Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom returning to work this week after summer recess are being met with demonstrations and civil disobedience by Extinction Rebellion, which officially kicked off a fresh wave of nationwide protests Tuesday demanding urgent and ambitious climate action.
"The failure to act on this issue will have a catastrophic impact on the future of us and the generations to come," Sarah Lunnon, a member of Extinction Rebellion (XR), told BBC News Tuesday. "We want to occupy Parliament Square to make our voices heard. Of course we're in the middle of a pandemic but we're balancing the risk, this is the biggest issue facing us."
Hundreds of XR campaigners gathered in London's Parliament Square Wednesday to send the government a message: #WeWantToLive. The second day of the U.K. Rebellion, which is scheduled to span at least 10 days with events planned all across the country, came as MPs were set to start considering the proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill.
Extinction Rebellion are proud to listen to everyone, and get the facts from those who understand best. https://t.co/fDYKR3yRgY
— Extinction Rebellion (@ExtinctionR) September 2, 2020
— XR North (@Rebellion_North) September 1, 2020
Powerful #ClimateAction in Parliament Square @DoctorsXr #ActNow #Stopecocide #SaveLives
‘There are many deaths that can still be prevented’ #ClimateCrisis is Health Crisis! If you work in #healthcare read & share these brilliant campaigns https://t.co/SoJt6Sq02h pic.twitter.com/K9CI54jWol
— Extinction Rebellion Hackney (@XRHackney) September 2, 2020
The CEE Bill aims to close the "gaps" in the country's Climate Change Act with greenhouse gas reduction targets set to ensure that "international aviation, shipping, and consumption fall within the U.K.'s 2050 net zero target, while putting climate assemblies on a formal standing," BusinessGreen reported Wednesday.
The U.K. media outlet noted that in addition to backing from XR campaigners and scientists, the CEE effort spearheaded by Green Party MP Carline Lucas has won support from members of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru, and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).
"We need far earlier, bolder, and more comprehensive action to reduce emissions and to restore nature," said Lucas. "It is vital that we learn the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic, where we have paid a terrible price for poor preparation and a slow and inadequate response. We cannot say there were no warnings of the climate and nature crises—they have been there for years. It's time we responded at the scale and speed the science demands by passing this bill and acting on it."
Sea levels are rising, and so are we, demanding urgent action on the #ClimateEmergency
Here’s part of my speech pic.twitter.com/72yoW2RJbC
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) September 1, 2020
Others supporters include former Greenpeace International executive director and Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo, who told EuroNews that "this bill outlines the path needed to avoid the catastrophe outlined by the United Nations... It is farsighted aiming to protect those at risk now and in the future."
Ahead of officially putting forth or "tabling" the bill Wednesday, Lucas was given a letter containing urgent demands of young people aged 6–20 from Culture Declares Emergency, XR Youth, XR Families, Parents for the Future, U.K. Student Climate Network, and the Almeida Theatre Young Company, which she planned to bring with her to Parliament, according to a statement from XR. The youth activists are calling on Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and MPs to back the bill and bold action.
'You should feel ashamed.'
Lyra Shipp, 8, tells it like it is yesterday.
— Extinction Rebellion Southend (@XRSouthend) September 2, 2020
"Dear Government, I'm confused about everything because when we warned you about the climate crisis you ignored us all!" wrote 10-year-old Wren Savage.
"The clock. Is. Ticking. And we are going to do something about it," warned Eden Rickson, 20. "We will resist, disobey, march, and strike until you are unable to ignore us. We are here to stay and we youth will be silenced no longer. We are here today to tell you enough is enough—this is our future, and we are taking it back."
Cat Savage noted that "many of us are still too young to vote, yet WE will bear the burden of your choices; WE will be the ones to suffer for your profit; WE will pay the price for your inaction; and yet we are the ones who are out here doing the work, sacrificing our education, choosing to resist despite the cost."
"But we are exhausted," the 17-year-old added. "We are exhausted from standing here, begging you to listen to the science. We are sick and tired of running in circles, shouting at the top of our lungs and being met with a wall of silence from friends, family, the media, and politicians."
— Extinction Rebellion London (@XRLondon) September 2, 2020
"A number of famous novelists, poets, and playwrights including Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith have lent their support to an Extinction Rebellion campaign," according to The Guardian, which reported that the Writers Rebel group organized an evening protest outside a London venue "known to host meetings of think tanks and lobbying outfits linked to climate science denial and the oil industry."
Attendees of the event, which is targeting groups like the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the U.K.'s Center for Policy Studies, will also include writer and activist George Monbiot as well as Sir Mark Rylance, actor and first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Smith plans to speak at the protest while Atwood shared her support in a video message circulated on social media.
— Extinction Rebellion (@ExtinctionR) September 2, 2020
Noting that over 1,700 arrests were made during XR's 10-day Autumn Uprising in 2019, the BBC reported "90 people had been arrested on suspicion of public order offenses" as of 6 pm Tuesday, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Ultimately, "police arrested around 160 people on Tuesday for obstructing the roads and officers could be seen carrying more demonstrators away from the area on Wednesday," Reuters reported on the conditions in London.
While the arrests garnered media attention—including that of 92-year-old John Lynes—XR pushed back on social media, arguing that activists' tactics or decisions to protests during the pandemic were "not the story."
The group's U.K. arm redirected attention to what has driven campaigners to the streets, declaring on Twitter: "The story is catastrophic government failure to act on the #ClimateEmergency and #EcologicalCrisis."
This is John Lynes, aged 92, from #Hastings being arrested in #ParliamentSquare at #ExtinctionRebellion protest, just for daring to care about our future. This is a #ClimateEmergency and #WeWantToLive Join us #ChangeIsNow Video: Wiiliam Watson pic.twitter.com/xu9BsWg5A6
— Extinction Rebellion UK (@XRebellionUK) September 1, 2020
— Extinction Rebellion (@ExtinctionR) September 1, 2020
THIS IS THE STORY “I’m seeing young people aware that #climatebreakdown means any future job is in jeopardy. This is affecting their psychological #health and fitness for work right now, and in turn our #economy.” - Dr. Patil Mead, Occupational Physician @DoctorsXr pic.twitter.com/4jN2ScoHoM
— Extinction Rebellion UK (@XRebellionUK) September 2, 2020
"We stand at a crossroads in human history," Extinction Rebellion London tweeted Tuesday. "Faced with multiple global crisis—coronavirus, racial injustice, economic inequality, climate and ecological devastation—we have never been more acutely aware of our vulnerability on a finite planet."
"We are calling on everyone who is willing and able to stand with us for the next week's [demonstrations] to demand that this government builds back better from Covid-19," the group added. "Through our actions, we show the government we don't accept their criminal negligence anymore."