By Sian Hopkins | Comment Editor
On the 28th of August Cardiff city centre began to see a shift from the usual bustle of shoppers to the addition of brightly coloured flags, the sound of samba drums and pop up stalls containing block printing and outreach leaflets, courtesy of Extinction Rebellion. The nationwide protests by Extinction Rebellion began officially from the 1st of september across the UK in Manchester, London and Cardiff, with the purpose of raising awareness and telling the truth about the climate crisis we are currently a part of.
Whilst to certain people the largely visual and interactive displays of non-violent direct action were seen as a nuisance or even ‘extreme’, the key aims behind such protests are simple. This specific week in Cardiff, and across the UK, has focused on three main demands from XR, involving the Government tell the truth about us entering the 6th mass extinction to occur on Earth and how desperately we need to act now to have a chance at reversing this.
Our Government are aware of this fact and how we are predicted to hit our 1.5 degrees threshold in five years and by ten years our earth will be 4 degrees hotter, causing the migration and deaths of billions.
However there is no mention of acting on the climate crisis within the Government’s post-COVID plan, despite countries like Ireland setting the example. Extinction Rebellion’s demand is simply that the government introduce a CEE bill, recognising a climate and ecological emergency, whilst working with other institutions to stress the urgency for change. This leads to the need to act now and for the Government to recognise they must work to halt biodiversity loss and halt greenhouse gas emissions to a net of zero by 2025, not 2050, as by then it will be too late.
Some of the specific demonstrations I got to witness and be a part of during the week included Barclays Oil spill, the takeover of BBC Cymru and a choreographed drown-in outside of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, all asking for companies and the government to tell the truth and act now. Barclays were a target of protest mainly for being the biggest funder into fossil fuels out of all European banks, backing about $85 billion between 2016 and 2018.
The protests in Cardiff Bay were particularly significant and highlighted the importance of the Extinction Rebellion in Cardiff, as the drown-in and chalk painted tidal waves demonstrated how Cardiff would be completely underwater by 2050. Many of the rebels and I experienced people asking about why such rebellions were taking place in Cardiff, and as one Cardiff student put it:
‘Cardiff is the city that will be the most affected by rising sea levels, one of the main consequences of global warming in the UK. Cardiff really pinpoints how the climate and ecological crisis is going to affect our lives in a future many of us will live through-people need that kind of vision of how the climate breakdown will affect US and not just the trees and polar bears.’
Most rebels involved included children as young as four, up to grandparents and retirees who are worried about the state the world will be left in for future generations and their grandchildren, and using non violent direct action to get that point across. I spoke to a few students who had arrived in Cardiff from across the country and some involved in Cardiff Students Extinction Rebellion, a society set up with Cardiff University’s student union. Most answers about why they were protesting and what they wanted people to take from the protest were unanimous.
A student from Bristol university answered when asked why she was rebelling commented:
‘We have ten years before change is completely irreversible, so if we don’t act now it will be too late. We want people to join us in the rebellion and stand up for their rights, if nothing changes we will all suffer but it will be those that are the most vulnerable that will suffer the most.’
Similarly, a Cardiff student answered he was protesting:
‘Against the government, because all the up to date scientific advice appears to be falling on deaf ears, or willfully ignored in pursuit of profit, putting profit over the planet.’
These students demonstrate the frustration of a generation whose future is dependent on what is done over the next few years.
There comes a time where panic is necessary and it is important to be informed on what our future holds- extinction rebellion tells the truth when the media and the government choose not to and for that reason it is an important symbol of humanity risking social disorder for the benefit of the world.