Extinction Rebellion: what pushes people to drastic action on climate change?
The FT joins four members of a family taking part in the London 'shutdown' to ask about the importance of taking a stand, and what the point is of getting arrested
Produced, filmed and edited by Joe Sinclair
You're here because you know this is a climate emergency that we must all work on as one right now. And we're going to ring in the emergency now. Are you ready bells?
Hi there. So my name is Bing Jones. I'm a retired doctor, and I live in Sheffield.
If you've been anxious and you've written lots of letters and you've tried to do all you can in a polite way about the environment and absolutely nothing's happened, then when a new organisation comes along that offers a completely different way of dealing with things, you jump at it. I've been upset and worried and anxious about the environment for decades. And in October, I joined up, and then in November, I got arrested on Lambeth Bridge, just down the road there. And I got this fantastic sense of relief that I'd actually done something about the environment.
Yeah, climate chaos a bit bigger.
The more I read about climate change, that shift of heart and mind that it takes to realise that something pretty awful is happening, something catastrophic is happening, and that actually other people were not going to fix it or address it. And the only way to do that really was to get involved.
I was a bit slower than the rest of my family. Most of my family are involved. But in a way, their commitment and our very long discussions with them around the kitchen table, as all families do, there was this realisation that we literally are all in it together.
I'm a respectable doctor, retired doctor. I've been looking after people all my life and conforming, and... but this is a problem which nobody is doing anything about. And I think it comes... there comes a point where it's your duty to stand up and be counted. And there's also a great deal of evidence to say that peaceful disruption, ideally by large numbers of people, but even just by a small number of people, can be very successful.
So I was a bit of a... on the back burner for a little while, even slightly... not angry, but thinking, why are my family giving all their time to this and we're not having nice family times anymore? We don't do ordinary... we don't do all these things, because all of this time is being taken up with Extinction Rebellion.
But then you realise, what are those nice times about? Yes, family times, living a good life, what does it actually mean?
And it's very hard, because it means changing your whole life and thinking differently from the moment you get up in the morning to when you go to bed. You literally engage and see the world very, very differently once you start thinking about climate change seriously. And that can weigh so heavily on you, that sense of moral duty. Because once you've decided to do it, there is no backing out and there is no going back. You don't have a choice.
I'm Tim. I'm 36. And I'm a teacher, and I'm part of Extinction Rebellion.
I think it's to do with the psychology of denial. And denial, I don't mean that in a... like I don't want to blame people. It sounds like a bad thing, but I think there's a kind of... that we're all in denial all the time about all kinds of things, whether they're personal issues or the beliefs that we have about the world. I'm probably in denial about lots of things, about the way I am, the kind of person I am.
But the kind of denial I'm talking about is the... is that we all have priorities and urgencies, whether that's family or that's your five-year financial plan, or whether that's your business, and those things take priority and they force us to deny other realities that are happening around us.
And then the kind of action that it would take to do something seems quite extreme, and so our other thought processes kick in about what's wrong with taking extreme action and we revert to our basic beliefs about the rule of law and about following orders. And we don't want to do anything to rock the boat, because we know that will also affect our daily lives and it will affect our other plans. And so it's completely understandable that most people don't get involved, and yet, it is such an urgent thing.
We've always talked about environmental issues together as a family. And I think my... especially my sister, my dad, and my mum is also involved. We all feel the urgency together. We've discussed it as a family and we're doing it as a family, and that's a wonderful, beautiful thing.
Basically, live streaming is really important, because people who aren't on the action can watch at home, a bit like live TV.
So I'm Esme, Esme Jones. I am 31, and I work at a charity.
I think people are slowly coming to the realisation that climate change and ecological breakdown are getting very, very close. So we saw in February, we had a ridiculously hot day. People were initially kind of saying, oh, this is brilliant, isn't it? And then people were suddenly kind of saying, this is weird. This is changing.
And I think as climate change comes closer to home, people are starting to realise. I think more ordinary people who join things like Extinction Rebellion, so speaking out, more ordinary people doing this, that is going to push people over the edge to join and actually take a stand.
How terrible it would be if, in 15 years, you look back and you think, I didn't do anything about this. I just carried on going to work or I felt overwhelmed and I couldn't do anything. So that's my message I always say to people. Please don't look back and be worried that you didn't do anything.
Careful, sir. Careful. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
So this is the real rub when people get cross, because obviously we've got to balance the disruption that we're causing with the disruption that we're saving in the long run.
What do we want?
When do we want it?
What do we want?
When do we want it?
And it's the burden that makes... that tips you into feeling you have to take some action when the government, who is supposed to represent you, does not take up that responsibility. It's like a badly behaved parent, so the child must rebel, if you like. And sometimes that's for the right causes.
Here's my message directed to you. Saving the world is not too hard. You've just got to start in your own back...
Yard! Thank you.