Without a massive mobilisation to address the climate crisis, our civilisation will collapse. That was the stark message delivered to policymakers this month in an article by an international team of scientists.
Policymakers also know, thanks to a UN global climate poll that surveyed over a million people in 50 countries, that two-thirds of humanity think we are in a global emergency and want action.
Yet the policies to pull us out of this emergency and save our civilisation are not materialising. Our politicians seem to be incapable or unwilling to heed the warnings of scientists and follow the will of the people. Our current political systems are failing us.
Photo: The Guardian
That’s why XR’s 3rd demand is such a vital one. Citizens’ assemblies are a proven way for ordinary people, informed by experts, to break political deadlocks and have their recommendations turned into policy. And that’s why this Newsletter is dedicated to them.
In Action Highlights we take a look at America’s first citizen climate assembly, which has just started in Washington state. If you’re not sure what a citizens’ assembly is, want to pressure your local authority to start one, or are thinking of running your own, then Must Reads has the resources for you.
The activists trekking across Africa to save Okavango. Photo: First Peoples Southern Africa
Elsewhere in this issue we celebrate the extreme disobedience of the tunnel-diggers of Stop HS2 - their cause named after the high cost, high carbon, high speed railway that’s devastating English woodland. We also cover an epic walk to stop the scandalous plunder of the Okavango basin by Recon Oil.
The Book of the Month section has been infused with your recommendations (thanks for all of them - and keep them coming!) Lastly, this issue marks the return of Humans of XR. If you know (or are) a rebel somewhere in the world with a story to tell, get in touch at email@example.com
If you’d like to see previous newsletter issues, you can find them here.
We are in a crucial phase of human history, and our Rebellion needs money to make our message heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.
- Action Highlights
- Action Round Up
- Upcoming Actions
- Must Reads
- Book of the Month
- Humans of XR
Sortition in Seattle: 1st US Climate Assembly Begins
JAN | Washington State, USA
What do you get when you bring together climate activists, a local XR group, indigenous peoples, 5 key legislators, crowd-funding, climate experts and several organisations? The Washington Climate Assembly (WACA)!
Inspired by XR's 3rd Demand, this is the first Climate Assembly to take place in the US, and it is hoped that WACA will provide the blueprint for many more across America and the world.
WACA has flourished thanks to an open-arm approach to other movements. Organisers have reached out to a range of local activist groups as well as politicians on both sides of the political aisle, and rebels from XR Seattle now work on the project full time.
WACA is taking place online due to Covid. Think of this as a symbolic image.
WACA has been crowd-funded by local activists rather than commissioned by the state government. While politicians persist in sidelining the Climate Emergency, WACA shows what can be achieved by organised citizens pooling their resources.
Members of citizens’ assemblies are chosen through sortition - a technical term for random selection - which ensures they are representative of the whole community. However participation is not mandatory, and people who receive an invitation may have good reason not to attend. With so many communities' fire-fighting Covid, and black and indigenous groups being particularly affected, organisers decided to delay WACA by 3 months to ensure widespread participation. Assembly recommendations will now be finalised in March.
An Earth Day Livestream on organising the Climate Assembly
The 80 citizens selected for WACA have just completed learning sessions informed by the latest data from climate experts, and are about to enter the deliberation phase. This is where they will debate what they have learnt and form their recommendations. So far the response from the assembly has been positive, with many enthused by what they are learning and happy that their voice is being heard.
Meanwhile, WACA organisers like The People's Voice on Climate are busy mobilising support from as many groups, communities, and politicians as possible to ensure that WACA’s recommendations lead to direct changes in the law.
Their main hope is that WACA will prove that the climate assembly model works, and put it on the map for others to replicate. They are already in talks with XR New York, whose own campaign for a climate assembly is well underway - their brilliant citizens’ assembly handbook was recently delivered to New York City Council and can be found in Must Reads.
Okavango Delta: The 930 Mile Walk for Justice
FEB 1 | Southern Africa
Photo: First Peoples Southern Africa
In our last issue we reported how Canadian oil firm ReconAfrica obtained drilling rights in the nature reserves of the Okavango Basin that spans Namibia and Botswana, and how a protest movement was forming against it.
Now an indigenous-led group of ten people, mainly from the local Khoe and San communities, have begun a 930 mile walk across South Africa to the Namibian embassy in Capetown, where they are going to deliver a petition and formal objection against the drilling.
The walkers are covering an ambitious 60 km per day, with some choosing to go barefoot. On the way they are informing locals about the drilling and collecting signatures against it.
The walk was organised by First Peoples Southern Africa along with other groups, and is being covered by XR in an ongoing series of live stream interviews with experts and community leaders.
The ReconAfrica drilling site. Photo: Frack Free Namibia & Botswana
Namibian activists fear the situation will play out just like Shell’s ruinous plundering of the Niger Delta, and their concerns seem more than justified. ReconAfrica began drilling its first test well in January with a multi-million dollar rig from Texas and a local activist press release revealed that a pond for wastewater from the drilling doesn’t appear to have a water-proof lining.
Without proper lining, the toxic wastewater can leach into the groundwater - endangering local wildlife, crops and people. In an in-depth report by National Geographic (which triggered ReconAfrica to threaten legal action) the oil company was criticized for not physically assessing the environment and relying on paperwork to plan the drilling.
Tunnel Vision: Anti-HS2 Activists Go Underground
JAN | London, UK
An anti-HS2 tunneler slinks back into the tunnels after bailiffs spend 25 hours cutting through his armlock. Photo: Boots On The Ground News
Dug under the cover of night over several months, 9 activists finally settled into a series of underground tunnels in the early morning of 27 January when bailiffs stormed their camp.
The tunnels stretched upto 30 meters long and ran under a garden forecourt of Euston Station, one of London’s busiest train stations. Their purpose was to block the construction of HS2, a high-speed railway linking London to cities in the north of the UK.
The UK government claimed HS2 would be a climate-friendly jewel in its transport crown, but according to its own calculations, it will never achieve carbon neutrality, and only 5% of its passengers would have driven or flown instead.
On top of that, its construction will destroy 5 internationally protected wildlife areas, 108 ancient woodlands, 33 sites of special scientific interest, and 693 local wildlife sites. It will also cost £100 billion in public money. All that just to slice a few minutes off the morning commute.
An evictor confronts a tree protector. Photo: Joshua Windsor
The tunnels were dug by members of a tree-protector camp which has occupied the gardens outside Euston station since the end of the UK’s September Rebellion. The Euston Square camp happens to face the head office of HS2 Ltd, and over the months has become a regenerative community, welcoming the homeless people who shelter around the station. It’s just one of a number of camps along the proposed HS2 route which together represent the Stop HS2 campaign.
While some of the tunnel dwellers are seasoned architects, most are still teenagers. They have supplies to ‘last months’, are strong in spirit, and are not ‘planning to go anytime soon’. While acknowledging the inherent risk of such an action, they add that health and safety has been at the centre of their decisions, of which the same cannot be said for the bailiffs of the National Eviction Team (NET).
The activists have warned that NET attempts to remove them could cause a major collapse of the tunnels, but a high court judge recently rejected their concerns. Confined space rescue specialists have been denied access to the site, while HS2 Ltd has got gagging orders on hundreds of companies, of which NET is one.
Extinction Rebellion UK has expressed solidarity with the HS2 tunnelers. A few days into the underground occupation, 4 rebels climbed onto the roof of the HS2 offices for a banner drop.
Rebels unfurl a banner in solidarity with the Euston tunnelers. Photo: Joshua Windsor
Action Round Up
31 JAN | Sri Lanka: Rebels joined other eco-activists to clean up Bellanwilla-Attidiya Wildlife Sanctuary. The wetlands are home to many endemic species and play a major role in controlling floods in the capital Colombo, but are threatened by pollution and illegal encroachment.
The 59 bags of collected waste were recycled or sent for co-processing. Sri Lankan rebels will repeat the clean up every month until the wetlands are entirely free from waste.
JAN | India: Farmers continue to mass protest against government reforms. One farmer died after violent clashes with police and journalists have been arrested Photo: Manish Swarup/AP
Global Money Rebellion
Top left to bottom right: Hungary, Denmark, UK, USA
Left to right: Sweden, Norway, France
29 JAN | Various: Money Rebellion launched its first global action with flyers and stickers appearing overnight on dirty banks across Europe and the US. Find out more about Money Rebellion in our December Newsletter.
Once again we have too many actions for one newsletter. Have a read of XR Unchained for all those beautiful and courageous actions we couldn’t quite fit in this issue.
Norway: Stop Suppressing Climate Activism!
4 MARCH | Norwegian Embassies worldwide
XR Norway is calling for rebels to stand in solidarity with the 53 Norweigan rebels who are standing trial for blockading the country’s Oil and Energy Ministry last year.
On 4 March XR Norway will hold a non-violent action at the Ministry of Justice in Oslo.
XR Norway asks rebels around the world to assemble peacefully on the same day outside Norwegian embassies and consulates with the message “To the Oil State of Norway: Stop Suppressing Climate Activism!” and “Erna Solberg: We See the Hypocrisy” (Erna Solberg has been prime minister of Norway since 2013).
Global Scientist Rebellion: 4 Days of Direct Action
25 - 28 MARCH | Worldwide
Scientist Rebellion is asking academics and scientists around the world to go beyond giving warnings that fall on deaf ears. Act as if the truth is real and join us for 4 days of direct action.
We will paste scientific papers to buildings in small, socially distanced groups.
We will go on 1-3 day hunger strikes if we cannot risk arrest / leave the house but are in good health.
We will provide materials for educational disobedience so planned learning can be replaced by lessons on the climate crisis.
Sign up and help make this the largest-ever mobilisation of scientists in direct action.
Rebellion Of One
27 MARCH | Global
Coming out of this pandemic will be our last, best chance to remake the world, yet governments around the world are throwing it away. It’s terrifying.
We need to do something … in March, we will.
Join Rebellion of One and be part of XR’s first international mass civil disobedience of 2021.
Rebellion Of One is a brand new tactic: a single-person roadblock... times 1,000. Each rebel wears a sign with a simple and emotive message. They sit in the road alone until they choose to move or are moved. But they have an incognito support team hiding in plain sight nearby.
A programme of special training materials has been assembled to help people prepare for the action. We will not be bystanders while the world burns.
Letters to the Earth: Book Launch Live Stream
18 FEB | 18:00 - 19:30 GMT | Online
Two years ago, we issued a global callout for letters in response to the climate and ecological emergency. We collected them into a book called Letters to the Earth.
Join award winning authors, activists, and academics as they read out their letters for the live paperback book launch, with the invitation again for everyone to write and share their letters.
Guests include Booker Prize winning poet, Ben Okri; award-winning novelist, Anna Hope; environmental lawyer, Farhana Yamin; Earth Systems Analysis expert, Professor Stefan Rhamstorf; and climate justice essayist, Mary Annaïse Heglar.
XR COP: Join Our Informal Global Conversations
20 FEB - 3 MARCH | Online
XRCOP invites you to an informal global conversation. Each conversation will be between 8 rebels from 2 very different areas.
XRCOP will suggest discussion topics, collate responses into a global statement, and share that statement with you all. Conversations will take place between February 20th & March 3rd.
XR Media Training: Learn to Live Stream
23 FEB | 18:30 - 20:30 UTC | Online
Find out how to live stream for XR in this free 2 hour broadcasting skills training.
You will learn technical skills needed when live-streaming from your mobile phone, practical skills in how to interview and speak on camera, what to do when a live stream goes wrong, how to use VMIX software to live stream from multiple phones in multiple locations.
Featuring guest contributor - photographer Gareth Morris on how to take good photos on your phone and upload to the XR server.
This event is open to all but there is a 100 person cap on zoom so please confirm your attendance. This training will be recorded for sharing after and will be repeated.
Join on Zoom (Meeting ID: 871 9462 5935 Passcode: LS)
Photo: UK Parliament
Not sure what a Citizens’ Assembly is? Want to pressure your local authority to start one? Maybe you’re thinking of running your own! Whatever your citizens’ assembly quandary, this month’s Must Reads has the resources for you.
XR NYC: Trust the People: The Case for a Citywide Citizens’ Assembly on Climate
A brilliant handbook written by rebels to convince New York City Council to establish a Citizens’ Assembly. Accessible, concise, yet complete - this is what smart advocacy looks like. XR NYC also collated this excellent list of Citizens’ Assembly resources.
Citizens’ Assemblies: Guide To Democracy That Works
A detailed and comprehensive step by step guide on how to set up a citizens’ assembly. Written by Marcin Gewin, a specialist in the field. Available to download in 6 languages.
XR Global Blog: XR Fundamentals: Go Beyond Politics
A primer article on what Citizens’ Assemblies are, how they’re run, and where they’ve worked.
XR Podcast: Citizens’ Assemblies: Your Questions Answered
XR UK’s Citizens’ Assembly Working Group explain what exactly the 3rd Demand means and answer detailed questions that rebels have been asking about citizens’ assemblies.
Global Assembly: Launching a Global Citizens' Assembly
A global citizens’ assembly is being planned to inform COP26 and anyone on Earth can be a part of it. Watch the launch video, learn more about the ambitious project, and get involved
Book of the Month
Last month we asked you to recommend your favorite climate-related books and you responded with so much great material we will need multiple newsletters to cover them all. But the book this month is an easy choice - so many of you recommended the same one!
A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough.
A Life on Our Planet, the companion book to the documentary of the same name, is half Attenborough’s personal experience as a witness of decades of environmental disaster, half his recommendations for healing and rewilding the planet. It’s an inspiring plea for change from one of the most respected environmental educators around - a plea by one of the world’s most beloved humans for the imperiled planet he so clearly loves.
Here are a few other books recommended by readers...
The Overstory by Richard Powers.
A brilliant novel exploring the lives of people transformed, in one way or another, by trees. Though fiction, it’s meticulously researched - the politics, activism, and science are all real.
"My favourite read in a very long time" (Sarah)
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
A lovely memoir exploring the author’s use of both science and her Potawatomie cultural heritage to understand plants. "It’s bloody awesome!" (Nick)
Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter.
A children’s picture-book about Greta Thunberg and her powerful message. Adults can read it, too, of course. "Very moving, not only about the climate crisis, but also about a family which struggles everyday to help their children come to terms with a world with insane values" (David)
Humans of XR: annette, Uganda
I volunteer as an XR regional liaison for Africa alongside another rebel from Gambia. We help local XR groups in Africa get support and put them on the map of the global movement.
I was working with Universal Versatile Society to raise awareness about Indian farmers committing suicide due to failed harvests linked to climate change, when I came across the global XR website. I joined in February 2019 with deeper expectations of saving the planet and its species from getting EXTINCT like the farmers who were committing suicide.
It is too difficult for some rebels to participate unless they are being given enough financial support, especially taking into account the political environment. I am heavily involved in the Save Bugoma Forest campaign and helped organise the recent COVID awareness campaign. We are currently planning another visit to women and children affected by floods in Kasese.
What I found hard was encountering some rebels who do not know anything about the African continent but have biased attitudes towards us Africans, maybe with motives of silently practicing colonialism. It's challenging, but following our principles and values, we still work together to achieve our main purpose.
Another challenge are the natural calamities due to progressing climate change in the region - like the regular landslides near Mount Elgon, locusts destroying farmer’s crops and, of course, hunger due to seasonal crop failure.
An unexpected aspect of my work with XR was to see African rebels come together to help a rebel from Zambia who was stuck in a flooded home. We reached out online to the authorities in the neighbouring country of South Africa to quickly have the rebel rescued. The success of the Save Nairobi National park campaign was unexpected as well.
I cannot post my deeper thoughts about Uganda freely. In my activism, I avoid any direct political actions and restrict my participation and advocacy to creating awareness of the ecological and social challenges posed by climate change.
A letter from Konstantin Fokin, a Russian rebel currently on hunger strike in a Moscow prison.
Thank you for reading, rebel. And keep up the good work! If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Get in touch here.
We are in a crucial phase of human history, and our movement needs money to make our message heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.