On Wednesday October 17, activists from British environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) held a sit-in at none other than the UK headquarters of Greenpeace—you know, the worldwide environmentalist org so radical that they’ve been shot at by the Russians and had their boat blown up by the French. According to XR, however, the renowned non-profit isn’t radical enough, given the dire situation painted by the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
XR is a decentralized organization born out of activist group Risingup!. As Risingup!’s largest project to date, XR hopes to spur a massive, non-violent uprising via widespread acts of civil disobedience, which the group sees as the only possible method of averting total climate catastrophe. Beginning with a “Declaration of Rebellion” event on October 31st and followed by a “Rebellion Day” on November 17, anyone who acts according to the principles and values of XR can perform civil disobedience under the banner of the organization.
It’s sort of like a Pussy Riot for the end of the world, as caused by a failure of democracy and ecological destruction. In an email, Nils Agger, a coordinator of XR’s media and messaging working group, explained that XR’s members believe the range of acceptable discussion around climate change and ecological crisis is not broad enough and should “include aspects such as the possibility of human extinction and societal collapse.”
“[We are] working on building a rebellion against our broken democracy which is complicit in the ecological crisis we are facing and which is now a real emergency,” Agger said. He added, “[The crisis is] a systemic problem rather than something which can be treated through changes in individual consumption.”
So, where does Greenpeace fit into this? According to Agger, “NGOs like Greenpeace are part of the problem… since their messaging is a lot more narrow and doesn’t tell the truth of the extent of the upcoming ecological crisis. We need a rebellion to tackle the problem we find ourselves in and Greenpeace, with their connections, could have a critical impact on the success of the uprising if they would choose to support it.”
To get the non-profit to support such a rebellion, the group delivered cake and flowers to the NGO’s employees and occupied the office space for two hours, as part of an action planned autonomously by XR members “who have been having conversations with the organisation for a while,” Agger said. It wasn’t until Greenpeace management agreed to consider the possibility of more direct action protests that the XR activists agreed to part, according to one Twitter user.
Specifically, XR asked Greenpeace “to encourage their members to participate in mass civil disobedience as the only remaining alternative to avert the worst of the catastrophe,” Agger explained. As of 2017, Greenpeace has 2,555 permanent staff, 47,000 volunteers and 13 million petition signatures, but petitions aren’t enough, according to Agger. “We are so very nearly out of time and campaigning as usual wont do the job. Greenpeace has a responsibility as an established organisation with resources and contacts to do what is necessary to avert as much as possible of the climate breakdown we are now facing,” he said.
Agger hinted that, on October 31st, XR will perform a disruptive act that “will have a strong ceremonial aspect to it” and that “will be dramatic and spectacular”. More details about the actions on that day will be released as it approaches. As of right now, we know that The Guardian’s resident ecological conscience, George Monbiot, will be speaking at the UK event, but, if more activists participate under the banner of XR, it’s possible that we will see actions performed on other parts of the globe.
When asked what XR hopes it can achieve with its civil disruption, Agger said that the group aims to highlight our climate emergency through “telling the truth and acting accordingly”, ultimately spurring the sort of rapid societal adaptation that was seen during World War Two.
“If you are in a building which is catching fire and you try to let everyone else know about it who are also in the building, but then go on to act like business as usual then no one is going to believe you,” Agger concluded. “The only appropriate response to a government which is complicit in the killing of millions of people is rebellion so that is what we are setting our aims on.”