28 Feb #XRDK// Extinction Rebellion in Denmark: is civil disobedience the solution?
Remember that feeling, as a child in schoolThe urge to play, explore, innocently, be free, but then, there were rules?Constructed by someone, accepted from the wombRigid, unforgiving, made up by, for whom?
Last weekend, a group of people came together to plaster a collection of haunting multicoloured messages on Copenhagen’s parliament walls. Paint splashed on primary coloured paper, hurriedly adhered using a homemade glue made of flour, water and sugar. Unlike the classroom days, the statements on the cold stone walls were severe. And pasted on by people of all ages, many “normal” non activist types, students, researchers, retirees… And so begun the (soft) launch of Extinction Rebellion in Denmark.
Onlookers looked bemused. The police perplexed, taking our IDs but no arrests. Unlike Aarhus that same day, and countless cities across the world with their patchwork of brave approaches – including London, where activists blocked off 5 major bridges. Something that in Denmark would be considered “economic terrorism”.
Rebel for Life: so why civil disobedience?
Extinction Rebellion has arisen on the premise that conventional campaigning has failed. As our political establishment has failed to protect its people from pollution, prevent further mass extinction of species on earth and the possibility of imminent human extinction. It is time to rebel, breaking the law if necessary to protect citizens and our natural world, or risk losing everything we cherish. To urge our government to tell the truth about the existential crisis we are in. And treat it as such, by declaring a national emergency.
What could create more of a sense of camaraderie? And community, that alone could solve so many of our problems. You see, to me, XR goes beyond building a sustainable future for generations to come, it offers a new prototype for society. Built on justice and intersectionality, acknowledging and embracing the needs of all. Beyond the barriers of difference and ego, the separateness from ourselves, and nature. Utopia? Perhaps, in the form of decentralised power, organic, non hierarchical structure. Each self organising group working together towards a positive future where we don’t rape the living planet of all its resources or pollute as we please, and actually pay people a fair wage.
Is being the change enough? We have 12 years to act…
Truthfully, it can feel overwhelming. I often feel torn about the most effective way to fight for this cause. While I believe the change starts with ourselves, and raising awareness, as an activist friend turned ecopreneur working to reverse climate change says, there’s only so long we can keep exposing the issues, and protesting. We need to provide solutions. To build the future we want. Being the change is not enough.
On the other hand, a wise researcher attending the action with her students last week reassured me that civil disobedience is by far one of the most effective forms of changing society. In a world where the incentives are up against any “alternative” option that chooses not to destroy the environment into oblivion, and we continue to prop up/ support the polluters producing 80% of the damage with $10m fossil fuel subsidies per MINUTE. The government has a larger scope to change that. Not that it has…
We can do both. But it goes beyond that.
We need to tell the truth. And teach it to the generation after us. We are the last generation that can do anything about this. And the “society” we so wish would change. XR is much more than the act(ion) itself. It’s the zeitgeist of the times – the only hope we have to mobilise people out of the inaction that is leading us to mass murder. Or better said, suicide.
It is also vital to remain critical, and aware of where our efforts can be best felt. Be that art, music, activism, entrepreneurship. Interweaving action with introspection. Spreading (inspiring) stories, on social media and in our everyday lives. But not being complacent, thinking that we can consume our way out of this crisis. Not least to rest with the reduction of the damage, but exploring how we can reverse it. To build projects and products that empower others to do so. Not just cherry picking SDGs* to suit our own needs. But exposing buzzwords, gimmicks and greenwashing. As well as the overall impact – life cycle analysis, cradle to cradle, the solutions are already out there…
Let us not be complacent, even/ especially after partaking in activism. Those with fire in their bellies, the drive to do good in the world, and the privilege of opportunity need to organise themselves to create the solutions. To see outside of our biases, individual bubbles, and collaborate. Screw better than ‘business as usual’, less bad than before. We need radical rethinking, to disrupt the system. We don’t have all the answers. Other than truth, transparency, and working together to confront the largest crisis we have ever faced. We’re running out of time.
*Sustainable Development Goals: the 17 goals set to create #socialchangenotclimatechange. The debate over whether they provide a positive blueprint for the future vs. assume that slight tweaks of the system that has got us into this situation or are “abstracted from an understanding of why the world now faces the entwined crises of ecological collapse and gross economic inequities” remains. Nonetheless, XR remains a non religious, apolitical, equal movement for and by the people.