Are the Extinction Rebellion protests legitimate?

The Extinction Rebellion movement has announced two weeks of global protests. With acts of civil disobedience the environmental activists want to force governments to do more to stop climate change. But this form of protest is sparking controversy.

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Zeit Online (DE) /

Dangerous contempt for democracy

Zeit Online criticises the movement's theoretical framework:

“Climate change is bigger than democracy, says the movement's co-founder Roger Hallam. He evokes a revolution as the goal of a political crisis. Such contempt for the political system is dangerous. It implies that institutions need not be respected by those who are on the side of a bigger, more pressing cause, and in so doing it imagines that it is in the right. Far-right fringe movements also play such intellectual games. But no one can want such a totalitarian approach to climate change. What would a society look like that - as XR is demanding - has become CO2 neutral by 2025 come hell or high water? No doubt a social order would arise along the way that is worse than the one we have now.”

The Sun (GB) /

Fanatics want to plunge the world into chaos

The Sun also warns emphatically against Extinction Rebellion's goals:

“Like a deranged fundamentalist religion, Extinction Rebellion trades in misery and fear, with suffering as the only route to salvation. ... Its activists warn of climate change disaster, but their own policies would lead to chaos, meltdown and mass unemployment. Essentially, they want to halt all economic growth, dragging us into a new Dark Age. Extinction Rebellion is the only political movement in history that wants to LOWER living standards. If the protestors had their way, the present turmoil they have brought to London and other cities would be replicated on an epic scale.”

Público (PT) /

Finally the emergency brake has been pulled

At last climate change has become a focus of global attention, activist João Camargo writes in Público about the growing movement:

“The real actors of the climate emergency movement are the people who today are mobilising all over the world to bring a halt to industrial projects that are allowing emissions to increase more rapidly than ever. Fortunately there is a growing social movement that is not standing by idly and watching the collapse, for the institutions responsible for order and progress cannot deal with this emergency. ... To say it with Walter Benjamin: Perhaps revolutions are not the locomotive of history, but the emergency brake when history brings us to collapse. ”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Radicalism jeopardises the consensus

Der Tagesspiegel doesn't see the point of radicalising climate protest:

“What we need to save our climate is a broad social consensus for climate protection and consistent action on the part of politicians and private citizens. With their actions, radical rebels only achieve the opposite. They divide activists into smaller groups and could cause people to turn their backs on the climate movement. Rather than becoming more radical, climate protest must continue to mobilise all of society. The rebels should take note of that. This cause is too important to be jeopardised by actions that only harm it.”

20 minutos (ES) /

Activists not concerned about rhetoric

20 minutos, however, is enthusiastic:

“This is a different kind of movement: Intergenerational, non-partisan, diverse. Its objective is for the climate emergency to be declared everywhere and effectively. It wants to go beyond rhetoric and force the implementation of policies capable of taking on the major challenges with which science has confronted us, with the resources this will require. A rebellion that claims to be peaceful and that must spread to the furthest corners of the planet to avoid its extinction.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Fear that forces us to act

The movement can force purportedly climate-friendly governments to take concrete measures to protect the climate, writes The Guardian:

“The next wave of Extinction Rebellion protests will be a success if it forces climate-friendly politicians to show their proposals. When a politician says they will stop the climate crisis from escalating, the first question that needs to be asked is: 'how?' Answering that question requires politicians to expose the fact that avoiding dangerous warming will be disruptive and difficult. Many people will look for reasons to find a way out and so the debate may return to 'why?' But this is Extinction Rebellion's specialist subject: its explanation of the climate emergency may be terrifying but it is well-evidenced.”