By Christine Harmar-Brown

In 31st October 2018 a group of people assembled in Parliament Square in London to announce a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK Government. A couple of hundred were expected but 1,500 turned up. Since then numbers have sky-rocketed, with groups springing up across the globe from Europe and the Americas to Africa and India. All are participating in peaceful, non-violent civil, disobedience to demand system change in the face of potential climate and ecological collapse.


Without formal membership, Extinction Rebellion (XR) belongs to everyone who cares about the catastrophic impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, and who shares both its core values and a desire to create a world that is fit for generations to come. It is non-hierarchical, de-centralised, participatory and inclusive, with national, regional and local groups worldwide. These groups are autonomous parts of a whole that create and engage in actions and non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to sound the alarm, halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.

In the UK, Extinction Rebellion makes three demands of the Government:

Tell the Truth: 
Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency and working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. 

Act Now: 
Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

Citizens’ Assemblies:
Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

PHOTOGRAPH: Shendao Silent Films

XR’s core principles and values are embedded in the qualities of human decency, dignity, responsibility, fairness, duty, honesty, morality and care. Open to everyone and every part of everyone, the movement avoids blaming and shaming. It recognises we live in a toxic system with a multiplicity of ills but that no one individual is to blame. It promotes a regenerative culture in recognition of the need to care for ourselves and each other. It values reflection and learning.

Within the movement, and in Hastings and St Leonards (XRHSL), organisation is via a series of working groups that focus on particular aspects such as Training, Communications, Families, Making, Outreach, Singing, Regeneration, Drumming, Red Rebels, Theatre and Arrestee Support, in order to enable actions to be as impactful as possible and to best utilise members’ skills. Each group has a co-ordinator; these roles are rotated to ensure that the movement retains a non-hierarchical structure. Actions are discussed and proposed to the larger group for sense-checking and support.

At a national level XR receives input from local and regional groups to set the action strategy and plan. Following XR’s successful (and some less successful) actions in 2019, the movement is currently reflecting, adapting and deciding strategies and action plans for this most crucial year.

For more info on XR principles and values see:

Citizens’ Assemblies are used to address important issues that electoral politics can’t fix on its own. In recent years, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly broke the deadlock on two controversial issues: same-sex marriage and abortion. The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly informed public debate and provided cover to politicians to make the necessary changes. They are organised to ensure that participants are representative of the population as a whole.

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