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The Rebels’ Offer: The Action or the Path to Action

Ernst-Jan Kuiper, activist, scientist and geologist, and Lennart Tiller, activist and former student at the University College of Amsterdam were interviewed by Room for Discussion on November 26th 2019. The representatives of Extinction Rebellion(XR) met when arrested in a protest against climate change, a common enemy.

Room for Discussion addressed the feasibility of XR’s demands and rebels protest as a form of activism.

First demand: Declaring climate emergency and governments telling the truth

For extinction Rebellion the truth is abstract, due to the uncertainty in science, especially in climate science arisen from the global representatives. The academia plots alarming fact. For example, the case of the Paris Climate Agreement, where it is hoped to keep a global temperature rise below two degree Celsius, preferably close to 1.5.  Almost all countries have signed it. Sat ambitions would not be sufficient even if governments stick to the accord. The planet still will warm up between 3 and 5 degrees, according to Kuiper. Furthermore, he pointed out that the established 2 degree Celsius is a political threshold. Nonetheless, for them, the problem lies in the way the government addresses this climate crisis.  Politicians downgrade the extent of the crisis and pretend as it is under control.

In 2019, the United Nations, the most important intergovernmental organization,  declared Climate Change Emergency. Then, is ‘telling the truth goal’ being achieved? Tiller explained that this demand becomes a precondition towards the action. The Rebels hope an active practice of telling the truth from governments despite the unpredictable attitude of politicians.

In the last three decades, governments have done nothing to tackle climate change, according to Ernst-Jan Kuiper. This is where the third demand takes place, the creation of the Citizen’s Assembly.

Second demand: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025 

The feasibility of the demand in the current capitalist system is questioned. According to the Rebel scientist, within the contemporary political-economic system it is not possible. To give an insight into the impossibility, Shell is planning to increase its production by around 40% during the next decade, he said. Furthermore, Lennart Tiller indicates the position of Extinction Rebellion. The movement offers political and economic change as a starting point, but they don’t propose concrete solutions to the matter. He highlighted that nothing is more crucial than transforming society and making it more sustainable.

Some governments have taken action to reduce emissions. An example is the carbon tax in Germany. The representatives of the movement clarify these actions as insufficient, but part of the solution.

The OECD reported the high capacity of developed nations to address the situation, relative to developing ones. Taking action in regard to emissions may seem unfair considering the historical growth path of developed and developing economies. Why should less developed countries give up a rapid ‘growth’ when industrialized countries did not take into account climate change before? Extinction Rebellion appears unconnected with other branches globally with respect to developing economies polluting.

Third demand: Establishing citizen’s Assemblies

The rebels name themselves as an apolitical movement but, present a political agenda. The climate issue needs all the attention possible to make things change. In the status quo, the ones with power are the governments and politicians, according to them.

The ideal state would be having these assemblies enabling more democratic processes, they said. A citizen’s assembly would be a random sample of an affected population. Next, an expert would deliver an environment-related issue. The sample would come up with possible solutions and provide recommendations to the government. This would mean to give power to the people. However, if they cannot bring answers humans are senseless as a species Tiller affirmed.

The organization declares that they don’t have the actual solutions they are just trying to bring to light the necessity of change.

XR Protests

Extinction Rebellion protests in New York. Photo: Timothy A. Clary

The core of the protests, according to Extinction Rebellion, is the use of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to compel government action on climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. 

The movement has grown impressively in less than 12 months. However, growth seems to be slowing down. Their protests were accused of serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption. The more attention brings Extinction Rebellion protests with its radicality, the less support the movement receives. In the future, the movement talks about adapting the protests as the situation develops.

We can judge the movement due to its weak points, but who we are to do so if we are not part of the change or the concrete action. We cannot forget that everybody lives on the same planet. There is no Planet B.


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