Data

Specific Topics
Climate Change
Sustainable Development
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
United Kingdom
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Links
Extinction Rebellion Official Website
Videos
Heading for extinction and what to do about it
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Protest
Social mobilization
Civil society building
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
General Types of Methods
Protest
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Inform, educate and/or raise awareness
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Protest
Occupation
Demonstration
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Not applicable
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Express Opinions/Preferences Only
Teaching/Instructing
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Participant Presentations
Video Presentations
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Protests/Public Demonstrations
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Social Movement
Type of Funder
Individual
Social Movement
Philanthropic Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Implementers of Change
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
No

CASE

Extinction Rebellion

Specific Topics
Climate Change
Sustainable Development
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
United Kingdom
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Links
Extinction Rebellion Official Website
Videos
Heading for extinction and what to do about it
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Protest
Social mobilization
Civil society building
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
General Types of Methods
Protest
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Inform, educate and/or raise awareness
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Protest
Occupation
Demonstration
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Not applicable
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Express Opinions/Preferences Only
Teaching/Instructing
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Participant Presentations
Video Presentations
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Protests/Public Demonstrations
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Social Movement
Type of Funder
Individual
Social Movement
Philanthropic Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Implementers of Change
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
No

Extinction Rebellion is an international, grassroots movement using protest tactics and non-violent civil disobedience to force political action on climate change and environmental degradation.

Problems and Purpose

Extinction Rebellion promotes the use of civil disobedience and rebellion to force action on climate change. The movement began as a protest against the British Government’s inaction on global warming and has since turned into an international movement to mobilize citizens, politicians, and organizations to “collectively do what is necessary to bring about change.”

The movement is primarily focused on political, not personal change, although the latter is also important in the fight for environmental salvation.[1] The UK based movement has three demands for their governments: tell the truth about climate change; take action to stop the loss of biodiversity and continued greenhouse gas emissions by 2025; and establish a Citizens’ Assembly to led decisions on climate and ecological justice.[2]

The following principles define the movement’s actions and intentions:

  1. “We have a shared vision of change: creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
  2. We set our mission on what is necessary: Mobilising 3.5% of the population to achieve system change - using ideas such as "Momentum-driven organising" to achieve this.
  3. We need a regenerative culture: Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  4. We openly challenge ourselves and our toxic system: Leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
  5. We value reflecting and learning: Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences.
  6. We welcome everyone and every part of everyone: Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  7. We actively mitigate for power: Breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
  8. We avoid blaming and shaming: We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  9. We are a non-violent network: Using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
  10. We are based on autonomy and decentralisation: We collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of Extinction Rebellion.”[3]

Background History and Context

The idea for Extinction Rebellion began in May 2018 when a number of academics signed a call to action on climate change.[4] The movement properly began on October 17th when several activists from the group Rise Up! including Roger Hallam, Gail Bradrook, and Simon Bramwell, held a sit-in at the Greenpeace UK headquarters.[5] This action and the movement’s subsequent protests were largely spurred by the International Panel on Climate Change’s “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”[6] which warned that, failing to limit global warming to 1.5°C would have greater negative impacts on the ecosystem, human health, and well-being.[7] On October 31st, led members of XR assembled on Parliament Square in London to announce a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK Government. To their surprise, over 1500 people showed up in response to the previous calls to action.[8] Speakers at the event included 15-year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and several members of the UK Green party.[9]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Extinction Rebellion is a grassroots, non-partisan social movement organized in a semi-decentralised manner, including numerous action- and location-specific groups and teams. While the central organization has received monetary support from various individuals and organizations - including a group of “wealth U.S. philanthropists[10] - it largely relies on crowdfunding and in-kind donations and volunteering. The following graph provides a detailed breakdown of XR’s finances and donation sources[11]

Funding and resources are, by default, owned and controlled by the Anchor Circle until or unless delegated to another role, team, or group.[12] All of XR’s accounts and financial statements are publicly available.[13]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Participation in the Extinction Rebellion movement is free and open to anyone, although the main XR body requests that those who join adhere to the group’s founding principles and values. As well, recruits are encouraged to watch the ‘Heading for Extinction’ talk by founding member Gail Bradbrook, which “tell[s] the truth and ask[s] us all to act accordingly and consistently with the information, including our understanding of what actually enables change to happen in the world.”[14] The XR website also provides interested parties with a ‘Rebel Starter Pack’ - which includes an overview of the movement’s principles and philosophy on non-violent resistance - and multiple links to local groups and training sessions.[15]

The movement has been criticized for failing to represent people of colour and individuals of low-income who are disproportionately affected by climate change.[16] In response, the main organizing body has stated that they are working to increase the diversity of their support base.[17]

Methods and Tools Used

Extinction Rebellion uses civic disobedience as opposed to traditional systems of participation like petitions or writing to government which have proved ineffective in spurring political action. According to its lead organizers, XR promotes “mass ‘above the ground’ civil disobedience – in full public view,” defined as “economic disruption to shake the current political system and civil disruption to raise awareness.” XR has adopted an Action Consensus which outlines their collective tactics and modalities. They are completely transparent in their organizing and take full responsibility for their actions and the inconvenience they cause.[18] Like many mass, decentralized social movements, XR have also developed a complex ‘Anchor Circle’ organizing strategy which balances coordinated action with autonomous governance and allows for the creation of numerous action- or location-specific groups and teams.[19]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Protest Actions

Since their first act of civic disobedience in October 2018, members of the Extinction Rebellion movement have gone on to organize a number of protest actions in the UK and around the world in support of their key demands:

The following is a list of the most high-profile activities and not a complete catalogue of actions taken by or in the name of the movement:

2018

  • November 17, ‘Rebellion Day’: blockade of 5 bridges across the Thames River in London[20]
  • November 23: first actions taken outside London by ER activists in York[21]
  • November 24, ‘Rebellion Day 2’: blockade of roads around Parliament Square; actions taken outside London

2019

  • January 25: peaceful 1-hour occupation of the Scottish Parliament by 40 members of ER[22]
  • February: several actions disrupt events at London Fashion Week[23]
  • April 15-25, ‘International Rebellion Day’ and continued protests:
  • UK: occupation of several prominent sites in central London: Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square
  • Australia: demonstrations held in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbaine; occupation of the Parliament’s Lower House[24]
  • Europe: occupation of part of the International Criminal Court in the Hague; demonstrations in Germany, Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain[25]
  • Other locations: Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, United States (Denver, New York)[26]
  • July 13-14: weekend protest in East London including traffic blockades, a mass bike ride, and a series of talks and panel discussions in London Fields[27]
  • July 15-20, ‘Summer Uprising’: protests in Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow, and London using coloured boats and other messaging to demand action on different environmental threats[28]

Organizational Tactics

Extinction Rebellion is designed to be participatory, decentralised, and inclusive. As such, its organizing strategy uses an ‘Anchor Circle’ which comprises several smaller circles with numerous teams and groups as illustrated in the following diagram: [29]

The structure aims to empower all acting members of XR, while seeking a balance between responding quickly to fast-changing situations and integrating the diverse perspectives and knowledge of the collective.[30]

Extinction Rebellion UK has set out its Self-Organising System in a lengthy, publicly-accessible Constitution. According to the document, the SOS “interfaces support/coordinates/aligns with local/affinity groups in the UK; interfaces to align and coordinate with other XR initiatives at an international level; and is fractal and has the capacity to grow organically.” The design is intended to shift power out of people and into the process of the System itself. The Constitution is an admitted work in progress, and is open to feedback and suggested edits by members of the public. To ensure coherence, coordination and consistency of the central Extinction Rebellion organisation, membership of other XR UK Teams requires an agreement to work within the System.[31]

In brief, the ER UK ‘Organism’ is structured into units of teams (or groups), clustered into larger circles of multiple teams. Larger teams may have sub-teams within them, and sub-teams can have their own sub-teams. Each sub-team is a whole, autonomous team in its own right, while also being a part of a larger team. Each team is autonomous and self-governing, with its own self-agreed mandate and strategy which should be published and updated. Funding and resources are, by default, owned and controlled by the Anchor Circle until or unless delegated to another role, team, or group.[32]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

While no policy action has been directly linked to Extinction Rebellion activities, the movement’s actions have helped bring attention to the issue of climate change and the idea of Citizens’ Assemblies. At least six such deliberative bodies have been established across the UK with meetings either underway or set to begin later in the year.[33] 

The movement has also helped attract support from various high-profile individuals and groups, such as actress Emma Thompson, young environmental activist Greta Thunberg, and former-NASA scientist James Hansen, and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.[34] Inspired by ER and its supporters, three high-profile American philanthropists - Trevor Neilson, Rory Kennedy, and Aileen Getty - launched the ‘Climate Emergency Fund’[35] and donated £500,000 (approx. $600,000.00 USD) to various Extinction Rebellion and climate action groups in the United States.[36]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Public Support

During the first two days of the movement’s April 2019 occupation of London, a survey of 1,539 individuals conducted by two university professors found 46% of respondents supported the actions.[37] However, a later and much larger opinion poll conducted by YouGov found that support had declined with 52% of respondents now opposing XR’s actions,[38] likely a reaction to delayed traffic and inconvenienced travellers.[39] 

Lack of Representation

In response to the critique that XR is “a group of middle-class left-wing activists”, the group has stated that “Extinction Rebellion is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world. From under 18 to over 80 year olds – there are thousands of people willing to put their liberty on the line to fight the climate and ecological emergency and protect biodiversity and atmospheric health. We don’t align with any political party and welcome people who vote for all political parties and none. We are working to improve diversity in our movement. We don’t think it is helpful to set this up as a fight between the “left” and the “right”, we have an enormous challenge before us, we believe we need to lay down our differences and find our common ground.”[40]

See Also

Protest

Occupation

References

[1] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Our Story’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/about-us/

[2] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Our Demands’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/demands/

[3] Extinction Rebellion, Our Principles and Values’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/about-us/

[4] Green, Alison et al., ‘Facts about our ecological crisis are incontrovertible. We must take action", The Guardian

[5] ‘Extinction Rebellion campaigners arrested in London’, Green World,

[6] Extinction Rebellion, ‘FAQs’ https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/faqs/

[7] IPCC, ‘Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments’, https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

[8] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Our Story’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/about-us/

[9] Germanos, Andrea, 'This Is Our Darkest Hour': With Declaration of Rebellion, New Group Vows Mass Civil Disobedience to Save Planets’, Common Dreams

[10] Williams, Ollie, ‘Expect Disrution As U.S. Millionaires Start Backing Extinction Rebellion Activists,’ Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverwilliams1/2019/07/22/expect-disruption-as-u-s-millionaires-start-backing-extinction-rebellion-activists/#2dde0cb6365f

[11] Extinction Rebellion, ‘FAQs’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/faqs/

[12] XR UK Self-Organising System Constitution, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eagcC4DJ1wFYxIikGKiF9SvsYCwybxSBhL-FIf4zr_8/edit

[13] RU Accounts 2018-19, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UqQmzcXNnN9SD0AAHrH7EegwyxIdt7FMVJNslZVLr6s/edit#gid=521830536

[14] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Heading for extinction and what to do about it’, YouTube, September 18, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2VkC4SnwY0

[15] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Join Us’, https://rebellion.earth/act-now/join-us/

[16] Josette, Natasha, ‘People of colour are the most impacted by climate change, yet Extinction Rebellion is erasing them from the conversation’, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/extinction-rebellion-arrests-london-protests-climate-change-people-of-colour-global-south-a8879846.html

[17] Extinction Rebellion, ‘FAQs’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/faqs/

[18] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Our Story’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/about-us/

[19] ‘XR UK Anchor Circle’ App.Glassfrog, https://app.glassfrog.com/organizations/16070/orgnav/roles/11285365/overview

[20] Taylor, Matthew and Gayle, Damien, ‘Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion’, The Guardian,

[21] ‘Extinction Rebellion protesters block bridge in York city centre’, York Press, https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/17244095.protesters-block-ouse-bridge-in-york-city-centre/?ref=twshr&shareimg=9083152

[22] Carrell, Severin, ‘Extinction Rebellion activists occupy Scottish parliament’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/25/extinction-rebellion-activists-occupy-scottish-parliament

[23] Petter, Olivia, ‘This is why environmental activists are protesting at London Fashion Week’, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/london-fashion-week-environmental-activist-protest-extinction-rebellion-a8783321.html

[24] Sulda, Dixie, ‘Climate change protesters forcibly removed from Parliament House’, The Advertiser, https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/extinction-rebellion-climate-change-protesters-forcibly-removed-from-parliament-house/news-story/fb1fc9aea7d85a9a1d87176b1c9c9903

[25] ‘Activistas de la organización ecologista Extinction Rebellion bloquean el acceso a la sede de Repsol en Madrid’, 20minutos.es - Últimas Noticias, https://www.20minutos.es/noticia/3616092/0/activistas-extinction-rebellion-bloquean-acceso-repsol-madrid/

[26] Watts, Jonathan, ‘Extinction Rebellion goes global in run-up to week of international civil disobedience,’ The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/10/extinction-rebellion-goes-global-international-civil-disobedience-climate-talks-poland 

[27] Iqbal, Nosheen, ‘Extinction Rebellion kick off weekend of protest with Dalston blockade’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/13/extinction-rebellion-kick-off-weekend-of-protest-with-dalston-blockade

[28] Snaith, Emma, and Mitib, Ali, ‘Extinction Rebellion protesters bring streets to standstill in five UK cities’, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/extinction-rebellion-protests-london-bristol-cardiff-leeds-glasgow-climate-change-a9005531.html

[29] XR UK Anchor Circle, App.Glassfrog, https://app.glassfrog.com/organizations/16070/orgnav/roles/11285365/overview

[30] Extinction Rebellion, ‘Our Structure’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/about-us/

[31] XR UK Self-Organising System Constitution, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eagcC4DJ1wFYxIikGKiF9SvsYCwybxSBhL-FIf4zr_8/edit

[32] XR UK Self-Organising System Constitution, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eagcC4DJ1wFYxIikGKiF9SvsYCwybxSBhL-FIf4zr_8/edit

[33] Hughes, Tim, ‘Keeping Up With the Citizens’ Assemblies’, involve, https://www.involve.org.uk/resources/blog/news/keeping-citizens-assemblies

[34] Watts, Jonathan; Gayle, Damien, ‘Extinction Rebellion day five centres on tussle for control of Oxford Circus’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/19/extinction-rebellion-reports-hundreds-of-people-signing-up 

[35] Weston, Phoebe, ‘Climate activists, including Extinction Rebellion, to receive £500,000 from US philanthropists,’ The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/extinction-rebellion-climate-activists-us-donation-money-a9002466.html 

[36] Taylor, Matthew, ‘US philanthropists vow to raise millions for climate activists’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/12/us-philanthropists-vow-to-raise-millions-for-climate-activists

[37] Kenward, Ben, ‘Analysis of public opinion in response to the Extinction Rebellion actions in London, April 2019,’ http://www.benkenward.com/XRSurvey/AnalysisOfPublicOpinionInResponseToTheExtinctionRebellionActionsInLondonV2.pdf

[38] YouGov, ‘Survey Results: Climate change protesters have been disrupting roads and public transport, aiming to “shut down London” in order to bring attention the their cause. Do you support or oppose these actions?’, https://yougov.co.uk/opi/surveys/results#/survey/61935ede-60f6-11e9-80be-1b0957da78b7

[39] Humphrys, John, ‘John Humphrys - Extinction Rebellion: Noble and Necessary or a Pointless Nuisance?’, YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/science/articles-reports/2019/04/17/john-humphrys-extinction-rebellion-noble-and-neces

[40] Extinction Rebellion, ‘FAQs’, https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/faqs/

External Links

Official Website: https://rebellion.earth/

BBC Coverage of the Movement: https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c344m14wgy7t/extinction-rebellion

Notes