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Extinction Rebellion’s fortnight of direct action: All you need to know

Here’s what you need to know about Extinction Rebellion's civil disobedience – dubbed the Impossible Rebellion – in London

Extinction Rebellion is orchestrating two weeks of non-violent civil disobedience starting at the end of August in an urgent effort to encourage politicians to take action to curb the climate crisis before it’s too late.

After the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its bombshell report on the planet’s fate – which experts said signalled a “code red for humanity” – the environmental activists laid out plans starting on August 23 to pressure the government into more action and less empty rhetoric in the face of the emergency.

“We are in the midst of a collective act of global, social evil which is unprecedented in all of history,” said Clare Farrell, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (often referred to as XR), in a statement. “We spend more time measuring it than trying to stop it. This is in and of itself a crime.

“Mass movements can create rapid change and we are in open rebellion until we see real action.

“The UK has a duty to set a good example and other countries will follow. People want to live, but we need leadership and it’s nowhere to be seen. So join us, and we will be the leaders we need. Disobey the system that is killing life on earth.”

Here’s what you need to know about the action – dubbed the Impossible Rebellion – where it’s happening and how you can get involved.

Why is XR staging the Impossible Rebellion?

The IPCC report confirmed that if humanity is to have a hope of limiting the effects of global warming, it’s now or never.

Today’s politicians will be the last generation of officials with a chance of getting the planet to net-zero carbon emissions, the researchers said. By the time the IPCC releases its next report towards the end of this decade, it will be too late to limit the world temperature rise to 1.5C, which the report showed is crucial in avoiding the worst impact of the crisis.

The Extinction Rebellion disruption is targeting what it says is the root cause of the climate emergency – the “political economy” – and demanding the UK government immediately stops all new fossil fuel investment. The world’s wealthiest countries have spent nearly £30bn more on fossil fuels than green energy since the start of the pandemic, and the International Energy Agency warned drastically cutting fossil fuels now is the only viable route away from harm.

The IPCC’s research “opened the black box linking human activity and climate change,” said Professor Jeff Waage at the University of London. It confirmed unequivocally that “human actions are the principle cause of the new floods, droughts, fires, ice melt, sea level rise and other climatic disruptions that we are seeing today.”

“We are firmly locked on an escalator of increasing severity and frequency and climate tragedies” as long as we allow global warming to continue, he added.

Extinction Rebellion says it has little faith in COP26 discussions to produce the urgent outcomes needed to stop the crisis, which is why the activists are taking the streets and ensure those in power have to listen to their calls.

Where and when is the Extinction Rebellion disruption happening?

The civil disobedience will be focused on the City of London. Activists first met at 10am on August 23 in Trafalgar Square, while planning to branch out around the city as the fortnight progresses. 

A guide to the action on the Extinction Rebellion website provides a rough plan of where and when protests will take place, though details are subject to change. It shows demonstrators will spread out across locations including but not limited to Cavendish Square Gardens, Piccadilly Circus, Brixton Market, St James Park and the Bank of England headquarters.

The organisation is updating its calendar of action in real time, setting out plans for each day as well as detailing exactly what the main group of demonstrators is doing – and where – at any given time.

Over the span of two weeks, XR activists will occupy spaces in London, “whether it be buildings or roads”.

Some action could be held “in the lobby of the BBC” and outside Downing Street, the organisation suggested.

Participants will be encouraged to “build things”, “come together to talk”, “block roads”, to paint and share food.

The organisation also indicated it will gain permission to set up “hubs” considered low risk for arrests. People will gather to eat, rest, listen to talks and take part in workshops at these locations, in relative contrast to other public spaces where activists will be focused on disrupting the city.

What else is happening?

The organisation is arranging “crisis talks” to give ordinary citizens the chance to debate the climate issues facing them while locked out of the conversations held by those in power.

XR said: “We will occupy spaces to listen and discuss the hard truths: what does crisis mean to you? How is it affecting your community? What can we do about it?”

Activists in the global south, the area likely to be first and worst hit by the climate crisis, will give testimonials, screened in a central London location.

How can I get involved with the Extinction Rebellion action?

People keen to take part in the civil disobedience can sign up online, though this is not mandatory, or find their local XR group.

The organisation is providing a guide to setting up crisis talks as well as running a calendar of training sessions, available here. This map of welcome hubs provides places to gather for those keen to get involved in the action but unsure where to start, alongside accessibility, capacity and public transport information.

Anyone who wishes to get involved should ensure they are still putting their safety and wellbeing first. Arrest is always a possibility when taking part in civil disobedience, which puts marginalised people and minorities at greater risk. 

The organisation’s Telegram channel is providing real-time updates on demonstrations planned day by day as well as training opportunities and calls to action. Another live document lays out the schedule of talks and listening circles planned for around London during the rebellion.

Can I get involved from home?

Those who can’t get to London or choose to sit out the civil disobedience but want to take part can tune into a livestream of the action.

Sign up to receive the Impossible Rebellion digital pack here. It includes instructions on helping pile pressure on those in power from home, by both social media and telephone, as well as tips for connecting with others digitally.

The Rebellion Broadcast also provides information on past and planned webinars, allowing people at home some insight into the experiences of people who have been on the frontline of XR campaigning.

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