Here’s The Problem:
We’ve all heard it before - the Earth is getting hotter, CO2 levels are rising, and we are in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction (The Anthropocene). We are facing two equally critical issues - biodiversity loss and climate change. Both are having unprecedented dire consequences not only on us as humans, but on every living being and ecosystem on the planet. It is beyond a doubt that human activities are triggering these changes.
Biodiversity Loss & Mass Extinction
We are facing a loss of over 1 million species, directly due to humans’ way of life, extractive economies, and levels of consumption. The ‘father of biodiversity’ E.O. Wilson estimates we are losing 27,000 species a year, or one every 19 minutes - itself a conservative estimate with the United Nations own council on biodiversity putting it at 150 each day. Our planetary systems work together as part of a whole - when one part is affected, it can have a domino effect, having drastic implications for all parts of the whole. Deforestation is diminishing the earth’s ability to naturally store carbon; extraction of raw materials and agriculture are destroying natural spaces; diseases and invasive species are spreading through commercial routes; and overexploitation is leading many species to extinction.
As we continue to destroy the natural world - the Earth’s life support systems - we risk spillover of disease from wild species, leading to the continued possibility of more pandemics like Covid-19.
These activities cause pandemics by bringing more people into contact and conflict with animals, from which 70% of emerging human diseases originate...untold human suffering and halt economies and societies around the world. This is the human hand in pandemic emergence. Yet [Covid-19] may be only the beginning.
- The Guardian
Biodiversity loss affects so much more - our food systems, economic systems, resiliency in the face of extreme weather. From Aspirin to numerous cancer treatments, more than 50% of all medicines in active clinical use come from irreplaceable natural sources, with scientists believing countless more undiscovered medicines await us in biodiverse rich places like the Amazon and the jungles of East Asia. By destroying habitats, we destroy our own future.
Climate Change & CO2 Levels
Each of the past 4 decades has been hotter than the last, while the past 5 years alone have been the hottest ever recorded. Climate change is one of the most damaging effects of our industrialized society. In 2018, the top experts in their fields, the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on the systemic effects of 1.5°C on the planet.
1.5 degree doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? When we’re talking about the entirety of the planet, it’s quite a lot. Consequences of allowing us to go beyond 1.5°C would be disastrous on every level: islands and coastal cities disappearing because of rising sea levels, deadly extreme heat, droughts and shortages of food and water, forcing entire populations to flee their homes. It’s not hard to see that we have a serious problem on our hands. 1.5°C could be catastrophic - to our health, nature, the global economy, and our way of life.
We know that the concentration of warming greenhouse gas CO2 in our atmosphere has risen by a meteoric 45% since the Industrial Revolution, mainly as a result of human activities - burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, depriving the earth of a crucial “carbon sink” by clearing forests for livestock and food production, transportation systems, and industrial byproducts.
We must address both climate change and biodiversity simultaneously if we have any chance of averting disaster.
The Possibility of Transformation
We are standing on a precipice. We can acknowledge the truth of what we are facing, or we can continue to kick the can down the road and allow the effects of a heating planet to have even more detrimental outcomes on all living beings. We are already locked in to a certain amount of warming and biodiversity loss, but there is still time to change this story.
The IPCC report states that we need to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030 to avoid a rise of over 1.5C degrees, which would take a massive drawdown in carbon emissions, and drastic change in how we are living and interacting with the Earth.
But guess what? The rapid, mass mobilization of people and governments to Covid 19 shows us how quickly we can turn things around when required. The pandemic has shown us that a response in equal proportion to the problem, is both possible and necessary. We have the example; we have seen we can massively shift our behaviors and economic systems when required. Now is the time to acknowledge the facts of the Climate and Ecological Emergency, and apply the same thinking - mitigate and adapt to a future that is quickly barreling towards us. Build resilient systems, support the most vulnerable, shift to regenerative and distributive economies, and live within our ecological boundaries. We can shift the systems that have brought us to this point, because we have no other choice. We must reset our relationship with the Earth.
What Makes XR Different?
We are paving a different path. The world we want to live in requires a culture that is healthy, creative, resilient and adaptable. We are facing tough choices and so far, these catastrophes have been met with little effort from governments and institutions to change the trajectory we are on.
What actions have been taken by governments are clearly not enough when you truly grasp the enormity of what we are facing. The Paris Climate Accord should have spurred governments into drastic collective action. It hasn’t. We recognize our institutions are not taking this crisis seriously, and therefore we must shift the power back to the people to make the bold decisions needed through Participatory Democracy and Citizens’ Assemblies.
XR is Beyond Politics - we are not bound by political lines or cultural lines, just as the Climate and Ecological Emergency crosses those same lines. We do not back particular governments or particular political parties.
XR’s Third Demand is part of what makes us different - “Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” Citizens’ Assemblies around the world are tackling issues politicians are unwilling or afraid to touch. They are structured to help decide the solutions, and how we will collectively accomplish the systems adaptation needed to face the crisis, on the timeline the science tells us is necessary.
A Citizens’ Assembly brings together everyday people from all walks of life to investigate, discuss, and make recommendations on an issue. Members of the Assembly are selected in a lottery process to ensure they aren’t beholden to any political party or special interest, and to ensure they actually reflect the whole country. This means that anyone can look at a Citizens’ Assembly and see people who look like them, live like them, and share their concerns. With the aid of skilled facilitators, this representative group of everyday people works through information from a wide range of experts and stakeholders. They talk through different views and opinions and find common ground.
Citizens’ Assemblies are used around the world to address important issues that politicians are unwilling, or just plain afraid to touch. There are currently Citizens’ Assemblies on the Climate and Ecological Emergency taking place in France, the UK and Canada.
You are XR
Extinction Rebellion is made up of people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, cultures, and political affiliations - people like you, coming together to create a different story. We know the crisis we are facing, and we want to change the future. This fight is all of ours, and we all need to be willing to stand up for the truth and face it together.
Solving the climate and ecological crisis is by no means simple, and humans evolved to prioritize nearsighted benefits over long-term consequences. The climate and ecological crisis is the ultimate test of these opposing demands. It is a slow moving freight train, affecting some while others not at all, but eventually, this crisis will break down our fragile globalized economy and interconnected systems.
This is why we, as rebels, have come together to take action. We recognize the injustice - not just to the world’s poor, but to its unborn - that nearly half of global emissions are produced by less than 20% of its population.
For far too long, we have prioritized profits over nature, economic growth over people. It's time to rethink our systems, change the goal, and shift to regenerative cultures. Another world is possible. We are currently seeing entire economies overhauled and systems being rebuilt in front of our eyes. The old ways of relying solely on economic growth as an indicator of societal health are no longer an option. Now is the time to infuse our post Covid reconstruction with new systems. Systems based in equality, supporting our social foundation, within the planetary boundaries and ecological ceiling, and built to adapt to the resiliency needed to address the symptoms of the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
Non-violent Civil Disobedience
With over 1145 groups in 73 countries, we are already making a difference. XR has been credited for compelling legislation, pushing governments to take action, and shifting the public discourse on the climate and ecological crisis through our creative, artful, sustained, non-violent protests all over the world.We follow in the footsteps of many who have come before us. From India’s Independence Movement to Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement to the Arab Spring, history has shown us time and time again that nonviolent protest does work as a powerful means to bring about change.And yet, there are no guarantees. As rebels, we know that tomorrow’s reality is today’s concern. A world ravaged by climate change and biodiversity loss is one that will gravely affect us all.
We have no other choice. We rebel against the systems that got us here. We rebel for the future we want. We rebel because it is our responsibility to act. We have no more time to waste. Nothing is impossible - we can still write the story we want and we will. We as individuals can make a difference, collectively. We will do this together - transform the world, create lasting change and build a better future for all.
It always seems impossible until it’s done
- Nelson Mandela