It's the Start of the Extinction Rebellion

CC BY 2.0. Extinction Rebellion poster

Two weeks of climate action are starting on April 15.

You wouldn't know it in North America, but it's a big day for climate protests. It's the start of two weeks of direct action by Extinction Rebellion. "This is not a one-off march – we will keep going for as long as we have to, shutting down cities day after day until our demands are met," the most significant being CARBON NET ZERO BY 2025 – The Government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

It’s not too late to change course – a better world is possible. We know how to get there – the solutions exist, and we have the technology to take us to a better future. But governments are consistently failing to take the urgent and decisive action that will save us. If the system will not change, then we must change the system. It is our sacred duty to rebel in order to protect our homes, our future, and the future of all life on Earth.

The editors of the Guardian then immediately discuss the implications of the road blockades for London traffic.

If it is successful it will be costly for the demonstrators, some of whom plan to be arrested, burdensome for bus passengers who can’t get to work, and vexing for car drivers who (unlike those in emergency vehicles) will be held up. And yet, should it fail, the long-term costs of climate change will be immense for almost everybody now alive and for all our descendants, too.

They are not wrong to focus on cars; the convenience of drivers and the price of gasoline seems to be a powerful political force. "The gilets jaunes movement in France started off in part as a protest against price rises on petrol; the Blair government sustained its first big defeat at the hands of lorry drivers in the fuel protests of 2000, which destroyed a sensible and ecologically necessary plan to raise fuel taxes steadily over time to discourage the use of fossil fuels." Doug Ford got elected in Ontario, Canada by promising lower fuel prices. But unfortunately, "a future of less consumption and less convenience is inevitable."

The protests are intended as the start of a global movement, as they must be. By themselves, they will accomplish little. Yet the longest journey begins with the first step – even if this is the step taken by a driver who climbs out of their gridlocked car and tries to find some other way of continuing their journey.

George Monbiot is even more radical, writing that Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse, and suggesting that our whole economic system must change. (Listen to him in the tweet, and watch everyone's jaws drop.)

Our system – characterised by perpetual economic growth on a planet that is not growing – will inevitably implode. The only question is whether the transformation is planned or unplanned. Our task is to ensure it is planned, and fast. We need to conceive and build a new system based on the principle that every generation, everywhere has an equal right to enjoy natural wealth.

He's a fan of the Extinction Rebellion, concluding: "The time for excuses is over. The struggle to overthrow our life-denying system has begun."

It is so different in North America, where The New York Times devotes an entire magazine section to climate and cannot even get the very first sentence right:

The world’s most difficult problem has a solution so simple that it can be expressed in four words: Stop burning greenhouse gases.

Because they are either technically illiterate or they are simply afraid to say "stop burning fossil fuels." Then the most extreme statement they come up with is:

The most fundamental question is whether a capitalistic society is capable of sharply reducing carbon emissions. Will a radical realignment of our economy require a radical realignment of our political system — within the next few years? Even if the answer is no, we have some decisions to make. How, for instance, should the proceeds of a carbon tax be directed? Should they be used to finance clean energy projects, be paid out directly to taxpayers or accrue to the national budget? In a healthy democracy, you could expect a rigorous public debate on this question.

But there is no rigorous public debate anywhere, carbon taxes are fought everywhere, and we get told that flying cars could help in the fight against climate change.

Forgive me for sounding so depressed. Perhaps I have been doing this for too long, or have been reading too much Monbiot. But we need a little more Extinction Rebellion in North America, and we need it now.