Extinction Rebellion talks about climate change

Izzy ManzoPhoto Editor

Assistant professor of sustainability science Stephen Axon delivered a presentation about the Extinction Rebellion, an organization which uses non-violent civil disobedience tactics to raise awareness about the impact of climate change, on Oct. 24.

The presentation, hosted by the New Haven Climate Movement, discussed what the organization is and the methods it uses to halt what they call “mass extinction” brought about by the climate crisis.

“We don’t really try to refer to things as climate change or, particularly, global warming,” Axon said. “Those terminologies have kind of fallen out of favor in new discourse.”

said phrases such as “climate emergency” and “climate breakdown” are used instead, to reflect the urgency in which the climate crisis needs to be addressed. Geography, Environmental and Marine Studies Club treasurer Derek Faulkner, a junior, attended Axon’s presentation and said he enjoyed Axon mentioning the concept of terminology concerning climate crisis.

“This was an interesting debate as to whether changing terminology helps or hinders the movement,” Faulkner said. According to Axon, Extinction Rebellion has three key demands that reflect the immediate need to take action.

The first one, according to their website, is to tell the truth about the scale of damage climate change is causing. This can only be achieved, they said, by having governments declare a climate and ecological emergency.

“Even if you don’t agree with it politically, [the] climate crisis is happening, whether you like it or not,” Axon said. “It doesn’t care about your political ideology. It doesn’t care where you live. It’s happening, and we’re all going to feel the impacts of it.”

The second demand, according to Axon, is to have governments change policies regarding the environment so they can become carbon neutral by 2025.

While some might feel that having six years to reduce greenhouse emissions is an unrealistic goal, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published in 2018, the Earth has until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions. Without rapid decarbonization, the IPCC says that global warming will rise 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

“You’ve got 12 years, essentially, to take radical action. Otherwise, it secures a very carbonintensive and very negative climate future,” Axon said, “and no one wants to live in a climate future where we’re going to be facing substantial and severe climate impacts.”

The final demand is for citizens’ assembly — a “democracyfocused platform” where everybody, from citizens to experts to politicians, has a say in how to address the climate crisis. By giving power to everyday people rather than exclusively to politicians, citizens assembly would give a voice to “those that are
the most vulnerable, but also the least resilient,” according to Axon.

“We know that there are certain segments of the population—particularly socio- and economically deprived communities— that don’t really have that much of a voice,” he said. “They, systematically, are facing injustice, and that’s not right.”

Faulkner said Axon’s presentation introduced him to a group he had not previously heard of and discussed specific measures Extinction Rebellion is doing to combat the climate crisis.

“He brought up some specific actions these groups were taking,” he said, “and also highlighted some negative repercussions or backlash from certain actions that may be inappropriate or simply counterproductive.”

Specifically, Axon said Extinction Rebellion, while they hold meetings about the climate crisis, tends to focus on nonviolent protesting as the way to get their message across to people.

“They like to, kind of like, you know, cause a little bit of disruption,” Axon said. “Basically, to say that climate change is going to cause substantial disruption, but we’re just taking over a street or something like that.”

Axon said Extinction Rebellion blocked off roads in five cities in the United Kingdom — London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds, and Bristol, according to The Guardian — which caused a lot of irritation.

However, their actions have been justified by some as providing a symbolic glimpse at what life after a global climate catastrophe would look like.

“One week’s disruption pales in comparison to the disruption of climate change,” Axon said.

While Extinction Rebellion’s methodology can be intense to some, the climate crisis is something that is still happening. Faulkner hoped that those who attended Axon’s presentation realized that the need for change is increasingly urgent.

“I hope [it] helped turn some pessimistic views about lack of involvement into a more optimistic approach that focuses on the potential for change,” he said. “We need to act responsibly as soon as possible to try and adapt
to and mitigate the issues caused by climate change.”

Biology major and GEMS President Alina Tucker, a senior, said even though she was not able to attend the presentation, the climate crisis is still a relevant issue that the current generation needs to take interest in.

“It’s up to this generation to finally take a strong stand and change our current ways,” she said.

She said while Southern declaring a climate emergency — making them one of the first universities to do so — is a step toward raising awareness, Southern should use that as an incentive to help convince other universities to do the same.

“Southern’s environmental clubs and departments such as GEMS and the Office of Sustainability have been working hard to make a change on and off campus,” she said. “[We should] advertise the fact that we have declared a climate emergency to hopefully lead other universities to do so too, through rallies and other engaging activities that students can involve themselves in and voice their opinions at.”

The most important thing people can do, Axon said, is keep the conversation alive. “The one thing I would encourage people to do is to just talk about the climate crisis,” he said.

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