Extinction Rebellion

The last few weeks have seen Extinction Rebellion stage a series of high profile stunts (eg: glueing themselves to the gallery in the House of Commons) and mass disruption in London and other cities that has lead to over 700 arrests, although the protests have been peaceful and non-violent with little more than some spray paint deployed to make points on various specific buildings.

There are probably two main questions we could consider in response to these protests.

1. Are the tactics used appropriate? I guess we'll all say that violent protests with significant damage to property are inappropriate. And, also that authorised marches, petitions, letters to MPs making decisions on who to vote for etc are entirely acceptable. Where does this middle ground of non-violence which targets specific locations with a relatively small number of people at each location with the intent to cause disruption and/or maximise publicity fit?

It is, of course, a tactic that has a lot of precedent. Extinction Rebellion are not the first to do this, although the scale of maintaining this approach for several days in the middle of London is larger than most previous such protests. Greenpeace, for example, has quite regularly caused disruption boarding oil rigs or whaling boats, or occupying high profile locations. Anti-nuclear protestors are old hands at blocking roads preventing the movement of nuclear weapons on our road.

After 50 years knowing that the burning of fossil fuels is adversely affecting local and global climates, with governments and big business ignoring the issues or doing no more than say a few good words with ineffective token actions, perhaps there is a case that the more polite forms of trying to influence society have proved insufficient and more dramatic approaches are needed?

2. Are the demands of Extinction Rebellion appropriate: for the government to declare a climate emergency, recognising the urgency of the problem; act to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; form a citizens assembly on climate and ecological justice to hold the government to account from outside the normal processes of party politics.

For me, after 50 years of denial of the problem the situation has reached emergency status. We could have made small changes 30 years ago and have avoided the emergency today, now we need far more drastic and costly actions - both to address the carbon emissions causing the problem and to deal with the consequences of the changes we have already let happen. A net carbon zero target by 2025 is extremely ambitious, but if you don't set ambitious targets then you're denying the urgency - if you accept this is a climate emergency then your response must be significant. We've let our governments spend fortunes bailing out failing banks on 2008 and other occasions, if that sort of intervention is justified to maintain the bonuses of top bankers then protecting the environment and the lives of the poor is equally justified. The idea of a citizen's assembly is borrowed from other nations, eg: Ireland, where it has generally worked very well in steering government through difficult issues where party politics has failed.
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Comments

  • balaambalaam Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    The tactic of climbing on top of a Docklands Light Railway train is dubious.

    Disrupting public transport will force people into cars. Is that what they want?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Extinction Rebellion had a series of demonstrations outside the BBC in Portland Place just after Christmas, which had pretty much zero publicity or impact. I was caught up in one, which is why I am aware of them. The BBC locked down and wouldn't let anyone in or out while the demo happened and some of the people who have bigger egos were most grumpy. The demonstrators were lovely about it, came and apologised for inconveniencing us - were only marching around the building and displaying wrapped bodies to make real the number of bodies drowned in the floods in the Pacific Islands at the time.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I'd question the initial supposition that we all think that violent protest with significant damage to property is bad.

    Sometimes burning shit down and punching people is the only way things get done in the face of official intransigence (points to most of history).
  • Convenience is the current state religion. No apostasy is tolerable.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    I'd question the initial supposition that we all think that violent protest with significant damage to property is bad.

    Sometimes burning shit down and punching people is the only way things get done in the face of official intransigence (points to most of history).

    That's what Jesus did after all.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Your point is well made. But so is mine. Everything that makes life decent has been wrested out of the hands of the rich and powerful, sometimes at sword point.
  • Nothing new here, sadly. Back in 1985, I took part in a massive anti-Thatcher rally (I was one of Ken Livingstone's Greater London Council lads at the time). I witnessed, at first-hand, how it took at least half-a-dozen of Thatcher's Stooges (aka the Police) to subdue just one black man.....

    We managed 30-seconds' worth of time on the BBC News (sic), on account of having disrupted the traffic in the City of London (the £££ heartland of the Empire UK)....

    Best wishes to the Extinction Rebellion peeps. If I wasn't a f**king Raspberry Ripple, I'd be there myself (travelling by electric train, natch).
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited April 20
    Most gracious. Aye, I fear that you will be proved right. Although the rich and powerful nearly always win. Or revolutions that overturn them go horribly wrong. Only the poor suffer. Or the bourgeoisie are annihilated. Or both. There was still economic progress which dragged social progress. I cannot see any political force apart from grievously weakening European technocracy having an outside chance of countering less enlightened self interest. Until the climate starts to kill thousands of Americans at a time, nothing can change. The church being incarnational would do it. But there's no chance of that. The church leading the way in boycotting consumerism, in communal living. But it's too small now anyway. Progress may well have ended.
  • Anyone for Communal Wrist-Slashing? ALL IS LOST!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited April 20
    Not at all. The logistic curve is doing what it does. Sheer size of population means it will still have a positive gradient. Just.
  • Don't rule the Holy Spirit (let the reader understand) entirely out of court.
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    Does anyone know if anythig similar is happening in the US? or China? or India?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Don't rule the Holy Spirit (let the reader understand) entirely out of court.

    I never do.
  • As one who doesn't have to be convinced about the need for urgent action on the environment, I can't help being a little uneasy about what I have read about XR.

    Surely the points of any protest (peaceful or otherwise) are mainly twofold:

    a) To force the Powers That Be to take some sort of action. Whether this actually works or not is debatable but even if it DOES work, you need to show that your protest is widely supported. Which brings me to my next point....

    b) To grow your support to such an extent that the Powers That Be can no longer ignore you. The protests that we have seen which have had a definite effect have been ones where the numbers protesting have grown and grown to the point where they could not be ignored or suppressed.

    I can't see where XR is doing either of these things. If over a million people protesting in central London about a second referendum doesn't make a discernible difference, XR doesn't have a hope. As far as the Powers That Be are concerned, they are simply an annoyance to be squashed, rather than a voice to be heard.

    And far from drawing people to their cause, I suspect that XR's tactics are more likely to alienate people who might otherwise be sympathetic.

    I am willing to be proved wrong but I really cannot see what XR is trying to achieve other than headline notoriety.
  • Eirenist wrote: »
    Does anyone know if anythig similar is happening in the US? or China? or India?
    Extinction Rebellion US has a similar set of demands, but also adds in demands for justice for indigenous Americans and people of color. They, along with other groups around the world, have joined in the week of rebellion, though I've not seen any news coverage - which in the UK has been dominated by the action in London and elsewhere in the UK, and they possibly got unlucky with the rebellion week coinciding with the publication of the Mueller report. This from CNN includes pictures from NY, but it's a very short piece.

    There is an international XR website which includes a map for other groups in addition to the larger groups in developed nations - though, not in China as far as I can see.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    What rebellion?
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited April 20
    Broadly speaking, I agree with what they want to achieve. Functionally, blocking roads in London has got this on news agenda in the uk. I am aware that there are critiques about the deliberate attempt to seek mass arrests - both in terms of privilege and appropriate resource - but I suppose the question is, on the basis of everything known and tried in the last 50 years, what would have worked / will work better at this point in time ?
  • Broadly speaking, I agree with what they want to achieve. Functionally, blocking roads in London has got this on news agenda in the uk. I am aware that there are critiques about the deliberate attempt to seek mass arrests - both in terms of privilege and appropriate resource - but I suppose the question is, on the basis of everything known and tried in the last 50 years, what would have worked / will work better at this point in time ?

    Yes, this to me is the question I want to ask the majority of people who are indulging in fairly knee jerk critique, especially when much of it can be categorized as a particular form of bad faith argument
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    China doesn't tolerate expression of political opinion. It has a large number of political prisoners.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Me and the Torlets had a fairly robust discussion on this very subject on Thursday. Miss Tor believes that they're forcing climate change discussions into the news agenda. Master Tor believe they're forcing Extinction Rebellion into the news agenda, and that the Government will use their actions as an excuse to further crack down on legal protest.

    I tend to side more with Master Tor than with Miss Tor: most people do already care about climate change but they still care more about putting a roof over their head and food on the table today. The structural problems which prevent CC being addressed effectively (lack of infrastructure, poor tax strategies, economic policy directed towards growth) are best addressed corporately, through political action - as such, a protester gluing themselves to a politician or a reporter would have far more impact where it's required, as opposed to what they're actually doing.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Yeah, how is climate change not on the agenda? There's an election being fought right now between the trogs and the mods in Australia where Climate Change is one of the big issues.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    Does anyone know if anythig similar is happening in the US? or China? or India?

    @Eirenist There is a Extinction Rebellion effort in the US. I also know Ontario has a ER group.
  • Pollution down where they protest. Link.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    The structural problems which prevent CC being addressed effectively (lack of infrastructure, poor tax strategies, economic policy directed towards growth) are best addressed corporately, through political action - as such, a protester gluing themselves to a politician or a reporter would have far more impact where it's required, as opposed to what they're actually doing.

    Conventional political action hasn’t worked, but your suggestion is a form of violence when they are trying for peaceful protest. If they resort to violence (leaving aside the ethics for a moment) it will allow the government to treat them as terrorists - which given current legislation, would probably be a massively tactical error.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    On Radio 4 tonight, I heard a report that the Met are looking for a change in the law concerning how they are allowed to deal with peaceful protesters. I found this a little chilling. They’ve already arrested over 700 peaceful protesters, so what might they have in mind?! 🤔😱

    All protests in the last 10+ years in the UK appear to have had absolutely no impact upon the decisions of parliament, depressingly. If stepping up the peaceful protest style and direct action are to be stifled, if not crushed, what have we left?!
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Burning shit down. If they outlaw legal protest then all protest is illegal.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Down with this sort of thing!
  • Like I say, the only idol anyone gives a flying f*** about is convenience. Everything else, even our capacity to sustain recognisable human society, and certainly something as ephemeral as civil liberties, is to be sacrificed to the Ultimate Good.

    Yes, we are that decadent, and yes we are that doomed.
  • Violence is never an answer. That's the starting point. No hurting of people. Clue: people are already hurting.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    The people who aren't hurting are the ones who both cause the problem and stand in the way of the solution.

    The Magna Carta was signed because the barons put a sword to the King's neck, not to a serf's.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    We are those people. What solution? Who are the barons? Going up, decadent from what lofty height? What ephemeral civil liberties?
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    edited April 21
    The answer is not to complain about those who are also forced to live in the current paradigm. The answer is to complain about those that control that paradigm and refuse to change it.

    I can spend £10k on solar panels and battery storage, and that's great. I can insulate my house and cycle to town and use trains for long journeys and eat a vegetarian diet. But until all our electricity generation is renewable, all our houses are insulated, all roads are safe for cycles, all public transport is cheaper than the alternatives, until raising animals (cows specifically) for meat consumption is effectively banned, it's not going to make a difference - enough of a difference - to anything. It is literally all or nothing at this point.

    2050 is the notional date for a zero-carbon UK. There are problems with this, in that we know what all the solutions are already - a date that's 30 years in the future is just lazy, and puts far too much store in "non-disruption". No. We need to get disruptive, because otherwise it'll be 2045 and we'll be barely at the planning stage.

    So gluing yourself to a bus route or mass transit - stupid. Gluing yourself to the gates of Airbus or Vauxhall - smart. Gluing yourself to John Humphreys - smarter.

    (eta https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/21/long-road-to-zero-emissions-uk )

  • I would only partly agree. Decadence is being in love with easeful death. Decadence is voting in a referendum without checking the facts behind the story you are enticed by. Decadence is voting repeatedly for the degradation of the public services your family already depends on because the alternative is not for the likes of us.

    I changed my username because I couldn't keep being foolish in the face of this decadence. A futile gesture, I grant you, but still it demonstrates a certain consistency if nothing else.

    The greater sinners are those who make dissent inconceivably difficult for most people. But there is still something wrong with no stopping to conceive it.

    Without that conception, freedom of assembly will be the first right to the wall.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Why would you as an individual waste that money? We need a quarter of a million wind turbines with kinetic energy and liquefied nitrogen storage. The US needs ten times that. China and India and Africa thirty times each. For a start. The world needs twenty million 10MW wind turbines and all the energy storage infrastructure to go with that. We're at 0.2% of that... 500 X more needed.

    Oil and gas and God forbid coal are far too cheap.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Exactly that. If I could afford to pay for the turbines and storage, I would. And some individuals absolutely can, but this is something that can only really be implemented at the state level. I can buy my leccy from a certified renewable source now, which is great, but the rest of the infrastructure I have to rely on outside of my home is unavoidably mired in carbon.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I would add that this is not a counsel of despair. The amount of energy falling on the Earth every day exceeds what we use by several orders of magnitude. We already have the tech to use that energy - but the legacy carbon industries are in the warp and weft of our societies and we need a whole new cloth.

    (Suburbs, for example, only really work with cars - cities, however, can do fine without them.)
  • ....or we need a new way of carrying energy around. Hydrogen cells charged using solar/wind energy, to power efffective public transport?

    The other thing that says in my mind is the sheer amount of greenhouse gasses generated by sewage farms, and how that could be reduced massively by using the effluent by generating electricity. It could combine human waste and the waste generated by indoor meat rearing. As I understand it, the chemistry is compelling, in terms of the mol for mol exchange of methane for carbon dioxide, but I'm sure one of our resident scientists will correct this impression if I'm wrong.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    The hydrogen economy will never happen. Not until we have wind power excess, which is not until 2200 and the rest. For public transport electric is the only option. We're transport junkies. Not beyond this century. And as Doc said, meat has to go.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    Burning shit down. If they outlaw legal protest then all protest is illegal.

    Then you said this:
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    I would add that this is not a counsel of despair. The amount of energy falling on the Earth every day exceeds what we use by several orders of magnitude. We already have the tech to use that energy - but the legacy carbon industries are in the warp and weft of our societies and we need a whole new cloth.

    (Suburbs, for example, only really work with cars - cities, however, can do fine without them.)
    You want to burn things down and them redesign suburbs. You're nothing if inconsistent.

    What is really required is that the over 40 year old people need to be outweighed by the young. The older crowd don't want changes.
  • There are lots of things that would be tinkering around the edges of the problem, which help a little but aren't really a solution. Yes, we could in theory extract methane from several sources where it currently only goes into the atmosphere - sewage plants, landfills, old coal mines, animal sheds etc. Or, we could use more hydrogen for transport, we could all put solar panels on our homes (well, those who own the roof anyway). All good things, which could have given us a bit more time if we'd done them 20-30 years ago.

    But, what we need is major structural changes that are going to need more than good intentions by individuals. We can change the fuel in cars, go all electric, but the problem isn't the fuel but the number of cars and how many miles we drive - even 100% green electricity to charge our cars has a carbon footprint, we've sacrificed a lot of ground that could be growing trees for roads and parking places. And, our governments have made thing worse by normalising private car ownership, investing vast sums in building roads, granting permission to build suburban housing and commercial units where a car is the only practical means of getting around, while not funding public transport to an adequate level - cycle route, buses, local trains, longer distance high-speed rail - all at affordable prices to take people of the road (and, out of the air).

    We could have been building affordable zero-carbon housing for 10-15 years. How much carbon would we have kept from the atmosphere if all houses built or significantly renovated in the last 10 years were zero-carbon or low carbon? But, the UK government decided not to force that into building regulations, putting maintaining high profits for housing developers above social needs (the number of loopholes that developers can exploit to avoid building social housing even after that's put into the planning permission for large developments is another example of profits above society).

    This whole-sale re-write of the rules of the political system, a system that puts the right of business to make large profits above the rights of society, isn't going to happen through normal political processes in the time we have left. Politicians were, largely, saying the right words 20 years ago but their actions didn't support them. Instead of asking what alternatives there were to flying we spent a fortune on just talking about expanding Heathrow - why don't we have affordable high speed rail such that it's cheaper and faster to get to major cities throughout western Europe by train than it is to fly? And, rail rather than trucks to carry our goods? Instead of asking what's the best affordable way to build housing with the smallest environmental impact, government set the targets as low as possible to maximise profits, both in the design (energy efficiency) but also location (green field rather than redeveloping brown field sites). Instead of seeking trade deals with far flung lands so that we can ship our goods half way round the world, and bring their goods back, why weren't we investing in local production of the goods needed without all those miles to transport them?
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited April 21
    My thinking about methane capture was that it was a sustainable fuel that tends to follow human population (for obvious reasons) and is not dependent on the weather. Also, methane is 24 times (?) more powerful than hydrogen as a greenhouse gas. This is why I see it filling a significant niche in our provision, as well as providing an alternative to petroleum-derived fertiliser, depending on the precise method used.

    ETA: I don't disagree about the political element for a second. In particular, the export of the incidental totalitarianism of corporations must be resisted far more effectively than it is at the moment. This, I believe, is what is making a mockery of democracy - well, that and not seeing reality when it is biting us on the arse.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    You want to burn things down and them redesign suburbs. You're nothing if inconsistent.
    Asserting that I'm inconsistent by posting two consistent comments leads me to believe you don't understand the argument.

    We need to force our politicians (potentially by burning shit down) to act rather than talk. We also need to either redesign the burbs to be communities (mixed use, with shops, work, schools etc within that community) and then connect those communities with mass transit systems, or just plough them over and plant trees on that land.
  • Convincing politicians won't work. They would have to make changes which would get them unelected. Like allowing the rich countries to be colonized by the global south, whose economies are organised to serve ours. And acceptance of national influence in the world commensurate with population not amount of money. Which arguably is the fruits of theft.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Convincing politicians won't work. They would have to make changes which would get them unelected. Like allowing the rich countries to be colonized by the global south, whose economies are organised to serve ours. And acceptance of national influence in the world commensurate with population not amount of money. Which arguably is the fruits of theft.

    Exactly. Only the EU technocracy and much more likely the Chinese one party communist dictatorship can divert resources undemocratically over more than a couple of election cycles.
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    How much pollution woud 'burning shit down' generate?
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I promise to cycle to the demo.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited April 22
    Arcologies. Fully self sufficient. 1,000 m high (100 levels) x 10,000 long x 100 deep for 100,000 people with 65 square kilometers of land, 10 of which under glass would feed everybody. With hexagonal close packing that's a million people in a thousand square kilometers. The UK could easily support a quarter of a billion people. Four times its current population. A billion no problem. 1%

    China could support 10, 30. Billion.
  • For a start XR could highlight that the latest "eco" nonsense in the UK is just that - nonsense: the government proposes that millions of gas central heating boilers (and other appliances) be ripped out and destroyed so that households can become all-electric, putting all their reliance on a power source whose largest source for generation is GAS. Someone really thought that one through.
  • How is it that fossil fuel (and others) companies can arrange to pay 0 tax? A simple web search will confirm. Zero or near zero. Ridiculous.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Links.
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