Extinction Rebellion has always been criticised for its lack of diversity. Their very policy of striking is supported by people who can afford to possibly lose their job or not work, meaning that they have always risked being out of touch with those less fortunate.
Their stint on the tube on Thursday shows just how much of a gap in understanding, as well as an ignorance, still exists within the group.
Early in the morning, a protester decided to sit on the top of a tube carriage at Canning Town station, one of the poorest areas of London. For many people here, their jobs are their lifeline and they cannot risk tardiness.
It seems that this particular staging was not even thought through, with many taking to twitter yesterday to point out that surely causing disruption on public transport will just push commuters to use more carbon-emitting modes of transport such as taxis or cars. They’re 100% right.
The news that XR plan to target the tube on Thursday confirms to me that they have lost the plot. I don’t drive. I use public transport. This lifestyle is better for the environment. Why treat the London Underground the same way as City Airport? https://t.co/ul5redXhO7— philwoodford (@philwoodford) October 15, 2019
But this event hazards so much more than an ignorance on the part of XR.
In addition, it has revealed cracks in the group’s policies and supposed unity on the very issues they are protesting against.
As a group grows and gathers momentum you are always going to see a whole monopoly of policies appearing, with some disagreements on opinion as well as end goals. Take the Gilets Jaunes movement in France; what began as a protest against rising fuel prices has now become a whole host of different issues. As a result, the group has begun to appear disorganised.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for bringing the environment to the forefront, I just don’t want to see its cause defeated because it loses touch with the people.
One of the many reasons why the Green Party has never won an election is because many feel it is out of touch with a large portion of the population. While the environment is important it needs to take equal president with issues such as supporting the disabled, tackling poverty and an abundance of others, not overshadow them.
At the end of the day, if it comes down to a party that pledges to increase the minimum wage, rather than just end carbon emissions, those who struggle will go for the former option, and they are right to.
In fact, many have even begun to critique XR’s lack of organisation to achieve anything significant. In Current Affairs, Erica X Erisen wrote that “it isn’t possible to find an apolitical solution to a political problem,” and she’s right.
In a world of politics, one has to include their political agenda if they hope to 1) create unison and 2) hope to have some influence in government one day.
Following the backlash, XR released a statement:
“this action had been announced on Tuesday, and was received with overwhelming opposition and consternation from those in our movement, both regarding the nature, location, and timing of the action. This concern was communicated to the planners of the action – a very small group, which did not participate in ‘national level’ Rebellion decision-making bodies.”
I am by no means taking away from the peaceful protesters, the local XR groups and those wanting to make a difference. I do however think that this marks a real turning point for the group and they will have to plan their next actions carefully if they hope to keep supporters on side, as well as regain trust from the general public.
It is time to change their apolitical policies before it’s too late.
Lead Image: Julia Hawkins via Flickr