoke of the fear and exhaustion facing the climate crisis can bring and of the courage, power and support we can give to each other by coming together: “we won’t stop until we see action and we know our children are safe”. Another spoke of the complete liberation the crisis can unleash, because we have nothing to lose.
XR Youth Lock On
3 MAY | Parliament, London
Photo by Tomm Morton
Eight members of XR youth locked themselves to railings outside Parliament in London on Friday 3rd May, holding a banner that said ‘Our futures are chained to your actions.’ The action was explained in an open letter to MPs which demanded meaningful action now that a climate emergency had been declared, and called for Michael Gove to properly engage with XR representatives in future meetings.
Swarming the Palace
5 MAY | Buckingham Palace, London
Photo credit: Terry Matthews
On Sunday 5th May, around 250 rebels marched to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to bolster bee and insect populations on royal land. A rehabilitation program for insects implemented by the royals would raise awareness of the problem and might inspire land-owning lords and ladies across the country to follow suit.
The energy was bright and cheerful at this child-centred action, as young rebels dressed up as bees and butterflies swarmed to reclaim space for insects in the city’s parks. They created quite a buzz at the Palace, then gathered in St James’ Park for more fun and outreach activities.
Titanic-themed ‘drown-in’ at the IMO
13 MAY | International Maritime Organisation, London
Photo credit: Helena Smith
Rebels staged a dramatic ‘drown-in’ action outside the International Maritime Organisation in London on 13th May. Delegates arriving that day for a conference at IMO were greeted by XR rebels with a clear message about climate-safe shipping.
The rebels are demanding IMO take immediate action to declare a climate emergency and reduce the emissions caused by the shipping industry, which account for 3% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Our planet needs us to be all aboard the mission to prevent a shipwrecked ecology!
This month began with two momentous and contradictory decisions from the UK’s body politic.
While MPs in the House of Commons unanimously declared a climate and environment emergency after a day of debate on the issue, the judges of the High Court dismissed a series of legal challenges against the expansion of Heathrow airport, ruling the government’s approval for the policy was legal, and that commitments made under the Paris agreement to tackle climate change were irrelevant because they were not part of UK law.
Here then was a day of news that neatly encapsulates the strange twilight we find ourselves in with regards to the Establishment’s attitude to climate change, and also why symbolic victories like the emergency declaration really are just seeds in the political mulch – seeds that will require much attention and lobbyist weeding if they are to ever reap the fruit of genuine policy change.
So two weeks on from these incompatible decisions, how does the XR political garden grow? In truth, much is still just mulch, but there are some green shoots to pin our harvest hopes on.
Most crucially, the second round of XR meetings with Whitehall political heavyweights are arranged and imminent. Although specific dates have not yet been announced, preparations for a follow-on meeting with Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and an introductory meeting with the entire shadow cabinet, are well under way. And after a successful trial run last time, XR will again be using specially tailored online surveys to understand what topics and demands the rebel hivemind wants to prioritise for these upcoming discussions.
As well as helping XR activists meet with the shadow cabinet (and declaring his love for the activists on flagship BBC political program ‘The Andrew Marr Show’) the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has also announced that he is considering a measure to remove firms from the London Stock Exchange if they neglect the climate emergency. With a General Election possible in the Autumn, Labour is reportedly putting climate change at the heart of its new manifesto for government. Let’s hope ideas like this are just the tip of a looming green-deal iceberg.
In other promising news, a senior civil servant has told a campaign group that the government may have to review its current aviation strategy, including the planned expansion of Heathrow, citing the advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendation for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050 (as opposed to the current policy which is to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, and ring-fence aviation). Ultimately this is a cautious push for the government to consider adopting terms well short of XR’s 2025 net zero demand, but nevertheless, it is a push in the right direction.
Adding to this pressure is a recent poll showing that 59% of voters support the CCC’s recommendations, and even better, only 8% actively oppose them (The poll also found that 48% of voters disapproved of XR’s civil disobedience tactics, but polls eh? They can’t get everything right).
And in some canny legislative news, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is promoting the world’s first Compassion act – a new law designed to stem any future legislation that benefits current generations at the expense of future ones. The proposal has been developed along with the campaign group ‘Compassion In Politics’, and has gained support from MPs across all parties. As well as keeping the urgency of recent weeks alive, the law could well put a monkey wrench in the works of the ‘business as usual’ gang on the government benches. Reporter ants will be watching this one develop with interest.
In the meantime, rebel readers may enjoy the not-entirely-unsymbolic aspect of the map below, which illustrates the “phenomenal” gains made by the Green party in local elections at the start of this month.
Councils now with Green representation
XR South Lakes
17 APR | Kendal, South Lakes
Photo by Kirsten Freiesleben
XR South Lakes held a die-in on Kendal Market in April and have provided curious rebels with a detailed write up of the event, photos, and even a short video. A reminder of the importance of local action and what a different experience it is to be a rebel in your small hometown setting.
Decentralisation is a key element of XR’s ethos. So while high-profile actions will often take place in the big cities, we’re eager to celebrate all the amazing actions across the country and the world every week.
If you’re involved in your local XR scene, in whatever part of the world, and if you’ve got a story to share, please email email@example.com with ‘Story Contribution’ in the subject line. For major bonus points, write up your story as you’d like it to appear in the newsletter!
Join the team!
Love reading this newsletter? We love writing it! Your weekly dose of awe-inspiring action and updates is brought to you by a hivemind of 12 volunteer rebels, but as our movement grows, so does our story and we need your help to tell our collective story! Are you a website or email wizard, a great rebel coordinator or have a head for strategy? Then we need you! Find out more about the different roles here and email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. No previous experience required, all roles can be done remotely and we are all here to support each other and have some fun along the way!
XR NVDA Training
16 MAY | 18:00 – 21:30 | 4th Floor 184 Drummond St, NW1 2HN London
Please register for the Non Violent Direct Action training session here as we need to know numbers.
NO Insects, NO Future
17 MAY | 16:00 – 17:30 | Hackney Town Hall
Buzz 🐝 in our child-centric, peaceful protest to call on Hackney Council to stop using the poisonous weed killer, glyphosate, a killer for honeybees. Fly in as a bee, butterfly or dress in floral and bright colours and bring along chalk, face paint, butterflies and bees on sticks. Find out more, including your flying route here.
XR Pic ‘n’ Mix (a day of training and workshops)
18 MAY | 10:00 – 16:00 | 4th Floor 184 Drummond St, NW1 2HN London
Get rebel ready with a day of training and workshops, attend just one or up to five workshop on:
- Media and Messaging
- Legal Observer/Arrest Watch training
- Training of trainers for Inductors
- Facilitation training, and training of trainers
- Regenerative Culture workshop
A great way to share knowledge and meet others from across Extinction Rebellion London. More info and sign up here.
2nd Global Climate Strike for Future
24 MAY | 07:00 – 21:00 | All over the world
Over 1.5 million young people protested last March at the first global climate strike organised by Fridays for Futures. Students in 125 countries and in over 2000 places, from Buenos Aires and Kampala to New Delhi and Tokyo, skipped a day of school to show the power of their generation and teach the world a lesson. While we are having an impact on politics, world leaders are still not taking action fast enough and so a second global climate strike is called for Friday 24 May. All are invited. Will you help make this strike even bigger and bolder? Find out more at Fridays for Futures and the global Facebook page.
Climate Strike on a Bike
24 MAY | 10:30 – 13:30 | London, Russell Square & other cities
Ride in solidarity with the youth strikers on Friday 24 May and join a cycling fleet 🚴🚴 of protesters organised by Parents for Futures and the London Cycling Campaign. Find out more here, bike strikes should also be taking place in Leeds, Eastbourne, Seattle, Berlin, Frankfurt and Saarland.
Organising a local event? Let us know!
XR New Zealand
In large part due to the brilliant and resilient efforts of XR NZ, today the regions of Nelson and Canterbury have declared a state of climate emergency. As the first regions in the country to do so, this is a huge win for the rebellion. Those involved now face the same challenge as their (vicariously delighted!) fellow rebels in the UK: that of ensuring that serious words from government are matched with serious actions.
May 2 & 9, Esbjerg & Christianborg Die Ins
Rebels blockaded an oil and gas conference in Esbjerg that focuses primarily on the cost-effectiveness and safety of the oil and gas industry. “We are here to say that this industry is unsafe and incompatible with our planet’s future!”
Photo: rebels at the oil and gas conference in Esbjerg
Photo: Die In at the Ministry of State in Christianborg
May 4 – Hong Kong Die-In
Photo: rebels die in at shopping mall
11 & 14 May – Salzburg Die-In, Vienna Action
50 rebels joined Fridays for Future (FFF) activists and “died” symbolically on the Salzburg State Bridge. Blocking the way from the Getreidegasse to the Platzl, rebels called for an immediate expansion of public transport as well as the rebuilding and reconstruction of the automobile industry with the involvement of the employees.
Photo: XR & FFF on the Salzburg State Bridge
Photo: In Vienna, rebels chained themselves to General Assembly of the partly-state-owned fossil fuel company OMV to demand its business model align to net zero 2025.
May 11, 12 & 14 – Frankfurt, Cologne, Berlin, Hambach Forest
Photo: Die-in under dinosaurs at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum, Frankfurt.
Photo: Die-in calling for Cologne to declare a climate emergency, Berlin.
Photo: March to keep it in the ground protest, Hambach Forest
Photo: Die in at oil rig, Hambach Forest
Photo: Crime scene die at Volkswagen, Berlin
12 & 13 May – Oslo & Stavanger Die In and Paddle Out
XR Norway staged two Aussie-style paddle-outs this week to help stop the Norwegian-government-owned oil company Equinor from drilling in the Great Australian Bight. Water temperatures of around 8 degrees Celsius didn’t stop Norwegian and Australian activists from jumping into the sea in the harbour area in front of the Oslo Opera, and in the city of Stavanger, the unofficial oil capital of Norway. People joined the paddle-out circles using surfboards, paddle boards, kayaks and canoes, and afterwards they gathered for panel debates and discussions on how best to stop Equinor in the Bight.
A paddle-out Twitch stream can be seen here.
Photo: Paddle-Out, Oslo.
The next morning, the Australians joined XR Norway for a Die-In at the entrance of Equinor’s HQ outside Oslo. Banners proclaiming ‘Leave the Oil in the Ground’, ‘No Way, Norway’ and ‘Fight for the Bight’ framed those lying on the paving stones, and the CEO of Equinor was challenged to state exactly how much oil and gas the company believes it will produce over the coming years. Australian activists made impassioned calls for Equinor to drop its plans to drill in the vulnerable Bight, an invaluable habitat for a great variety of marine species. A stream from the action can be watched here.
Photo: Equinor HQ die In outside Oslo
With Equinor planning to suck 20 billion barrels of oil from its global fields and drill for new ones in the Arctic, XR Norway have vowed to keep fighting. Meanwhile Australian activists from Fight for the Bight, the Wilderness Society and other movements will be protesting at Equinor’s general assembly on Wednesday.
XR Brussels staged a die-in inside the European Commission on Saturday May 4 as the institution opened its doors to public for an annual open day. Rebels sang the EU anthem (Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy) with specially adapted lyrics, and called on governments from the 28-member bloc to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency, following the UK parliament’s symbolic declaration a few days earlier.
XR CZECH REPUBLIC
Parliamentary Debate on Fossil Fuel Divestment for 22nd May
A 2.30pm slot in Westminster Hall has been secured on 22nd May for MPs to debate the financial and ethical risks involved in investing UK pension funds in fossil fuels. This is a huge deal, and you can get involved by writing to your MP to request they attend the debate. Make some noise on social media, too, if you can, and keep the pressure on government to ACT NOW for our planet’s sake!
Red Pepper’s Open Letter to XR
Two days after Parliament declared a climate emergency, the independent socialist website Red Pepper published an open letter to XR written by dozens of campaign groups aligned under the collective banner ‘Wretched of the Earth’.
The letter called for XR to recognise how the exploitative system that has so damaged the planet is reliant on the propagation of racism, sexism and classism and ensure that any green future will actively deconstruct such prejudices. It also called for recognition that ecological breakdown is a torrid reality for many marginalised and impoverished communities, especially those in the Global South, not just a scary future prospect. They would like to see the climate movement of XR and its strategies must evolve to better reflect this broad spectrum of realities.
Extinction Rebellion is working carefully on a response to this valuable and important open letter which contains many valid points. The response will draw on various experiences and perspectives within XR and this newsletter will link to it as soon as it is available.
Message from XR Legal Support
After a lot of discussion and controversy around a prison guide doc that was picked up on by the media, the XR Legal Support working group agreed that there is a need to officially clarify a few things around that document. Firstly, we would like to apologise for any harm caused. We take very seriously the possible outcomes of non-violent direct action. We offer a range of support to anyone who might be arrested, including legal guidance. We are aware that the experience of the contributors of the prison guide is not reflective of many who have experienced the criminal justice system. The document that was written by a few individuals long before the XR Legal Support even came into existence has now been taken down. It was on the Rising Up website, which is headed with the following disclaimer:
“DISCLAIMER:This website is out of date and is not currently being updated. Therefore, information on this website could be inaccurate. This website is being kept online for purposes of historical archiving. For the Extinction Rebellion, please visit rebellion.earth”
However, that fact that it was available, or even written in the first place, is wrong given the inaccurate and upsetting nature of the content. We had been working on preparing a well-researched piece to help arrestees who had been kept on remand. We had also planned to bring in the experience of people who had spent time in prison as well as various other support groups. We will continue this process and get an accurate and representative document to the public that has be well vetted and thoroughly researched.
We are not making this statement to shift the blame towards other people but to attempt to rebuild a sense of trust between us and the people involved in XR actions who are currently in need of legal guidance. We completely understand that people may now be hesitant to reach out to us if they believe that this is reflects the quality of our legal guidance. XR Legal Support have always pushed to spread truthful and realistic guidance so that people attending actions can make informed decisions about getting arrested.
We are working on figuring out how to avoid any future publication of inaccurate information. Our priority is now to rebuild a sense of trust between us and those who may be in need of legal guidance.
We featured this bespoke DJ mix in the last Newsletter, but somehow forgot the link, so for those patiently waiting to throw some rebellious shapes to Massive Attack, Portishead, Coldcut and many more, as well as words of warning from Greta Thunberg and Noam Chomsky amongst others, please go here.
And while we’re in a musical mood, here is ‘Rebel For Life’ – an uplifting electronic track from Andy Green featuring field recordings from April’s London Rebellion.
Want to get the inside track on developments in XR UK? If you’d like to be added to the internal newsletter, please email email@example.com with ‘Internal subscribe’ in the subject line.
News & Recommended Content
‘On at-risk fauna and flora, the study asserts that human activities “threaten more species now than ever before” – a finding based on the fact that around 25 percent of species in plant and animal groups are vulnerable.’
Taking microbes and fungi into account the figure could well be much higher. Meanwhile the mass media prefers to direct our attention to one particular species of parasite that appears to be bucking the overall trend:
Scripps graph via this page:
On May 7th, ‘HS2 brought their tree and hedge removing vehicles out to the field, apparently intent on continuing the de-vegetation work. Mr Mahon immediately placed himself in front of the vehicle. When the workers inquired as to whether he intended to stay there, the protester responded “yes.” The result was that by the end of the day, not only were the vehicles back in their depot, but signs warning road users and pedestrians of the work taking place had been removed.’
‘We are dependent socially, economically, spiritually and culturally on the health of the forest, including the wildlife, plants, water and soil. In many areas, we cannot trust that the medicines and foods we harvest are clean and uncontaminated. The aerial spraying of glyphosate violates our treaty rights to the water and to hunt, fish, and gather berries and plant medicines in our traditional territories.’ TEK elders website here. On the other side of the world, representatives of the Torres Strait islanders are lodging a complaint at the UN against the government of Australia for failing to adhere to its Paris Climate Accord pledges, with rising sea levels threatening to destroy their homes and culture.
Media Lens look at the media and political response to XR, answer some of the criticism generated and come to a cautiously optimistic conclusion: ‘When individual corporate media editors, journalists, advertising and political executives realise that they and their families are genuinely facing death, it is not at all certain that they will continue to support the subordination of people and planet to profit to no purpose.’ Meanwhile this twitter thread points out the use of passive voice in headlines about biodiversity ‘loss’ – ‘violence persists, in part, because we treat it as though it is something that happens, rather than something done by someone.’
Reinterpretation of a classic Finnish love song, ‘Onni jonka annoin pois’ translated as ‘Happiness I Gave Away’. Video on youtube here, interview with the singer here. ‘I realized it wasn’t a love song between two people, but rather a love song for the Mother Earth itself.’
Some heartening swings in public opinion polls reported in this Carbon Brief summary. ‘A poll by Opinium, conducted during the protests, found 63% agreeing – including 25% strongly agreeing – with the statement: “We are facing a climate emergency.” […] In the BEIS poll, 69% said climate change is already having an impact on the UK.’
Sensitively written article by Ele Waters in Permaculture Magazine, exploring the tensions and crossovers between lifestyle and activist responses to the climate crisis. ‘I will still be growing my own parsnips, brewing from the wild bounty and working at engaging the local community, but I have a new courage that comes from being a part of something that is brave enough and big enough to tell the truth and to deal with the consequences that will increasingly affect us all.’
Software developer Christopher Gutteridge puts rising sea level scenarios into minecraft cityscapes
For example, London with a 20m sea level rise:
Finally, apologies to Stephanie McMillan for not properly attributing to her the cartoon which ended newsletter #20. You can see more of her excellent, thought-provoking work via her website, on her youtube channel, and if you’ve got a spare 50 minutes this talk from the Earth At Risk conference is well worth watching for the at-times breathtaking clarity of her analysis.
Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This newsletter was written collaboratively by a hivemind of 12 rebels.
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