Extinction Rebellion: a radical climate action group committed to ending the fossil fuel era

Activists from the Extinction Rebellion glued and chained themselves to a car as part of a protest in central London on April 16, 2022. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Extinction Rebellion, the U.K.-based organization that pioneered disruptive climate change protests such as sit-ins at major London traffic circles, has made a New Year’s resolution to give up such tactics and focus instead on increasing support for the climate movement.

In a Dec. 31, 2022, statement on its website, the group acknowledged that despite garnering media attention for high-profile protests — including blockading five bridges on the River Thames in central London in November 2018 — its efforts have not led to a significant change in the trajectory of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

“When XR burst onto the scene four years ago, few could have imagined the seismic shift it would bring about in the climate movement, the climate conversation, and the world at large,” the group wrote, referring to itself by the nickname XR. “But despite the blaring alarm on the climate and ecological emergency ringing loud and clear, very little has changed. Emissions continue to rise and our planet is dying at an accelerated rate.”

Police officers try to remove Etienne Stott, a former Olympian, and other activists from Extinction Rebellion who occupied an oil tanker during a protest.
Police officers try to remove activists from Extinction Rebellion who occupied an oil tanker during a protest in London on April 16, 2022, calling for an end to fossil fuels. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

The group has concluded that a new strategy is needed, one that it hopes will encourage a broader swath of the public to engage in activism for action to address climate change.

“As we ring in the new year, we make a controversial resolution to temporarily shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic,” the statement from XR said. “We recognize and celebrate the power of disruption to raise the alarm and believe that constantly evolving tactics is a necessary approach. What’s needed now most is to disrupt the abuse of power and imbalance, to bring about a transition to a fair society that works together to end the fossil fuel era.”

The group cast the pivot as a “radical” approach, rather than a turn toward moderation.

We must be radical in our response to this crisis and determined in our efforts to address the climate and ecological emergency, even if it means taking a different approach than before. In a time when speaking out and taking action are criminalised, building collective power, strengthening in number and thriving through bridge-building is a radical act.”

Extinction Rebellion

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