Extinction Rebellion taking bold action


While Brexit negotiations in the UK have dominated Australian news headlines in the last week, there has been less attention given to preparations for Rebellion Day and how protests played out in London on 17 November. Rebellion Day has been organised by Extinction Rebellion: a grassroots organisation that is spearheading a campaign of mass direct action and peaceful civil disobedience aimed at forcing government to address climate change. The movement is rebelling not only against government inaction in the face of climate change, but against the existential threat to our own existence.

Climate protest in London, sign reading There is no Planet B (Garry Knight/Flickr)

The science of climate change is clear. According to the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have only just over a decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Beyond this, extreme weather events will increase and cause untold misery, poverty, and even death for millions of people. Globally, ecosystems including water sources and capacity for food production, will suffer if not collapse.

This is no dystopian, imaginary, future. Around the world, we are already feeling the effects of climate change. Species collapse, rising oceans, and the death of large swathes of ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef, are all evidence of a changing climate.

According to Professor Steve Turton, Australia is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Using climate modelling, he suggests that the tropics are expanding — likely as far south as Sydney and Perth. As a consequence, pests and diseases are already migrating into regions that were previously uninhabitable for them. This has huge implications for our food security — if nothing else.

As with other environmental disasters, climate change knows no geo-political boundaries. And yet the responses to climate change are highly political. One might think that they were tailored to maximise electoral prospects. However, as evidenced by the recent Wentworth by-election in Australia, the Australian government’s pro-coal policy agenda is at odds with electors’ priorities. The strangeness of a pro-coal and anti-renewable approach is perhaps explained by the capture of our politics by the mining industry through political donations.

In the face of the absence of political leadership on climate change, and the vested interests that seek to maintain the status quo through economic clout, Extinction Rebellion aims to upset the balance of power. Those concerned with short-term super profits will now be faced with the will of the masses. Ordinary people from all walks of life who are prepared to mark their commitment in displays of civil disobedience.

The Rebellion Day campaign commenced on 1 November in London when 1000 protesters held a rally in Parliament Square near Westminster. Fifteen were arrested, and released without charge. There have been public acts of peaceful action since then, including protesters gluing themselves to fencing around Downing Street, and blocking the streets.


"Extinction Rebellion is drawing on the long and proud tradition of peaceful civil disobedience to empower the collective to take action. Civil action is a response to disenfranchisement attendant on the closed shop of corporatized politics."


The movement is not secretive: it declares itself publicly, and openly. It announced in advance to police and emergency services that it would blockade five bridges in Central London on Rebellion Day: We are bold. We will not hide. We are all in open rebellion. On the day, thousands of people protested, carrying out their planned blockade. Dozens were arrested.

Western liberal democracies are in the thrall of financial interests with little evidence of values-systems to counteract a bald profit motive. Without values and in promotion of power for power’s sake, political systems are failing to meet the expectations of democratic engagement and the true purpose of government.

Against this background, Extinction Rebellion is drawing on the long and proud tradition of peaceful civil disobedience to empower the collective to take action. Civil action is a response to disenfranchisement attendant on the closed shop of corporatized politics.

The Extinction Rebellion is global, though we are yet to see the London scenes replicated in Australia. Governments across the country have attempted to stop resistance to the dominant coal agenda through criminalising protest and demonising environmentalism. It is unlikely, however, that such moves will stop the spread of Extinction Rebellion to Australia where there is growing alarm about the impact of climate change. The intransigence of governments around the country in the thrall of the professed economic benefits of coal means that we are unlikely to see political change in Australia without rising up.

This is not a partisan political matter. I believe we would all agree with the vision of Extinction Rebellion that we want:

'A world where we build thriving connections within our society and environment, bringing hope and enabling us to decide the direction of our lives and futures.'


Kate GallowayKate Galloway is a legal academic with an interest in social justice.


Main image: Climate protest in London, sign reading There is no Planet B (Garry Knight/Flickr)

Topic tags: Kate Galloway, Extinction rebellion, climate change, auspol



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Existing comments

It is good to see popular revulsion beginning to manifest against the greedy profit at all cost motivation of vested interests, whether they be the big banks or the mining industry. I have been observing the weather and recording changes in climate for over fifty years. The evidence for changes in our climate are now irrefutable . Here in the ACT we have noted bird species, which I recognise are native to tropical north east Queensland, coming to our bushlands in December from about five years ago. This year they have arrived in early November! We are seeing eucalypts dying back in our countryside from a combination of rising temperatures and declining rainfall. We are in another serious drought after just recovering from the millennium drought. It is time to seriously challenge the economic model which is destroying the planet!
Gavin O'Brien | 21 November 2018

"... we are unlikely to see political change in Australia without rising up". Historically, the great political changes that advanced the world were born in revolution. Apart from the 13 minute conflagration at Eureka Stockade, Australia has never had its national revolution. Perhaps we are on the brink. Unfortunately, none of the world changing revolutions have been peaceful. Are we destined to eventually face our own civil war? With the intransigence of politicians, vested interest and business profits and if history from which we never learn is any guide, I fear that one day only armed revolution will win out for change. Sad in the extreme. Perhaps a benign dictator is needed. However, even the benign dictators can eventually be corrupted.
john frawley | 21 November 2018

Dear Kate This latest IPCC report has quite a number of 'maybes' and 'perhaps' so there is no need to join the alarmists. When Wentworth electors demand 'action on climate change' that means more government subsidies for the trendy 'green' companies that they have in invited in!
Gerard Tonks | 21 November 2018

Well written Kate Galloway. Thank you for a clear, informative, and timely article. Kenyan Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathi asked us to consider everything we do in terms of two basic realities: we have one planet and we are one people. As with 'Extinction Rebellion' she stood against the delusion that we will colonise other planets and against the ignorance that says human life is about grabbing all you can, at any cost. Yet WATIC (Western Aggressive Techno-Industrial Commerce) is becoming a default position everywhere. It's like an enormous, self-replicating, mechanized monster. Scientific facts and reason alone are not slowing it down one bit. It has a 'life' of its own! So, NOW is definitely the time for people who love our planet and love other human-beings to protest in every way possible. Somehow, we have to put that planet-ruining machine into reverse gear.
Dr Marty Rice | 21 November 2018

Dear Gerard Tonks: please have a glance at a summary of some nice correlating, very widely based research that was, serendipitously, published today: https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/the-467-hazards-of-climate-change How say you? All the best from Marty.
Dr Marty Rice | 22 November 2018

Kate your rallying vision, 'A world where we build thriving connections within our society and environment, bringing hope and enabling us to decide the direction of our lives and futures’, sounds like naive claptrap. How are you deciding the direction of coal fired energy generation in China? China is reportedly developing new coal power capacity equivalent to the entire power fleet of US. Where exactly are you running your blockades/disruption? To Dr Marty Rice, I, like many other vilified climate fatigued head-scratchers, have many questions: Ín the absence of human activity is global climate warming or cooling ? Was the world’s climate not in transition from cold to warm and back for at least three quarters of the past 780,000 years? What were the causes? I have no idea whether the author, Brian Fagan is an ‘in or out of favour’ commentator. I read some of his books before ‘climate change’ became the industry it now is. In a recent book, ‘The Great Warming’ I believe he says that, ‘From the 10th to 15th centuries the earth experienced a rise in surface temperature that changed climate worldwide’. Surely not! The people who Kate proposes punishing weren’t even around then.
bb | 25 November 2018

Dear 'bb', for the sake of balance why not check-out an excellent summary of world-wide data on the substantial impacts: https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/the-467-hazards-of-climate-change How say you now?
Dr Marty Rice | 26 November 2018

Dear Dr Marty, Thanks for the reference. I’ll make an effort to put aside time to consult cosmosmagazine as you recommend. I have no doubt that the climate is changing and that there are hazards, my point was, has it not been ever thus? When you say, ‘for the sake of balance’ I am taking you at your word that cosmosmagazine represents the full spectrum of views. I confess to being sceptical. I read Eureka Magazine (always a depressing experience) and I occasionally comment ‘respectfully’. As I scan across the array of Eureka Street magazine articles, I don’t sense Eureka Street is particularly balanced or respectful. Who is the cartoon depicting ‘more sexism! More homophobia! More climate denial!’ in relation to the Victorian elections? Someone whose viewpoint the left can't stand. I think back on someone like Margaret Court who had been a patron of a government school academy and who was rubbed out of that position because of her views on same-sex marriage. I have no doubt about which side of these debates represent the bullies. Anyhow I accept your word that cosmosmagazine is a balanced source. Thank You
bb | 27 November 2018

Thanks 'bb'. It wasn't so much 'Cosmos' scientific news magazine but the senior scientists' work they cited, from the very eminent journal 'Nature'. For example, lead scientific author Camillo Mora of The University of Hawaii, USA: “Greenhouse gas emissions pose a broad threat to humanity by simultaneously intensifying many hazards that have proven harmful in the past." To deny the harmful effects of our addiction to WATIC (Western Aggressive Techno-Industrial Commerce) is like an ice-addict denying any causative connection with their harmful behaviours. Maybe - like a rehabilitating ice addict - we will need to (collectively) admit the professional evidence, then dig deep and make a truly whole-hearted effort to change. I agree, some changes will painful; but, to hand-on a viable planet Earth to our children and grandchildren should surely be a more than sufficient incentive? Blessings from Marty.
Dr Marty Rice | 28 November 2018

Viva le revolution!! Peaceful of course - just as Christ's revolution was!
john frawley | 29 November 2018

Good point Dr John Frawley! Maybe one could add that Jesus of Nazareth, the Cosmic Christ, through whom and for whom and by whom this vast cosmos exists, actually revealed that the world as we accept it is a revolution against pre-existent godliness. Christ's way is the eternal way of everlasting love and peace and justice and respect and sharing and forgiveness through obedience to God. Aren't Christians actually calling to the world: "STOP YOUR UNGODLY REBELLION!" In that case, 'Extinction Rebellion' is actually a revolution against the world's rebellion against God; Light exposing darkness; or so I've concluded. Blessings from Marty
Dr Marty Rice | 01 December 2018

STOP PRESS Sir David Attenborough has warned that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and could lead to the collapse of civilisations. The stark message was issued to world leaders at United Nations climate talks in Katowice, Poland, who were urged to take action to drive down greenhouse gas emissions. Sir David said the world was facing its "greatest threat in thousands of years” and that time was running out. He warned: “If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. "The world's people have spoken, their message is clear, time is running out, they want you, the decision-makers, to act now. "They're supporting you in making tough decisions but they're also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives." The UN has launched an "ActNow.bot" which helps people discover simple everyday actions they can take to tackle climate change. Sir David said: "The people have spoken: leaders of the world, you must lead, the continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend are in your hands."
Dr Marty Rice | 04 December 2018

Eileen Crist's penetrating analysis of progressive anthropocentric ruin of our planet has been well summarised in Cosmos magazine: https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/will-arrogance-lead-to-our-own-extinction
Dr Marty Rice | 15 December 2018

It is FAR too late to "organize". If we are to survive, it shall be due a sudden awakening wherein ALL instantaneously realize "we" MUST store all personal vehicles. Of course, our infection by "The Madness of Greed" prevents such. As stated in the poem "Life's Dusty Passing" 1985, as found in "Mankind / ManCruel", our non-stop demands for more have doomed us. Period. Indeed the message "Stop Your Engines" first posited in 2010, came 25 years too late. Its plain & simple. We are doomed & face extinction by 2026.
Daniel Lavigne | 10 January 2019

Thank you for this extremely important article Kate. I think Extinction Rebellion action is becoming very necessary as many nations are led by conservative politicians who do not accept that the pollution that has been created is causing many problems. Climate is considered by many to be the major issue, but there are other issues as well. Much pollution that has been created is also poisoning the planet and the living things on it. Already, millions of people around the world are suffering from pollution-related diseases. These include heavy metal poisoning, many types of cancer, respiratory diseases, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), etc. According to a Cornell University study, about 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by environmental pollution (including water, air, and soil pollution). Our politicians have allowed the large chemical corporations to produce huge numbers of chemicals that are spread far and wide. Basically, they have been given a "carte blanche" to pollute the planet at will. This has led to diseases not only amongst humans , but other life forms in the web of life in which we live. Bee populations are under threat and this will have a disastrous effect on food production. Then we see the problems with plastics and other forms of packaging. Plastics are having a disastrous effect on our waterways causing a great threat to many bird and marine animal species. We need legislation to ban widespread spraying of chemicals and the production of non-recyclable . containers, home owners and manufacturers to keep hazard registers that list all dangerous substances on their premises, more effective recycling etc. In addition we need centres where dangerous chemicals and agents can be effectively stored. There is certainly no Planet B and we have to effectively care for the one we have. We have to put the needs of people and the environment before the profits of a few.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 29 April 2019


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