Thousands of climate activists are set to take to the streets this week in latest phase of the battle for the planet.
School students plan their third mass protest to demand the government does more to tackle climate change. And supporters of the direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) will descend on London on Monday—and say they will keep protesting until the government acts.
The group plans a number of occupations across central London. Its activities include including blocking roads with plants and picnics, hosting talks and workshops, and staging direct actions throughout the city.
XR has mobilised thousands around its three central demands in just a few months. It calls on the government to tell the truth about climate change. And it demands the state enact legally binding policy to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
It also insists that the government set up a national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes.
In other countries, XR groups are planning their own actions as part of an event called International Rebellion.
Sophia, a student in Paris, told Socialist Worker they have organised “low key actions, because we didn’t know what to expect from the police”. Their plans include blocking public buildings.
She said that XR activists are working with Greenpeace, other climate change non-violent direct action groups, and the Yellow Vests.
“The policy of XR France regarding other movements is being discussed right now, but every member is free to support any other movement. Many of us supported the Yellow Vests and we are working with other environmental groups,” she said.
This new climate movement is taking to the streets at a time when the effects of dramatic climate change can already be seen.
Stein, from Norway XR, told Socialist Worker the country was “seeing significant changes.”
These include “more frequent flooding, last year’s extreme drought period, and thawing of permafrost that is causing avalanches and pose a threat to infrastructure such as roads and railroads”.
“XR is just out of the starting blocks in Norway, yet we are convinced that we are ground zero for action designed to keep reserves of fossil fuel in the ground,” he said.
“If Norway doesn’t turn, then nobody will. We are a privileged nation and should show the way.”
This urgency has fed into a sense that radical action is necessary immediately. In the Spanish state, XR has been meeting since October 2018.
Activist Chris said “desperation and a sense of uselessness” has contributed to the fast growth of XR.
He said this has meant that “the vast majority of our members don’t have any experience and are new to activism. We have a lot of university students and there is a real grassroots feel to it.”
“The emergence of XR was a saviour, bringing very different people together who want exactly the same thing. It gives you the feeling that you’re actually fighting for the planet, and not just watching it burn in silence” he said.
School students’ day of action on Friday follow coordinated global strikes last month that involved 1.6 million students.
The school walkouts are inspired by the solo strike of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and are coordinated by the Fridays For Future movement.
The new climate movement on the streets is led predominately by young people. Many are spurred on by a United Nations report last year that said there are only 12 years left to avoid the worst-case scenario of climate change.
Members of Extinction Rebellion Youth blocked the entrances to a conference of fracking industry bosses in central London last week.
Attendees at the swanky Caledonian Club were forced to step over the activists, who were locked together with bike chains
Sixteen year old Isla said, “Fracking and conferences like this are part of the system that is devastating my future.
“I refuse to be complicit in my own and everyone else’s destruction—I can’t trust adults to act responsibly anymore, so I am acting myself.”
Around 200 people took part in action organised by Extinction Rebellion in Swansea last Saturday.
A “funeral procession” went through the city to demand that the council declare a “climate emergency”.
During the procession there was a temporary blockade of Barclays Bank, a citizens’ assembly (street meeting) and a sit-down on the main road.
Among the protesters were environmental activists, students who had led the school strikes, Labour Party councillors, members of Swansea Labour Left and supporters of Swansea Socialist Workers Party.
Actions also took place in Leicester, Taunton and several other cities and towns.
Over 10,000 people marched for climate action in Helsinki, Finland, last Saturday.
The climate movement there has recently grown out of a series of smaller demonstrations.
At one protest activists scaled the columns of the parliament building and hoisted banners.
The current right wing government’s climate policy entails a programme of deforestation to produce biofuels.
This policy flies in the face of United Nations climate scientists’ advice to protect forests. The march came ahead of the Finnish parliamentary elections, scheduled for Sunday.
Organisers called on the next government to take concrete steps to tackle the climate crisis.
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