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April 15, 2021

XR: a non-violent, disruptive climate action group

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XR protesters are active globally.

Emma Goldrick

Extinction Rebellion (also known as XR) is the non-violent, disruptive climate action group demanding that governments across the world take immediate action towards the threat of climate change. XR wants citizens to know the facts about the unprecedented international climate emergency that the world is in the midst of.

The organisation is just beginning to build momentum in Australia, with the launch of its ‘Spring Rebellion’ entailing a series sit-ins, and die-ins, alongside activists burying their heads in sand across Sydney beaches. However, the group has been growing in size and presence across an array of countries and cities including New York, London, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Jonathan Doig, a software engineer working in research at UNSW and an arrestee at a recent Extinction Rebellion protest in Sydney said he joined XR because other modes of protesting were failing and the world cannot wait.

‘I’ve been active on climate action since 2007 when I started the Sutherland Climate Action Network. I met with our local MP, Scott Morrison and briefed him on climate science, together with an academic, who had actually lectured Morrison on climate science during his undergraduate science degree. His only question was “how long until the poles melt?”’

‘We asked him to speak up about the climate emergency, and he ignored us’.

XR began in 2018

Extinction Rebellion was co-founded in 2018 by Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook. The movement that originated in the United Kingdom began with one hundred academics signing a call to action. This call to action launched a series of blockages and the occupying of an array of sites across central London.

Citizens of London were not only engaged by the group but more importantly by the immediacy of their message, allowing the movement to grow within the UK. The XR group began to spread internationally, describing itself as a ‘non-violent civil disobedience activist movement’. The group’s emphasis on ‘non-violent’ action follows a line of successful protests ranging from The Salt March led by Mohandas Gandhi in the 1930s to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Bed-In for Peace’.

The guiding principles of the global group emphasise the importance of remaining a peaceful movement, including ‘We avoid blaming and shaming – we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame’ and  ‘We are a non-violent network – using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change’.

Globally the group uses the logo of an hourglass in a circle, with the circle representing earth and the hourglass representing the fact that time is running out for many species, including humans.

The extinction symbol represents the threat of holocene extinction (or sixth mass extinction) on earth; the circle represents the planet and the stylised hourglass is a warning that time is running out for many species.


Whilst the specific objectives of XR are tailored to each country, the guiding principles are universal. The demands of Extinction Rebellion Australia are as follows:


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


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


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

The group is gaining traction not only for its public disobedience tactics but also the series of arrests and the police brutality that activists have been subjected to. However, XR emphasises that it ‘welcome(s) everyone and every part of everyone’ and within this, acknowledges that not everyone is willing to be arrested and that this is okay. Their guiding values further enforce that all citizens who believe in the demands and principles of XR are allowed to act in the name of XR.

XR protesters are revolting

Christine Freels, a former strata manager and now a fulltime climate-action activist spoke about XR’s principles, stating:

‘XR is the best chance we have to get the necessary changes. XR welcomes everyone, and everyone can play a part in saving our future. We owe it to our kids and grandkids to give them a planet they can survive on.’

‘I have adopted grandchildren: Alex is almost 2 and Ava is 4 weeks old. It breaks my heart to think of what is facing them if we don’t act. I want to be able to tell them that I was part of saving their future, not part of the problem’.

‘I am proud to be revolting.’

Extinction Rebellion now has the challenge of exercising their inclusive values and maintaining their global presence to ensure their demands are met. XR is working to engage people from a diverse range of backgrounds, to unite together towards the shared urgency the planet requires.

The movement is now holding ‘100% family-friendly events’ in a further attempt to demonstrate that all are welcome and that this crisis transcends barriers of age.

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  1. Truthfully put by Emma. There are no power lunges or
    authoritarianism in XR. I believe that being insightful &
    caring for one another is a choice we all need to think
    about since the decision is not difficult. Both Gandhi &
    Leo Tolstoy were witness to ‘life beyond politics.’ For
    the life of me I cannot understand the flippancy of
    a question asking “how long until the poles melt!” It’s
    my opinion the ‘planet’s’ been mistreated long enough.
    Many kids have become early adults. Let us support
    them & respect the changes together.

  2. An informed neighbour has told me that
    the Prime Minister of this country has
    stated that the fires sweeping through
    NSW & Qld have nothing to do with
    the Climate Crisis because there isn’t
    one. He’s said that Australia has had
    fires ‘going on’ for many years. Yeah;
    whatever. I’ve lived in Qld & NSW &
    I’ve been around for 75 years & not
    ever seen the likes of this before – &
    so say thousands of others.


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