On Sunday March 24th International rebellion was declared on the streets of Paris. A loose coalition of scientists, climate campaigners, churchgoers, anti-capitalist activists and makers arrived, symbolically in front of Paris’s Bourse to declare the three demands of Extinction Rebellion.
The three demands of Extinction Rebellion are, in short: governments and the media must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, governments must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, biodiversity must be protected, and Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes. On the UK XR site, it does not mention industry, an interesting omission in terms of the anti-capitalist argument against growth.
In Extinction Rebellion France, a fourth “requirement” was also added, “the immediate cessation of the destruction of oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems, the cause of mass extinction in the living world”. It might be useful for the original UK movement to consider adopting this one too. Armelle, an architect, who travelled 25 hours from by train from Norway to attend this event (she is a no-flyer), questioned her own profession in this context “Capitalism is about exploiting all the resources we have. In my work, there is a lot of talking about using electric vehicles etc. to transport materials for building, but in fact the need for land for building basically undermines bio-diversity.”
There was also a dramatic “die-in” in Paris at the National Museum of Natural history, filmed here, with an interesting emphasis on extinct animals, again making the point that humans were not the only species about to become extinct. Speakers here included Jean-Baptiste Fressoz (historian), Claire Lévy (oceanographer and member of IPCC), Susan George (anti-globalization activist), Pablo Servigne (independent researcher in “collapsology”) and Corinne Morel-Darleux (eco-socialist militant and Regional Councillor of the Auvergne/Rhône-Alpes Region).
Debating Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg success
So given that anti-capitalist, anti globalist veterans are included why is there something of a backlash out there against the fast-growing Extinction Rebellion? In a recent social media debate initiated by Zad activist John Jordan, the exponentially massive growth of XR (founded October 2018, UK, November 2018 France) came under fire for ignoring the anti-capitalist argument against growth, failing to acknowledge antecedents in the Camps Action Climat and klimacamps and more seriously, in the light of events in New Zealand, provoking eco-fascism in a declaration of an ‘emergency’. Moreover the rapid expansion of the UK branch of XR seems to benefit from a number of private donors. Who knew where the money was coming from?
Other argued that the fresh approach of some of the youthful members of XR, coming as they do from all walks of life, overruled the apparent political naivety of some of the members, not schooled in the hard knocks of battling riot police.
For example, Marieva, a librarian from France said “I decided to join XR because I was part of the climate march, but it was not being effective. Our lifestyle will have to change completely if we are going to live on this planet. We can’t go on with the capitalist state, because it is based on growth. We have to produce only what we need, not a lot of the other things.” As for eco-fascism? Armelle: “I hope it not going to be dramatic like eco-fascism but we need to do what we need to do”.
There are also been criticism of the marketing of the teenage leader Greta Thunberg, instigator of the school strikes, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.
Spontaneous activist workshop at Place de la Bourse
Meanwhile back at the Place de la Bourse the many-faceted activities of this rainbow coalition were blooming, with Orchestre Debout, a full classical orchestra playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony, people cooking food on the street, makers improvising XR placards and wearables, the ubiquitous XR hourglass symbol being drawn on the street (unlike the CND symbol, the originators of the XR symbol are insistent it should not be commercialised).
Orchestre Debout rehearsal video :
Conversations were taking place at the foot of the Paris Stock Exchange about “how urgent it is that citizens voluntarily change our way of life” (Stefan, Parisian nurse), also recognising that “it’s complicated but we have to do this, and do this together” (Silvan, XR organiser). Police lurked at the corner, fresh from fighting the gilets jaunes the previous day, but declined to engage with the good-natured, non-violent activists, this time at least, although I heard later there were some arrests at the die-in.
Additional research by ClimateKeys.