When Extinction Rebellion (XR) last hit the streets, I didn’t join in. Mainly because I was busy doing other things and partially because I didn’t believe that direct ‘action’ actually resulted in actions
Between 2006 and 2014, a study showed that climate protests haven’t led to a single debate in British Parliament. Direct action mostly results in wasted breath and inaction. I believe that increasing alarmism can often have an effect opposite than intended – guilt, powerlessness and resulting apathy. Many people feel guilty about climate change, few people enact change that makes a difference. As this ratio increases and the guilt rises, frustration grows and it rarely turns into positive action.
Additionally, as was summed up in a letter to the Economist, “Rather than motivating readers to take action, a doomsday scenario can also paralyse them with a sense of hopelessness”. If anything, it’s old news, and the public frankly isn’t interested, as is indicated by media ratings on climate change.
As such, I assumed that the rebellion would result in a further extinction of interest. Instead, happily, XR has had an effect. Perhaps we’d hit a zeitgeist moment, compounded by David Attenborough’s BBC documentary and Greta Thunberg’s visit. We still don’t know if the previous protests have had a long term effect. But, they did increase awareness, receive much more coverage than usual, and result in political debate. Things happened. Action was direct.
I have been thinking for a while about how we can turn our awareness of the climate change issue into action. There’s little innovation, or listening to both sides. It feels as if we’ve been banging our heads against the same methods and messages, which have had the same (lack of) results, for a long time. Perhaps a post will follow on how we might change the conversation.
In the meantime I, for one, will be heading down to join in and support the protests, in the hope that we can tip the balance – individual actions do matter and ensure direct action lives up to its name.