Diversify or die: Extinction Rebellion UK announce major shift in strategy

The environmental campaigners have responded to criticism of being too white and too broad. We look at their new strategy.

Extinction Rebellion UK has launched a new strategy, with a focus on becoming more diverse – while moving away from full-scale city shutdowns to more targeted actions.

The newly launched strategy aims to ‘broaden our diversity’ and ‘stand alongside younger people and those from minority and marginalised communities’. XR has been criticised as being ‘too white’ and ‘too middle class’ by supporters including journalist George Monbiot and BME activists.

Following a wave of mass arrests at Extinction Rebellion ‘shutdowns’ of cities including London last year, XR have announced a shift towards more targeted actions and specific projects: “Instead of blocking London’s streets for two weeks, Extinction Rebellion will take action in waves targeting the underlying causes of the Climate and Ecological Emergency – toxic systems of government, media and finance.”

The new strategy focuses around four shifts:

  1. People Power – “Bring a million people in the UK into active support and ensure 50% of the nation see the Climate & Ecological Emergency as their top priority” This will include a focus on support grassroots/local campaigns – e.g. against non-renewable power stations. It is not clear what constitutes ‘active’ support, but the group say they currently have 180,000 people on their mailing list in the UK.
  2. Vision – “We won’t wait for our demands to be met, we will begin to enact them, piloting new participatory systems in democracy, media and economics.” The group have announced they intend on running a Global Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice ‘to address the systemic issues causing humanity to kill life on Earth’, as well as creating a new multimedia platform for XR news, content and social media
  3. Movement of Movements – “Grow our connection to, and understanding of, wider movements for change, building stronger relationships, co-creating new stories and visions for the future.” This will involve supporting BME/’majority world’ campaigns and broadening XR’s internal diversity
  4. Inner Strength – “Improve internal systems, caring for our rebels, building our regenerative cultures, adhering to our Principles and Values” in order to ‘live the change’ This will include a review of the organisation’s approach to ‘finance, decision making, information sharing, conflict resilience and feedback and learning’

The aim to ensure 50% of people see climate change as their top priority is extremely ambitious. A pre-General Election YouGov poll showed just 27% of voters cited the environment as one of three top issues – behind Brexit and health, putting it on a par with crime and the economy. Last year did see a surge in concern over climate change following XR’s dramatic rise.

The organisation’s strategy document states that ‘the world has changed significantly since Extinction Rebellion launched just over a year ago’, necessitating a shift in approach.

The push to diversity the organisation and its brand will include a series of ‘faith based’ projects, including a month of Ramadan actions, ‘focusing on the message of the climate and ecological emergency through fasting and faith’ with XR Muslims.

On 22nd February, XR supporters will protest in London as part of the ‘Enough is Enough: Together We March’ demonstration, to kick off a year of action, ahead of a ‘rolling wave of actions’ from May 23rd.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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