Fossil Fuels must end: Why we're back and bigger than ever - Extinction Rebellion UK

Fossil Fuels must end: Why we’re back and bigger than ever

Yesterday from 10am at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, Extinction Rebellion led in a disruptive display of people power onto the streets of central London to send a message to the government and their friends in the oil and gas industry: it’s time to end fossil fuels and we’re not leaving the streets until you do. 

On Friday morning at the crack of dawn, a huge 22 x 3 metre banner dropped down across Tower Bridge – one of London’s most iconic locations – as an introduction to the upcoming week of action. The banner drop took place at the gateway to the City of London – the root source of oil and gas funding in the UK – and two people hung from the bridge by zip lines. The words on the banner read ‘End Fossil Fuels Now’. Within minutes the bridge was closed to traffic and ‘Tower Bridge’ was trending on Twitter. 

Calling for the end to fossil fuels is not a controversial statement. In fact, it’s the most obvious and reasonable demand anyone should be making of political and business leaders in light of catastrophic climate change. It was only this week that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said bluntly in a speech following the release of the latest IPCC report: “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

But, in the same week the UK government released their energy strategy which doubles down on North Sea oil and gas. Those in power seem to believe that they can bend the laws of physics to protect their politics and corporate interest.

We know the lack of action from our leaders means that we have to get serious about pushing for change. So, for this Rebellion the bright and bombastic infrastructure that we’ve used previously that pin protests to certain areas, such as pink boats and tables and beacons, will sit this one out.

There is a clear shift in strategy putting ‘People Power’ at the centre, meaning that together we will use the power of mass numbers to cause the disruption needed to bring about change. In the mornings at Hyde Park there will be daily training sessions for new people in taking nonviolent action, how to engage with the police, and what to do if you are arrested. 

You might be asking yourself, what has causing disruption got to do with stopping climate change? Aside from disruption from the climate crisis itself being far more annoying than our protests, history shows us – from the Civil Rights movement to the Suffragettes – that disrupting business as usual is the most powerful way to create rapid change – it’s simple really, to make big changes you have to be impossible to ignore.

Besides, Extinction Rebellion isn’t just about disruption. We have rolled out a mass outreach strategy this year to build towards engaging 3.5% of the population and we are going into communities and speaking to people about the crisis we face. This is proving to be a great success and this April will act as a springboard towards an even bigger Rebellion in September. 

This moment calls on everyone to act and enough of us together can end the fossil fuel economy to bring about a transition that is rapid, just and fair. So, don’t sit this one out. Refuse to be a bystander while the selfish minority buy and sell the future of humanity. 

The government and parts of the media don’t seem to have caught on that the public mood has changed, that climate action is at the top of our concerns. They are out of step with the general public and when we take the streets and bring even more people with us, they’re aren’t going to know what’s hit them.

Antonio Guterres gets it. “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals” he says. “But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

Alanna Byrne is from the XR Media team – this piece was originally published in the Evening Standard.

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