Extinction Rebellion activists have taken to the streets as part of coordinated protests in five UK cities this week to demand urgent action from governments to address the global climate emergency.
Protestors have blocked bridges and traffic in London, Cardiff, Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow as part of the Extinction Rebellion ‘summer uprising’. Large coloured boats have been put in place in key areas of each of the cities to raise awareness of different environmental threats: rising sea levels, floods, wildfires, crop failures and extreme weather.
Extinction Rebellion is urging people to ‘Act Now’ to prevent further ecological breakdown caused by man-made climate change, imploring the government to take immediate measures to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 – 25 years earlier than the 2050 target the government recently committed to.
The group has stated that it intends to carry out ‘creative acts of civil disobedience’ for the entire week in a bid to draw attention to the climate emergency. Actions include blocking roads and bridges, occupying public spaces, demonstrations and workshops, along with talks by group leaders, prominent figures and supporters of the movement.
Boats are popping up around the UK! We’re back on our streets demanding the government #ActNow on the climate and ecological emergency. Join us in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and London! pic.twitter.com/GxF0bdHxby— Extinction Rebellion 🌻 (@ExtinctionR) July 15, 2019
The week of coordinated protests is the latest action taken by Extinction Rebellion, which managed to cause major disruption in London and across the UK back in April, and before that in November, with more than 1,000 activists now facing prosecution following the protests.
Shortly after the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency – though this was not a legally binding act – and the UK Government committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the first commitment of its kind by any government in the world.
Bristol protest: ‘We do what it takes for the world to change’
In Bristol, activists occupied Bristol Bridge on Monday (15 July), installing a pink boat with ‘Act Now’ emblazoned across the side, leading to the closure of other streets in the vicinity.
Today (16 July), songwriter and activist Billy Bragg, in town for a set of shows, addressed assembled protestors from the boat. He then led a procession of young people from Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol to College Green, in front of Bristol’s City Hall, where young supporters of Extinction Rebellion have been camping to make their voices heard on the climate emergency.
Activists and supporters who gathered on College Green included celebrity chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Bristol Green Party councillor Carla Denyer, who led the UK’s first Climate Emergency declaration. The crowd was treated to speeches by young Extinction Rebellion activists, before a short performance and speech by Bragg himself. The highlight of the gathering was a speech by 13-year-old Grace from Somerset, whose rousing address delivered with the poise and authority of one far older encapsulated the vitality and strength of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
“I know that if we do not change the system, I will have no future worth living for,” she said. “I wonder if the government will ever have the courage to look into our eyes and admit that they’ve failed us.”
She added: “We cannot separate ourselves from the rest of nature, we may as well tear out our hearts and lungs.”
Why should we follow the rules when they are a product of the same corrupt system that allows these atrocities?
In response to those that have criticised the actions of protestors, she said: “Some people disagree with what we are doing. They expect us to follow the rules. But why should we when the rules are a product of the same corrupt system that allows these atrocities to be inflicted upon our world? If the rules were morally right, we would never have to break them to save the world, save the beauty, save the futures of everyone and everything.
“We will not stop even if we are told there is no hope. There will always be hope. We will do what it takes for the world to change. Only by rebelling can we save the future.”
Speaking to Green World, Bragg linked the climate emergency movement to social movements around the world, saying: “Extinction Rebellion is on the front line of the global struggle for accountability. For people like me it’s about holding neoliberal capitalism to account, holding corporations to account. But there are other people fighting on other fronts. Black Lives Matters is an accountability movement, Me Too is an accountability movement and we’re working in solidarity with all of them and that’s what joins it all up. Extinction Rebellion is not a single-issue movement.
We will not stop even if we are told there is no hope – there will always be hope
Other young people expressed frustration at the government’s lack of action. Tom, 17, told Green World: “We shouldn’t have to be coming out onto the streets to make the government wake up. They have the information they need, they have had it for decades. We will keep fighting until they understand that the climate emergency can’t be ignored any longer.”
Adults in attendance told of their dismay that so little had been done to tackle climate change and feared for the future of younger generations. Alan, 51, said: “It breaks my heart what we are doing to our planet. We are selling our children’s futures for profit and immediate gain, destroying the environment that we have taken for granted. But it gives me hope to see so many young people here today. I hope they can succeed in saving the planet where my generation has failed. I believe they can.”