It is disappointing to me that I feel compelled to write this. Perhaps I’m just a cynic and a sceptic.
I really wanted to believe in Extinction Rebellion, and when I first learnt of this project was pleased to learn that there were people who wanted to discuss, in an open way, human extinction as part of this mass extinction event we are living through. Last summer various members of XR contacted me, asking if I wanted to get involved. I cautiously offered to help them edit their pieces for media outlets, but stepped away after seeing how bureaucratically organisational the project was at the time (I can only guess as to its current internal structure, based on what I know from friends involved in the project).
I’ve enjoyed a great deal of what XR has done and cannot deny that the project has done something impressive.
However I have sincere questions and concerns, which I will state openly here, for anyone involved in XR to disregard or respond to.
Environmentalism has had a clear internal conflict, as a movement and an ideology, between what is often referred to as the dark and the bright wings. I often split this as the dark environmentalists and the bright greens. The poet and ecologist Gary Snyder has characterised this split as the Break Throughs (more technology to solve global warming and energy crisis, to keep this culture going as usual) and those interested in Biodiversity (non-anthropocentric concern for life in a broad sense).
My question to XR is, which are you? Do you want to keep the industrial-agri-machine going, or are you concerned with life living in earth, under this sky? Are you advocating sustainable violation of this planet, or ending the violation (or attempting to end) the violation of earth?
This is probably my main question to XR, but it is not the only.
It is obvious that, right now, revolutions sell. Media outlets, films, recording artists, etc,. The image of uprising, the meme of popularist victory, is in fashion.
My question is why is this (and XR) fitting into the capitalist-consumerist production-narrative so easily?
My feeling is because there is no actual structural (or deconstructural) challenge being made by this fashionable “rebellion”, it is readily embraced and actively sold.
My final point is less of a question and more of a challenge.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking sick of protests, appealing to authorities who obviously don’t give a shit, and keeping power in the hands of abusers. Why is XR retaining the same power dynamics that has got us here? Politicians and business leaders will prioritise industry over ecological-welfare every time – no matter how self destructive this is. So why are you protestating to them and not directly dismantling and destroying the machine that is causing this extinction event? Why are you apologising for blocking bridges, and not sabotaging fracking equipment, and refusing to apologise for doing so? Why are you chanting on the streets, and not defending the wildlife that this culture violates?
I guess my question to Extinction Rebellion ultimately comes down to, who are you, and do you even know?
Again, perhaps I am a cynic and a sceptic (well, I am but that is besides the point), but I can’t help but worry that XR’s greatest achievement might well be becoming a greater disappointment than Occupy. I hope you can prove me wrong.