Opinion | Extinction Rebellion are doing more harm than good

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By Cecil E. Khayat, First Year, Classics

Extinction Rebellion have a noble cause, but these methods of nuisance making and rabble rousing cannot and will not work.

If you go onto Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) website, you’ll find their self-description of being a movement that ‘uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction’. A noble cause, with a noble method. Reminiscent of both Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s struggles who, too, took up the mantle of change- and progressivism- using non-violence to have their revolution realised.

Therefore, it stands to reason that XR would, with such a paramount manifesto- saving the world from massive climate change and ostensibly the end of terrestrial life as we know it- be universal, accepted, and received by the educated public with open arms.

People performing at 'die in' at the Bristol Climate strike protest | Epigram / Sabrina Miller

Yet, it seems to me- and to many- that XR is less comparable to Dr. King and Gandhi, but a movement akin to Malcolm X and his various organisations- including the Nation of Islam (NOI). Malcom X struggled with the iniquities of mid- twentieth century America.

His ideas were that of accruing rights for him and others, that is something few can deny. Much like few can deny the importance of Climate Change activism. So, with great dread I lament the intensely haphazard way these seminal protests have taken shape.

It is tragic that XR have taken it upon themselves to alienate those who can affect change.

Malcolm X failed in his endeavours by alienating those who could effect change- as opposed to engaging in discourse with those with the authority to change the status quo. With the way in which XR have shut down bridges, caused nuisance to the Police Service, and most tragically uprooting the everyday lives of the man on the Clapham omnibus, the common Londoners who commute into the City every day, without malice aforethought have, too, done more harm to the cause of climate activism than they have done good. Perhaps worse, is that Extinction Rebellion beat the same drum about bringing ‘The Truth’ to the world. A truth universally acknowledged.

Therefore, it is even more tragic that XR have taken it upon themselves to alienate those who can affect change. Whether it be Dr. Bradbrook (Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion) being arrested atop the Environment Department, the same people who are charged with passing legislation to combat the ‘Climate Emergency’, or disenfranchising London and Home County voters who often hold the whip hand in marginal elections.

The failures of XR are perhaps exemplified by the fact they have erred on the wrong path to change. We should all remember the embarrassing stunt over the summer on The Mall when XR tried to stop the incoming Prime Minister from making his way to Buckingham palace. Where they were ushered away with great ease and without incident.

It clearly highlights how these methods of nuisance making and rabble rousing cannot and will not work. We again must think of the failed Treasury stunt. This farcical attempt to douse the Treasury with 1,800 gallons of faux blood left XR with something a little worse than just egg on their faces.

It is indeed a rather horrid thought to think that XR- who claim to be so pragmatic about climate activism- would antagonise the very people who can release funds for renewable energy research or subsidise cleaner forms of transport for the betterment of society. It was indeed the leader of this current Ministry that staunchly opposed Heathrow expansion, something that XR must surely oppose, too. Thus, I must beg the question, what has XR actually done but alienate and antagonise those who have the power to swing elections and those with the power to legislate? I can only think of their most embarrassing and ineffective stunts or their inability to work with Government to see positive action taken for the good of Humanity.

Whilst XR claim to be pragmatic, they antagonise the very people can release funds for renewable energy research

Furthermore, I must pose the question of, how dedicated are XR? Many of us will remember the devastating protests dubbed ‘des gilets jaunes’ which plagued France for what seemed to be every weekend for a year. ‘Des gilets jaunes’ were fired up with the same furore XR, just as radical and certainly as controversial. Their consistent disruption and guile did indeed cause Mr. Macron to cower and backtrack his new fuel taxes. Notwithstanding, this achievement was a momentary rush of accomplishment for a popular movement, yet they have fizzled to nothing due to lack of organisation and a dying participation.

Does the same fate await XR? Will they go out with a bang and get all for what they have demanded, or be reduced to a whimper like their French cousins? I wait with bated breath, but certainly won’t be standing alongside Dr. Bradbrook anytime soon- at the dock or any other place.


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AUTHOR

Cecil E. Khayat

Somewhat verbose classicist infatuated with all things antiquity, satorial, and political. I can often be found pouring over some quaint piece of literature or The Times. ό τού δεμου άνθρωπός.