At less than a year old, Extinction Rebellion have already achieved more than many of their predecessors by putting climate change at the top of the headlines - where it had been largely absent prior. However, the group are notorious for dividing public opinion. “The world is not coming to an end” says one woman during a recent protest where group members stood on top of a London Underground carriage during rush hour. Whilst some members of the public express endearment towards the group, there are also those that wish they’d disappear altogether.
🅭🅯 Stefan Müller

What do Extinction Rebellion actually want?

In the wake of the London wide ban of the group, optimism and pessimism intertwine.

At less than a year old, Extinction Rebellion have already achieved more than many of their predecessors by putting climate change at the top of the headlines – where it had been largely absent prior. However, the group are notorious for dividing public opinion. “The world is not coming to an end” says one woman during a recent protest where group members stood on top of a London Underground carriage during rush hour. Whilst some members of the public express endearment towards the group, there are also those that wish they’d disappear altogether.

On October 15, 2019 at 21:00, the Metropolitan Police issued a London-wide ban of the group. Despite this, on October 16, 2019, group members set up an art installation outside the Tate Modern, with many other protests continuing around the city.

“You only figure out how free a country is when you really push the limits”

Shaun from Australia

Amongst group members at the protest, opinions were mixed about the implications of the ban. “I think that it shows that what we’re doing is having an effect.” says James from XR Bristol. “I think it’s going to be really good for us as a movement in terms of pushing people towards us who see it as an excessive use of power”.

Others, like Michael from XR Bristol, were more concerned about the wider implications of the ban. “One word, bulls**t. And just an affront to democracy. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest and the police have been trying to prevent that this entire time”. 

“Everybody’s going to suffer from global warming, the police and their children as well, and the government.”

Drew from Leeds

So what does Extinction Rebellion actually want? Universally, every single group member I spoke to said the same thing: The introduction of a Citizens Assembly. “It’s basically a form of direct democracy where you randomly select a large amount of people from the population to get a representative sample, you teach them about the issue and then you allow them to make legislatively binding decisions on that issue.” explains Shaun from Australia.

It seems Extinction Rebellion exists more to reform than actually resolve. But is a Citizen’s Assembly a realistic solution to the climate crisis? James from Bristol responded: “It’s not a solution in itself but that’s the point. Extinction Rebellion does not exist to push any particular solution… instead of trying to say ‘let’s all be vegan, let’s all drive electric cars’… Extinction Rebellion just takes a step back and asks, ‘what’s the actual process by which we’re going to find solutions?’ and the answer to that is participative democracy through a Citizens Assembly”. 

Whilst most of us would agree that climate change is a major issue, we seem less united when it comes to how to actually address it. No matter what process we use to make decisions, the issue cannot be addressed without agreed solutions. Extinction Rebellion seem optimistic that through fear there is hope, but neither fear or hope alone are solutions to the climate crisis.