Extinction Rebellion rose to prominence in 2018 after blockading five bridges in London. They have aimed to bring global attention to the climate crisis through peaceful acts of civil disobedience. Last night, Ciaran O’Carroll from Extinction Rebellion Ireland spoke to Trinity Global Development Society, TCD Environmental Society and the newly formed Extinction Rebellion group at Trinity.
The group is renowned for inspiring passionate activism, so it was a surprise to walk into a room where the mood was quiet with slides filled with facts, diagrams and news clippings. It seemed more akin to a lecture even though it quickly transpired as key to the groups’ success. Their focus is not solely teaching protesting methods, but also thoroughly educating the public on the science behind the climate crisis. O’Carroll explained how global warming works in vicious cycles, for example, the permafrost feedback loop. Permafrost is soil that remains frozen and as a result, traps methane. As it begins to melt, increasingly faster due to the planet’s hike in temperature, methane escapes into the atmosphere and helps heat the environment which in turn, melts the ice.
O’Carroll combined education and activism in his presentation, not holding back in criticising government institutions. Citing the ongoing fires in the Amazon Rainforest, he was quick to point out that is not merely an example of environmental issues but also a governmental one. He emphasised the role the Brazilian government played in their failure to control the disaster and their part in starting it. The effects of the climate crisis were evident when an illustration marked most of the Global South in yellow, signifying these areas will soon become uninhabitable with places like Siberia and Antarctica becoming increasingly populated.
A key component of Extinction Rebellion is that they are a non-hierarchical organisation guided by six rules. The first is mass involvement from across the community with protests in the capital city. Once there is a group, it is important to “break the social contract between citizen and government… otherwise, you are playing by their rules,” added O’Carroll. Blocking key parts of a city brings citizens, businesses and governments alike to a halt. The most important rule is that all approaches must be non-violent. The talk highlighted how the non-violent approach seems to be confusing governments and the police as they are unsure and untrained in how to arrest non-violent protestors. The final two rules are to do it day after day and have fun doing it, O’Carroll recalled the atmosphere during his occupation in London and how there was music playing and people dancing in the streets.
O’Carroll encouraged everyone to join the group, adding that there is a global protest on October 7. A member of Trinity’s Extinction Rebellion branch mentioned that they were working with TCDSU to try to achieve amnesty for students taking part but added that they would be leaving from Front Square with or without permission. O’Carroll spoke of the great diversity in the roles played in these protests and assured the audience that not everyone is arrested. If you are willing to be arrested then you can sign up to be an arrestee and be trained.
Extinction Rebellion’s impact is already clear, O’Carroll emphasised and recalled that before their protest in London, the British Government had not debated the climate crisis in Parliament for two years. Following the protest however, Parliament called an emergency meeting. O’ Carroll highlighted how the generation of college students sat in front of him are amongst the last generation who can make a difference. A clip from environmental activist Greta Thunberg put the issue succinctly, “Our house is on fire” so “I don’t want your hope… I want you to panic.”