Lots of hot air – Extinction Rebellion shows how not to run a protest group | Britain


ON SEPTEMBER 5TH Britons woke to discover that their news-stands were rather empty. Overnight, Extinction Rebellion (XR) had blocked access to three printworks owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK. The protest was not well received. Newspapers, and many environmentalists, called it an attack on free speech. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, thinks that XR should be classified as an organised-crime group, which would subject activists to surveillance typically reserved for gangsters.

XR’s latest demonstrations, which include marches in central London as well as blockades on printworks, follow noisier protests last year. In April 2019 they occupied major thoroughfares in London and other cities for a week of revelry and political action. Those protests were widely seen as a success. Polls found public support for their aims. Responding to the group’s demands, Parliament declared a “climate emergency”. Since then, however, XR has struggled to retain its influence.

That is partly due to forces beyond its control. A planned protest in March was cancelled because of covid-19. This time round, the group has been prevented from camping out by a curfew put in place by the police to ensure social distancing, and coppers have stopped them taking over Lambeth Bridge and other roads. Yet it also reflects internal conflicts that have harmed the group’s cause.

XR has been through a bitter civil war, emerging scarred and exhausted. In theory, the group was run along “holacratic” lines, based on a theory in which traditional hierarchies are replaced by semi-autonomous “circles”. In XR’s case, this meant that small local groups were able to carry out protests independently. Initially, the approach united disparate factions of the rag-tag climate movement behind a core aim: pressuring the government into declaring a climate emergency.

In practice, though, hierarchies persisted. Many saw the outfit’s co-founders, Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam, as the people in charge. They were members of the Anchor Circle and the Rapid Response Team, two small groups that held power during protests last year. The pair were also directors of Compassionate Revolution, a company which handled donations. Yet they did not have a strong enough grip to prevent an unholy alliance of eco-fascists, eco-socialists and eco-anarchists descending into conflict.

The main dispute was about tactics. Farhana Yamin, a prominent lawyer, wanted to work with politicians. Another group represented by Mr Hallam, an organic farmer, wanted to provoke mass arrests to overwhelm the system. “Roger’s theory of change was: if you get enough people to turn up in a central square, like Tiananmen Square or Parliament Square, then that will be revolutionary,” explains Ms Yamin. At first, they struck a productive balance. Protests won Ms Yamin’s team meetings with cabinet ministers, who agreed there was a climate emergency.

But it did not last. Ms Yamin’s faction was denounced as traitors. They were subjected to a “Conflict and Resolution Circle”, which one insider says “was basically a hippie way of saying ‘Fuck off’”. That handed more power to Mr Hallam’s group, who thought riskier actions would provoke a heavy-handed response from the state, and thus public sympathy. The group’s cooler heads say they spent most of the summer of 2019 fighting madcap ideas. One, claims an insider, was to glue thousands of teenagers to London’s Tube carriages at rush hour. A more restrained version led to two activists being pulled from a train roof by angry commuters. A dispute over whether to target Heathrow airport became particularly disruptive.

Both Ms Yamin and Mr Hallam have since left XR. Compassionate Revolution has been replaced by a new company led by three younger directors. Ms Bradbrook, one of XR’s founders, denies they have any authority. “We have some legal bodies that are part of what you need in order to have a bank account and so on, but that’s not where the decision-making takes place,” she explains. A lack of donations means that central organisers can no longer afford to pay themselves; local groups have taken on more responsibility, with demonstrations becoming more dispersed as a result. Recent protests have been led mostly by aligned groups, stitched together by so-called “Rebellion Weavers”.

New divides have emerged. The so-called “Fourth Demand”, which calls for reparations and land rights for indigenous groups, is one. Many think the popularity of Black Lives Matter means XR now needs to take identity politics seriously. The demand has been adopted by local groups, but not by central office. In theory, these disputes should now be easier to settle. Ms Bradbrook says that XR has set up an Actions Council, which will adjudicate on internal battles. It just hasn’t got around to meeting yet.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Extinguished Rebellion”

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Extinction Rebellion’s hometown pushes the radical into the mainstream – POLITICO


Sara Stefanini is a communications adviser for the climate campaign Mission 2020.

STROUD, England — When the history of 21st century environmentalism is written, this no-frills, post-industrial town in western England can be expected to feature prominently.

Since the turn of the century, Stroud has served as an incubator for firebrand environmentalist movements like Extinction Rebellion and Stop Ecocide. And, after years spent largely on the fringes, many of the radical ideas conceived in Stroud are now breaking into the mainstream — and opening the space for the wider climate movement to seek new levels of ambition.

To be frank, the audacity coming from groups like Extinction Rebellion — which is once again wreaking havoc on roads and airports across the U.K. — can be disconcerting for those of us slugging away at climate change through conventional, diplomatic routes.

Yet their willingness to glue themselves to doors and demand the extreme and unimaginable also brings a necessary shot of urgency and confrontation that energizes the entire movement — whether we welcome them openly or under our breath.

“Change tends to come from the margins, it doesn’t come from the center” — Jojo Mehta, activist for Stop Ecocide

Because the more people call to make the destruction of nature an international crime, for example, the easier it becomes to argue that clean air should at least be deemed a human right.

When Extinction Rebellion first took its message from a Stroud arts café into streets, airports and power plant sites in 2019, it was easy to dismiss the group’s demands. Their call for the U.K. to aim for net-zero emissions by 2025 was derided as unrealistic. But, sustained over 10 days of marches and arrests, that call shifted expectations so quickly that by the time Britain became the first G7 country to set a net-zero goal for 2050 two months later, it seemed rather reasonable.

Others in Stroud toiled on the outskirts for much longer before seeing their ideas take hold.

“Change tends to come from the margins, it doesn’t come from the center,” Jojo Mehta, an activist for Stop Ecocide, told me on a recent visit to Stroud. “We struggled with the fact that we were constantly the early adopters. Now we’re crossing that chasm.”

The push to make ecocide an international crime — started in Stroud a decade ago by the late earth lawyer Polly Higgins — was similarly deemed too renegade for most campaigners and funders. Then, in June this year, French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed a call from France’s citizens’ assembly on climate to make ecocide a national crime. In July, teen activist Greta Thunberg awarded Stop Ecocide €100,000 and included the call in an open letter signed by over 120,000 people.

This new traction for this once radical idea is a result of the tireless work of Extinction Rebellion and Thunberg’s Fridays for Future school strikes, Mehta said. Once outrage spreads and takes hold, people are more willing to consider drastic solutions.

The trick to capitalizing on that shift in consciousness is to develop ideas early on that can be rapidly rolled out, argued Sarah Lunnon, an Extinction Rebellion organizer and former Green Party politician for Stroud.

“There are these moments when everything is up for grabs,” she said. “But the solutions have to be on the shelf.”

They also have to be more appealing and make more economic sense than the status quo.

When Dale Vince, founder of the green energy company Ecotricity, built his first wind turbine in the mid-1990s, the former New Age traveler says he was called “silly,” “fringy” and a “hippy.”

Now Ecotricity ranks seventh in customer reviews out of Britain’s 35 energy companies. It also turned the English football club it owns, Forest Green Rovers, into the first certified carbon-neutral football club and developed vegan plant-based meals for players, fans and local schools. Next, the company is building a wooden football stadium outside Stroud and preparing to sell vegan meals in supermarkets.

Stroud, England has been a hotbed of green activism | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Many of Stroud’s environmentalists say they were drawn to the town’s counterculture, its doorstep to nature and its utilitarian links to train lines and major motorways. Stroud didn’t turn them into activists, but it encouraged them to pursue answers to their concerns.

Lunnon moved here 18 years ago to join a co-housing community, where cars are banned and neighbors share principles and meals. As a county councilor, she spent seven years banging on the English Environment Agency’s doors to trial a natural flood management scheme. In July, six years after the system started, the U.K. government referenced Lunnon’s scheme in a national policy statement.

Simon Pickering, an ecologist for Ecotricity and a Green district councilor, arrived in Stroud in 1989 to work at a prominent wetland-conservation charity. Within months, he was sitting in a tree with protesters every Thursday, opposing plans to cut down trees and widen a road.

The expansion was eventually abandoned in favor of a cycle and pedestrian path. And as a councilor in the 1990s, Pickering pushed for a recycling plan that was never adopted but closely resembles Stroud’s current, nationally recognized, waste-collection scheme.

It’s hard to stay upbeat when you’re inundated by daily news of wildfires, heat waves, floods, deadly smog and intractable politics.

“Back then, we were told, ‘Stop being a silly little Green. We can’t recycle, we can’t cut carbon,’” said Pickering. “Now we’re getting cross-party support, because Conservatives see the business sense of it.”

As a result, Stroud is ahead of the curve on climate action. It became the first local district in Europe to turn its own operations carbon-neutral in 2015, and the second in the U.K. to declare a climate emergency in 2018.

Even with this record of tangible change, Stroud’s environmentalists struggle — like the rest of us — to muster optimism about the chances of limiting global warming as much as scientifically possible.

It’s hard to stay upbeat when you’re inundated by daily news of wildfires, heat waves, floods, deadly smog and intractable politics. We all know what the doomsday scenario looks like; we’re less clear on the healthy, zero-carbon economy we want the world to pursue.

But Stroud activists’ ability to drive change is a welcome reminder that if we can imagine what that wildly better future could look like, that we have the power of making it a reality — no matter how radical it may seem.





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Extinction Rebellion defends disrupting national newspapers to protest against ‘failure to report’ on climate crisis – Channel 4 News


If the aims of the latest Extinction Rebellion protests overnight were to get publicity and provoke a backlash, they worked.

Information is power – but parked cars and pieces of Bamboo were sufficient to disrupt the mighty UK printing press.

For a short while anyway.

Blockades like these at sites across the country delayed the distribution of several major newspapers nationwide this morning.

Their target – Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire

Their message – if you won’t report the climate crisis, you won’t report at all.

I am joined now by the editor of the Sunday Times Emma Tucker and D. And the writer Donnachadh McCarthy from Extinction Rebellion.



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Several People Arrested as 10 Days of Extinction Rebellion Demonstrations Begin in London



At least five people were arrested as the climate-activist group Extinction Rebellion began a planned 10-day ‘UK Rebellion’ in London, England, September 1, local media reported. In a statement on their website, Extinction Rebellion said their protest aimed to “peacefully disrupt the UK Parliament in London, carrying out pressure-building actions over two weeks, until they back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill and prepare for crisis with a National Citizens’ Assembly.” Ahead of the protest, the Metropolitan Police had imposed conditions under the Public Order Act that said the demonstration Tuesday could not start before 8 am and must end by 7 pm and could only take place in Parliament Square Gardens. Video shows crowds of people dancing, chanting, and singing behind several large signs that carry the Extinction Rebellion insignia while police officers, in a line, watch on. Later video shows officers confronting protesters to prevent them from moving to a forbidden section, before one person is carried off by police officers. Credit: Paul Brown – BakedBeanMedia via Storyful



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Singing Dogs Re-emerge From Extinction for Another Tune


The New Guinea Singing Dog, a dingo-like animal with a unique howling style, was considered extinct in the wild. But scientists reported Monday that the dogs live on, based on DNA collected by an intrepid and indefatigable field researcher.

Their analysis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the dogs are not simply common village dogs that decided to try their chances in the wild. The findings not only solve a persistent, though obscure puzzle, they may shed light on the complicated and still emerging picture of dog domestication in Asia and Oceania.

Claudio Sillero, a conservation biologist at Oxford University and the chair of the canid specialist group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said that the study confirms the close relatedness between Australian and New Guinea dogs, “the most ancient ‘domestic’ dogs on earth.”

James McIntyre, president of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation and the researcher whose forays in the field were central to the discovery, first searched for New Guinea Singing Dogs in the forbiddingly rugged highlands of the island, which is split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, in 1996. He was taking a break from studying intersex pigs in Vanuatu, but that’s another story. Mr. McIntyre has degrees in zoology and education, and has worked at the Bronx Zoo and other zoos, private conservation organizations and as a high school biology teacher.

There are highly inbred populations of the dogs in zoos, and some are kept as exotic pets. But for more than a half-century they remained elusive in the wild until 2012 when an ecotourism guide snapped a photo of a wild dog in the highlands of Indonesia’s Papua province. It was the first seen since the 1950s, and Mr. McIntyre set to work. He received some funding from a mining company, PT Freeport Indonesia. The company, which has a history of conflict with the local population over environmental and safety issues and murky connections to the Indonesian military, operates a gold mine in the highlands near the wild dog sightings. In 2016 he spent about a month searching and captured 149 photos of 15 individual dogs.

“The locals called them the Highland wild dog,” he said. “The New Guinea Singing Dog was the name developed by Caucasians. Because I didn’t know what they were, I just called them the Highland wild dogs.”

But whether they were really the wild singing dogs that had been considered extinct was the big question. Even the singing dogs kept in captivity were a conundrum to scientists who couldn’t decide whether they were a breed, a species or a subspecies. Were these wild dogs the same as the captive population? Or were they village dogs gone feral recently?

In 2018, Mr. McIntyre went back to Papua and managed to get DNA from two trapped wild dogs, quickly released after biological samples were taken, as well as one other dog that was found dead. He brought the DNA to researchers who concluded that the highland dogs Mr. McIntyre found are not village dogs, but appear to belong to the ancestral line from which the singing dogs descended.

“For decades we’ve though that the New Guinea singing dog is extinct in the wild,” said Heidi G. Parker of the National Institutes of Health, who worked with Suriani Surbakti and other researchers from Indonesia and other countries on analyzing the DNA samples that Mr. McIntyre returned.

“They are not extinct,” Dr. Parker said. “They actually do still exist in the wild.”

The highland dogs had about 72 percent of their genes in common with their captive singing cousins. The highland dogs had much more genetic variation, which would be expected for a wild population. The captive dogs in conservation centers all descend from seven or eight wild ancestors.

The 28 percent difference between the wild and captive varieties may come from some interbreeding with village dogs or from the common ancestor of all the dogs brought to Oceania. The captive, inbred dogs may simply have lost a lot of the variation that the wild dogs have.

Their genes could help reinvigorate the captive population of a few hundred animals in conservation centers, which are very inbred.

Elaine A. Ostrander of the N.I.H., a co-author of the report, says the finding is also significant for understanding more about dog domestication. The New Guinea Singing Dogs are closely related to Australian dingoes and are also related to the Asian dogs that migrated with humans to Oceania 3,500 years ago or more. It may be that the singing dogs split off around then from a common ancestor that later gave rise to breeds like the Akita and Shiba Inu.

“They provide this missing piece that we didn’t really have before,” Dr. Ostrander said.

Laurent Frantz, an evolutionary geneticist at Queen Mary University of London who studies the domestication and evolution of dogs and was not involved in the research, said, the paper makes clear “that these populations have been continuous for a long time.”

But exactly when and where the dogs became feral and “what is wild, what is domestic” are still thorny questions, which the new data will help to address.

Mr. McIntyre did finish his work on the intersex pigs of Vanuatu, by the way, and you can find out more at the website of the Southwest Pacific Research Project. They are bred on purpose because they are highly valued by islanders.



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22 Australian Freshwater Fish on Path to Extinction


The Tasmanian Swan galaxias is one of twenty-two native freshwater fish identified as likely to become extinct within the next twenty years. According to new research, the extinctions will happen unless there is increased conservation action.

The list of at risk species identified in the study includes the Daintree rainbowfish, Barrow cave gudgeon, red-finned blue-eye, little pygmy perch and stocky galaxias.

The study is part of a larger project by the Australian government’s National Environmental Science Program to identify species at high risk of extinction, which has already identified at risk mammals and birds, leading to new survey and recovery efforts, by governments and community groups, for many of those species.

Mark Lintermans and Hugh Allan rescuing stocky galaxias from a bushfire impacted stream in NSW. Image courtesy Chris Walsh.

The research team assessing fish species included experts from every state and territory and was led by Associate Professor Mark Lintermans from the University of Canberra, a freshwater scientist with more than 35 years’ experience in fisheries research and management.

“Understanding which species are at risk is a vital first step in preventing their extinctions,” said Associate Professor Lintermans.

The most imperilled fish species in Australia is the Shaw galaxias in Gippsland, Victoria. It is a tiny fish with tiger stripes that has an 80% chance of becoming extinct within twenty years if there is no change in management.

“Like many other smaller native fish species in southern Australia, the Shaw galaxias has been pushed to the brink by trout, predatory species which were introduced to Australia for recreational fishing.

“The Shaw galaxias was once more wide spread, but there are now only around 80 remaining found in a single small population above a waterfall which protected them from trout.

Tasmania’s Swan galaxias occurs only in trout-free streams in the upper reaches of the Swan River and Macquarie River catchments. Natural populations are very small and highly fragmented, and have declined dramatically since 2004.

“Most of the species we identified have had large reductions in their distributions, and now only occur in one small area.

This presents a new threat as a single catastrophic event, like a large bushfire, could potentially wipe out the species in one hit.”

“These species were already imperilled before the 2019-20 fires, and many are now in even more dire straits.

“For example, before the Black Summer fires we believed there were up to 2,500 Yalmy galaxias, a species only found in the Snowy River National Park, which was badly impacted in the fires.

“Since the fires surveys have so far found only two individuals, one male and one female in separate areas. While there are plans to reunite them as soon as possible, the species is now extremely close to extinction.

“Invasive species like trout, having only a single small population, and climate change, are the most common threats to the Australian fish species we identified as at greatest risk of extinction.”

Associate Professor Linterm­­ans thinks our fish need far more attention.

“Out of sight, under water, the decline of freshwater fish, especially our smaller native fish that aren’t angling species, usually goes unnoticed.

Tasmania’s Pedder galaxias is extinct in its original habitat but translocated populations survive at Lake Oberon and Strathgordon.

“Many people are unaware of the catastrophic declines of many native fish species since the 1950s.

“Only one fish species, the Pedder galaxias, is officially recorded as extinct in the wild* but we know we have lost one before it was described and have almost certainly lost other species before we even knew about their existence.” (This status has been in place since 2005 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act ).

“Only three of the twenty-two species we identified as at extreme risk are currently listed as threatened under national environmental legislation (EPBC Act), leaving the remaining nineteen unprotected nationally.

“Listing species under legislation may seem like a small step on the road to recovery, but can be key to protecting the last remaining survivors and areas of critical habitat, and can prompt other recovery actions.”

Lintermans noted that some of the species on this list have only recently been discovered and named, yet are already in trouble.

“The fate of these species will depend upon individual targeted action, investment and collaboration among governments and non-government organisations to mitigate threats and support recovery.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal Pacific Conservation Biology.

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Extinction Rebellion Activists Face Court


Climate activists arrested in October last year for blockading the Parliament House car park in Hobart faced court today. The action was led by the Extinction Rebellion group.

Two activists had their charges dropped and three other activists who pleaded guilty received no conviction and $60 fines. The charges for each activist were the same: one count of failure to comply with a police direction on the 18 October 2019.

“I wish I did not have to get arrested, but I also wish our government would tell the truth about the climate crisis and make a pledge to reduce carbon emissions until they are zero within ten years,” said Jodi Henry. She described herself as a mother of two children, a wife and a small business owner.

The remaining activists who pleaded not guilty are to face trial on 18 November and will be represented by well-known barrister Greg Barns.

Elizabeth Perey.

Elizabeth Perey, an elderly grandmother from Sorrell, also walked free from court today. “I am in my 80th year and I can assure you it is not just young people who are scared out of their wits about what we have done to the planet,” said the retired bookshop owner. “Scientists have been warning us for the last 40 years that if we continue to dig fossil fuels out of the ground and burn them, and continue land clearing, we will create a climate catastrophe.”

Another of those arrested was Cathryn Jay, an allied health professional. She said that in her working life she had to deal with many marginalised people who experience social inequality and hardship everyday and it was this that inspired her to participate in the protest action. “They will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change if we stand by and do nothing,” she said.

“I am not an activist and I have never been arrested,” said Chris, one of those who appeared in court. He said that as a ‘privileged middle-aged white man’ he did not take this step lightly. “I feel I have a moral duty to take non-violent direct action now,” he explained. “I hope that my arrest will make more people sit up and take notice of the looming climate emergency.” 

Extinction Rebellion described itself to Tasmanian Times as “a global movement with the core strategy of mass disruption of city centres and locations of power through nonviolent civil disobedience.”

A spokesperson advised that given the urgency of the current crisis and the inaction of governments, the movement is currently planning for mass mobilisation to disrupt economic districts coming up in September 2020.

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Native congolli fish thriving in Lower Lakes and Coorong after brush with extinction


Congolli fish faced extinction during the Millennium Drought, but a new survey has found the native species to be thriving in the Lower Murray.

South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) research scientist Chris Bice said the fish population was once again dominant in the Lower Lakes, Coorong and the Murray River.

“They have bounced back fantastically well,” he said.

Congolli are small-bodied native Australian diadromous fish that need to spend different parts of their four to five-year lifecycle in freshwater and saltwater.

Adult female congolli fish live in freshwater, but migrate downstream to spawn in the ocean.

Mr Bice said the juvenile population then migrated into the Coorong and upstream into the Lower Lakes during spring and summer.

Two man working on a crane near water.
Research scientist Chris Bice (left) has been working on the recovery of the native fish species in the Coorong and Lower Lakes for years.(Supplied: PIRSA)

But during the Millennium Drought, water flows and the connection between the Lower Lakes, Coorong estuary and the sea dried up, preventing the fish from migrating.

“There was no water, and no water could be discharged to the Coorong,” Mr Bice said.

“The barrages were completely shut, the females that were attempting to migrate downstream to their spawning grounds simply couldn’t do so.

“These adult females were stuck in freshwater not being able to spawn and many of these fish were around four to five years of age at the time.

A view of the Coorong as the sun goes down.
Congolli fish are key prey for waterbirds in the Coorong estuary.(ABC: Brittany Evins)

Fish help restore ecosystem health

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said her team focussed on restoring environmental water flows and recovering species like the congolli fish after the Millennium Drought.

“We have water that has been secured under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and part of the aim of that water is to try and make sure that flows do actually flow until the end of the system,” Ms Swirepik said.

“What we found in the last five years, it has almost all come of environmental water that has maintained that connection, so that is a great affirmation that we have been on the right track.”

Mr Bice said congolli fish were also an important food source in the aquatic food webs in the Coorong and its recovery was significant for the entire ecosystem.

“They are both predators themselves and prey for other animals,” he said.

Congolli are key prey for for the mulloway, an important recreational and commercial fish of the Coorong, and also for waterbirds such as pelicans.



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