Newsletter 31 – A Season of Change
November 05, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
(Sign up to the International Newsletter here)
There’s change in the air.
This change takes many shapes. Indians can see it with their eyes and feel it with their lungs. For many others, from Romania to indigenous land in Brazil it appears as an absence: of trees, of food, of loved ones.
It can be for the better as well as the worse: the UK government has put a hold on fracking, while our story on XR Austria (below) is enough to fill the weariest rebels with hope.
Change is coming for all of us – even world leaders have felt the effects of the turmoil in Chile, with COP25 dramatically relocated to Madrid. (We wish XR Spain luck with this sudden twist! If you’re in Europe and willing to help, see here.)
Following October, many of us continue to rest and reflect – and we’d encourage rebels to use this debriefing guide to help with this process.
There’s plenty of change that needs making; but this applies to ourselves as well as the world. As we see in the seasons, change comes as much from regeneration as from action; as much from breaking practices as making them.
So get comfortable and set some time aside to read through this week’s thought-provoking and inspiring stories from our ever more global rebellion.
If you’d like to see previous newsletter issues, you can find them here.
As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.
Singing in the Streets & Gunshots in the Night
14 OCT – PRESENT DAY | Santiago, Chile
Protests began on the 14th of Oct in Chile’s capital of Santiago, when a group of students organised a campaign against the rise in metro fares of 30 pesos. This is only the latest in a long list of price surges and wage drops, which exacerbates the huge economic inequality of this neoliberal oasis.
The situation rapidly descended into violence, with riot groups around the city targeting the metro system. There are widespread reports of looting and damage to infrastructure. In response, the president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, declared a state of emergency. Military forces have been deployed and a curfew of central Santiago was announced on the 19th of Oct.
To date, 18 people have been killed. The government insists those
killed were violent lawbreakers, however there are extensive allegations
of brutality and abuse of power by the military.
One of the major consequences of the chaos is the cancellation of two global meetings: the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), which involved world players such as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping; and the climate conference COP25 (Conference of the Parties), which has been rescheduled to the 2nd – 13th of December in Madrid, Spain.
For Extinction Rebellion, the tragic situation in Chile is just another stark example of the essential link between social policy and environmental breakdown. Despite volunteering to host the COP25, Chile itself has a poor reputation when it comes to climate issues, including an excess of power plants and sickness-inducing levels of pollution.
Despite all the difficult circumstances, rebels are still working incredibly hard. XR Santiago are busy exploring what their role might be and how to ensure that any stance taken is in line with XR values. They are holding XR Wellbeing cafes every other Saturday to offer a safe space for members to talk about their experiences and what is happening to them in regards to the current situation. The Art and Regenerative Culture group is planning an event of wellbeing and creativity to support rebels and members of the public alike.
There is a sense of disappointment among rebels that the COP25 has been cancelled. However, they are pleased that Spain has been able to accommodate it, and are in touch with XR Spain to explore ways to work together during the conference so that Chile still has a presence and a voice.
The change in plans has also left Greta Thumberg stranded on the wrong continent. After traversing the ocean on a perilous carbon neutral journey, she is now appealing on social media for a lift back across the water to attend the conference in Madrid. She tweeted: “It turns out I’ve traveled half around the world, the wrong way 🙂 Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November… “
Do ya wanna Debrief?
Hands up if your rebellion was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, at times joyous, at others frustrating and challenging. Rebellions aren’t easy! They’re full of achievements, disappointment, deep connection and a deep sense of loss. Having worked so hard for a rebellion with clear roles and purpose it is common to feel a sense of loss of purpose and identity. Some of us can be left asking…what is our purpose post-rebellion?
Our Post-Rebellion Regenerative period is a crucial time to hold and support each other in community as we grow through our experiences. We strongly encourage all groups around the world to take part in the debrief process.
Debrief can be tense and challenging. For it to be as constructive as possible, it is important to take the time to reconnect with each other, to rest, have a party, share a meal, walk together in nature, share your appreciation for each other, celebrate what we’ve achieved as well your grief and losses.
For a full breakdown of the Debrief process, please read here.
XR Stands in Solidarity with Romania’s Forest Protectors
3 NOV | Knightsbridge, London, UK
Romanian Londoners gathered outside the Romanian Cultural Institute in Knightsbridge on Sunday, to protest in solidarity with the Forest March happening simultaneously in their homeland. Protestors in both countries hoped to raise international awareness of grave threats to Romania’s forests, and violence against its defenders.
Excluding Scandinavia, two thirds of Europe’s remaining virgin forests are in Romania, but hundreds of thousands of hectares are being lost to illegal logging every year, even in EU-protected, “Natura 2000” regions. Sometimes called “Europe’s Amazon”, these ancient ecosystems are critical to the ecological and climate crisis as valuable carbon sinks, as well as home to dense wildlife populations, including bears, lynxes and rare bird species like the capercaillie.
Local environmental groups claim the Romanian authorities are complicit in exploitation by foreign corporations, failing to properly protect regions, and turning a blind eye to criminality. Mirroring the recent killing of an indigenous land defender by illegal loggers in Brazil, six forest rangers have lost their lives defending the forests, including two just last month. XR stands in solidarity with these defenders of the disappearing natural world.
Three Romanian and international green organisations, Agent Green, ClientEarth and EuroNatur have filed a complaint with the European Commission, urging them to take action against systemic violations of EU conservation law. More information here.
Sign the petition here.
Austria’s Rebellion – Oh, Vienna.
7-11 OCT | Vienna, Austria
The centrepiece of the blockade was a giant metal disc about three metres tall. On one side, the image of a barren planet Earth, on the other the XR symbol. It required no less than six rebels to carry it, and careful wiring to anchor it safely to the middle of the road.
Around it sat fifteen rebels, their hands glued to its cool exterior, and around them another one hundred and fifty rebels sat on the tarmac, some locked on using PVC tubes, some part of a special choir belting out traditional folk music with climate-converted lyrics.
Around them was a line of bemused police officers, and around them the traffic of central Vienna, firmly in gridlock. Here then were the concentric circles of an NVDA solar system, that giant metal disc at its disruptive centre.
It would take five hours for police to clear the blockade of Platz der Menschenrechte (Human-rights-square), with half the rebels in attendance electing to ignore official warnings and be arrested. Thirty were charged at the scene, forty bussed to a local police station and held in cells until the small hours. Violence was non-existent, Police relations stayed friendly throughout, members of the public seemed broadly supportive, and the national media were fascinated. So went XR Austria’s first day or Rebellion.
For an XR region with a mailing list of just two hundred, such a start was remarkable. But the blockade proved to be just the first in a string of outstanding actions. Two days later, 250 rebels peacefully occupied the Salztorbrücke, a road bridge over the Danube, transforming it into both a clock-strewn urban garden and a venue for live music and performative dances.
And the week finished with a three-hour critical mass bike ride through the streets of Vienna, followed by a one hundred strong die-in outside the National History Museum. Rebels then received an official invitation to hold a second die-in inside the museum’s extinct mammals hall.
While Austria’s tabloid press branded the actions as extremist stunts, the broadsheets and state TV news took XR’s demands at face value and debated them. Suddenly newspaper editorials were tackling citizens’ assemblies and the goal of being carbon net zero by 2025. State TV even ran a primetime special program profiling two rebels – a nurse and a university professor.
An endangered animal dance comes to a definite end on Salztorbrücke bridge.
Hearing from an Austrian rebel on the press team many days later, there was still a sense of disbelief at how well it had all gone. Before October, media interest had been trifling, and with Berlin’s rebellion being the focus of the region, there had been some debate as to whether Vienna should hold any actions at all.
For XR Austria, growth post-rebellion is all but assured. Actions are now being planned and implemented by a new generation of rebel recruits. Public support for the protests has solidified in the face of government inaction, and there has been no media backlash. As Austria’s politicians try to form a new coalition government from a hung parliament, the country’s President has already announced that the climate crisis must be the highest priority of any new manifesto.
Meanwhile, the rebel founders of XR Austria are pinching themselves. And they’re very glad they decided to hold those actions in Vienna after all.
XR Hong Kong take cautious steps amidst political turmoil
OCT 5-13 | Hong Kong
After lying low for several months, XR HK stepped out once again
during the Autumn Rebellion. This was not without challenges, however,
leading to two of the four actions planned for Rebellion Week to be
The first action was to be held on 5th October: rebels had been invited to a bikeathon organized by the think-tank Carbon Care Asia and aiming to break the record for the continuous generation of electricity through pedal power. XRHK were hoping to play a video produced by XRUK for the Summer Uprising, subtitled in Chinese, and had prepared a speech entitled ‘This is not a drill – it’s an emergency’, in both English and Chinese. Sadly, the event was cancelled by the organisers as political tensions resulted in the underground being shut down that day.
The second event planned during Rebellion Week was to take place on
11th October: a die-in in front of the headquarters of one of HK’s
biggest polluting companies. As awareness of the climate emergency is
relatively low among the general public in HK, rebels had wanted to
approach the issue through pollution – one of the top issues for people
in HK and with which they struggle daily.
This action also had to be cancelled however, as too few rebels were able to take part. The modest number of rebels in the still fledgling XRHK proved tricky during rebellion week, and police restrictions to control the pro-democracy protests during this period made attracting new members even more challenging.
Still, these set-backs did not dent XRHK rebels’ spirits. Over the
next couple of days, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October – and against
the backdrop of city-wide clashes between protestors and the police –
the small group of determined rebels were back out in full force.
First, with a march (‘The Seas Are Rising and So Are We’) to raise awareness of the threat posed to HK by rising sea levels and secondly, a ‘flash funeral’ in another central location in HK. The rebels carried a coffin and staged two die-ins, as surprised passers-by took the time to stop, to take a leaflet and, on occasion, a photo. In a context where the general public are reluctant to engage in any way with protestors, and the climate is not a high priority, these small acts by passers-by were highly encouraging: small steps perhaps, but steps nonetheless.
During Rebellion Week, in short, HK Rebels have had to contend with
security concerns, logistical challenges and lower visibility and
numbers. And still, in further credit to their strength of spirit, they
are determined to continue their rebellion, with future actions already
in the pipeline.
The first of these is scheduled for November 29th alongside 350.hk, Climate Action Hong Kong (the local chapter of Fridays for Future) and WasteFree Hong Kong. To find out about this and other forthcoming actions, and for more on XRHK, please visit their Facebook page.
New Yorkers Knock It Out the Park.
12 – 13 OCT | New York, USA
New York Rebels were feeling tired but buoyed (pun intended) by their week of relentless action. The boat-drop in Times Square went flawlessly (for a cinematic account of this, see here), and the diversity of actions over the week showed that NYC XR has become a truly robust disruptive outfit. hundreds of new rebel recruits had been trained up and had tested out their swarming skills, and the ‘Rebel Fest’ allowed everyone to come together and build a real sense of camaraderie.
The week ended with a dance party in Washington Square Park, which included many of the Times Square rebels joining the fun straight from jail after 30+ hours of detainment (the jail support team kept an overnight vigil with homemade vegan curry and camp stove tea – but by the time the rebels actually got out there was little left!).
After the camp in the park was packed up, members of the XR NYC band played music under the lights of the Washington Square Arch. Rebels danced, waved XR flags, and shared snacks.
On Saturday, rebels came together for a quiet picnic in the park. Skies were blue, the weather was unseasonably warm, and rebels were buzzing with new ideas. The energy of new recruits, and the inspiring Rebellion actions around the globe, has created a heady mix. More creative, nonviolent, and disruptive actions are on their way!
See more of the beautiful and courageous action from around the global XR community in XR Unchained. There is so much to tell.
Moldova. Rebels marched in Chisinau in a funeral procession with a real coffin.
Brazil. Thousands take part in massive oil and tar clean-up operation along Brazil’s beautiful north-eastern coast. The source of the spill remains a mystery.
Kiev. A huge plastic dinosaur and rebels dressed in garbage costumes roamed with the message: Halloween is scary, but the emergency is much scarier.
Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels travelled 5 hours down the river to start their second XR group in Bambuti.
Mexico. Dia de los muertos gets a dark rebel twist.
Netherlands. Rebels put on a show to protest fast fashion.
Ireland. Rebels sunbathe on a chilly autumn day to protest Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments on climate change’s positive impacts, including lower heating bills and fewer deaths in winter.
London. Eco-Conscious Citizens presented a petition signed by over 3,500 supporters from Ghana and beyond to the President Nana Akufo-Addo through Ghana’s Deputy High Commissioner.
Cambridge. XR Grandparents pour fake blood over XR Youth
in an act symbolic of ‘nepocide’, a term coined to mean the willingness
to sacrifice current and future generations for our own convenience.
XR Debt Strike Project Proposal– open for sharing and feedback.
Dates for your diary:
Global Hunger Strike | 18 NOV
Global Climate Strike | 29 NOV
Rebels Beyond Borders: COP25 | 2-13 DEC | Madrid, Spain
Correction – in our last issue we featured an image involving UK doctors; we thought this was an action from Doctors for XR, but have since learned that it was an action from Docs Not Cops, a different group addressing different issues. Sorry!
Rahajeng Nurrahmani, 25 years old, Jakarta, Indonesia
“I was born in a city famous for its forest fire smog. This city is called Pekanbaru, on the island of Sumatra. My journey with smog began since I was just a little kid, and 25 years later, this smog is still happening.
“Even when I moved to Jakarta, my journey with smog hasn’t ended. I still suffer from the smogs of fossil fuel combustion. The government has failed me and everyone.
“So that’s why I’m rebelling. To fight for my future and the future of our planet.”
We are receiving amazing human stories and we want to know yours. To read more – or to write your own – join our Facebook group.
Thank you for reading!
If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.