Extinction Rebellion 2019, a year to remember

Monday, December 30, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion

year in review

  • Two international rebellions, hundreds of actions of peaceful civil disobedience around the world
  • Establishment of over 800 chapters in more than 70 countries
  • Over 20 national climate emergency declarations, hundreds at a local level, one at a continental level (European Union)
  • Number 1 influencer during the UN’s COP25 – a pile of shit from whence the sweetest roses will grow

December 31st, 2019, (Planet Earth) - When a group of ordinary citizens, inspired by scientists, agreed to set-out on an outrageous idea with great expectations back in April 2018, never could they have imagined the impact their experiment would have across our planet. Gravely aware of how society has failed to cope with the worst existential crisis humanity has ever collectively faced, the notion was to finally take charge in an issue negligently ignored by the governments of the world, by creating the largest climate related civil disobedience movement in history. As 2019 draws to a close, Extinction Rebellion (XR) pauses to look back on some of the year’s milestones.

The global movement defined by its nonviolent civil disobedience continues to revolve around three basic demands, adapted to local realities:

  1. Tell The Truth
    Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Act Now
    Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Beyond Politics
    Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

To disseminate and deliver their demands, XR organized two international rebellions, in April and in October. The April rebellion took London by storm, breaking through citizen’s indifference, as rebels came out to celebrate life in the heart of the British capital for two solid weeks. XR groups made their global debut in Buenos Aires, Paris, Buenos Aires and Sydney, to name a few places. Actions resulted in thousands of arrests, generated economic losses in the millions and even moved the British Parliament to declare a climate emergency - the first legislative body in the world to do so.

Extinction Rebellion had single handedly shifted the conversation and forced the world to talk about the climate and ecological emergency. The rest is history, as the rebellion spread to the farthest shores. From France to Germany, South Africa, Ghana, India, New Zealand to Chile, XR’s stylized hourglass, flew over Earth’s most unexpected corners, with the exception of a single continent: Antarctica. For now. Day by day, rebels around the planet wove alliances, be it with established environmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, or new movements like Fridays for Future. Crucially though, it reaches out to diverse sectors of civil society and especially, to people. “The climate and ecological emergency knows no borders,” explains 23 year-old Dutch student Pippi Van Ommen, "if the sea level rises up by two meters, my hometown, and much of my country will not survive. I was not an activist before. I heard about Extinction Rebellion through Instagram and now I dedicate all my time, despite having had to hand in my thesis over Christmas. XR is not right or left. It represents all social sectors and age groups, there is no hierarchy and everyone is welcome."

One of the most iconic images was a call to “Rebel for Life”, emblazoned across pink and yellow ships, moored across the world’s major cities, in the middle of the street. “We are all in the same boat” is the message it embodies, launching it into the public’s and rebels’ imaginations alike, as it rides the cusp of the global Climate Spring’s wave. Described by CNN as “the world's most high-profile environmental movement,” Extinction Rebellion is different. It is radically different, being a movement of engineers, doctors, unemployed, retired, students, scientists, journalists ... in short, it is a movement of ordinary, or rather, extraordinary, normal, humans.

"XR uses civil disobedience to shake consciences in the face of the climate crisis. It is a group bursting with energy. It appeals to emotions. To a vision of a destroyed future if we don't act," explains Egbert Born, a 53-year-old poet from Amsterdam. Adelheid Lüchtrath, a 67-year-old German doctor, summarizes her year explaining how she had “never been arrested, nor fined, but would be willing to spend time in jail, if it helps the climate struggle. I’ve been fighting climate change for 40 years because politicians have done nothing. They do not want to react."

Across the world, XR has met with politicians and governments. A grandmother who went on hunger strike in November in protest at climate change met with Irish Environment minister, Richard Bruton. In Spain, XR met with Ecological Transition minister, Teresa Ribera, as well as with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, while Sweden’s environment minister agreed to meet with Swedish hunger strikers. In the United States hunger strikers occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol office.

During COP25, the UN’s 25th yearly climate summit, the movement has cemented its reputation as a serious player at the political table. Despite a last-minute shift to Madrid from Santiago de Chile following social unrest, the global movement made itself felt. Inside, co-founder Skeena Rathor and UK coordinator Tim Crosland met with the presidency and looked towards COP26 in Glasgow, highlighting the need for authentic cooperation and unity in the face of adversity. Outside, XR’s Rebels without Borders, from over 20 countries, manifested through civil disobedience (and discobedience) their outrage every day, culminating with a pile of horse manure delivered to the UN climate summit’s door step. The message attached read: “Dear Leaders…The Horseshit stops here.” A few days later social media analytics company, Onolytica, ranked XR as COP 25’s number one influencer.

Despite all this, emissions continue to rise and the COP25 Christmas pantomime proved hopelessly inadequate at setting any significant change in motion, kicking the can down the road to COP26 in Glasgow. Where Extinction Rebellion will most certainly be in attendance.

For all of us at XR, 2019 has represented the year in which we delivered a cosmic climate and ecological wake-up call. We will continue to Rebel for Life, bringing our compassionate revolution to every last continent. Time is running out and Extinction Rebellion will remain at the frontlines of the planetary emergency, an engine of change in a withering world. In 2020, the whole world will join the party.

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