A UK group called Extinction Rebellion is planning a campaign of mass civil disobedience to address ecological disaster. The group, backed by nearly 100 senior academics and prominent figures from throughout the UK, issued a letter in The Guardian calling for "low level and higher risk acts of civil disobedience". The actions include the convening of a citizens assembly, drafting a manifesto for change and a new constitution, and reducing UK carbon emissions to zero by 2025. The movement is endorsed by prominent figures including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and US senator Bernie Sanders.
Planners of the demonstrations say that upwards of 500 supporters have signed up to be arrested, and that the group intends to culminate the display of civil disobedience with a sit-in protest at parliament square on 17 November. Already, the Guardian reports, 15 environmental protesters, who blocked the roads outside the Houses of Parliament as part of the movement, have been arrested.
With prominent figures as signatories and supporters, it appears that Extinction Rebellion has gained enough media and social focus to bring attention to their actions and demands. What remains to be seen is how many of the general public will appear at the demonstrations and what, if any, effect will result. Will a group of government officials, scientists, and citizens be convened to “...urgently develop a credible plan for rapid total decarbonization of the economy,” as Extinction Rebellion hopes? Or if this “citizens assembly” is not convened, will the social contract between citizen and government be broken as Extinction Rebellion claims? What other potential outcomes might there be from the demonstrations?
Is this a signal of a rising appetite for climate-related conflict? Where else in the world are acts of rebellion emerging?
In September 2018, three activists were jailed in the UK for an anti-fracking protest. How might the UK government and others respond to rising acts of rebellion?