Our scheduled speaker for October was unable to come at the last minute so Richard Gallen valiantly stepped in. He confirmed that Extinction Rebellion works through non-violent direct action as a civil protest organisation with the aim of getting governments to act in the face of the very real ecological crisis and climate change emergency facing the planet. His talk drew attention to the numerous seemingly disparate issues which many of us have heard about in media documentaries, and in international, governmental and well-known interest group reports and analyses. He emphasised the need for rationalisation of these existential issues so that climate change, degradation of the planet, and by implication, global social inequalities are accepted as all being interconnected, and therefore requiring new approaches by governments and big business.
However, despite the chilling statistics we heard, about the effects of everything from droughts to floods to wildfires, from sea level rise to water stress, from intensive farming to soil degradation and the subsequent difficulty of feeding the world’s ever-growing population, one significant question still remains. What is the most effective way to motivate the urgent and appropriate action needed by governments and the other powerbrokers before it’s too late? How far does XR present a new model for social activism – not centralised or rule-bound as they claim to be? How far does their history of disruption and the alienation it has caused in some quarters indicate fixable flaws? It surely highlights the dilemma of how to reach and speak to different audiences, from those very well-informed groups, to those on the edges of the discussion.
Expectations that participants may have been looking forward to hearing, regarding Robin Launder’s take on how XR’s disruption strategy could win out, without counter-productive alienation, and his perspective that their messages are consistent with humanism, may be answered if a future date for him to speak to SELHuG can be arranged.
Review by Anna Tagliaferro