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Dublin: 3°C Friday 26 February 2021

Opinion: Time is running out to save planet earth so we are organising a campaign of civil resistance

‘If we don’t act now we are condemning our children and grandchildren to a world of wildfires, hurricanes, storm surges and droughts – which will cause the collapse of our societies,’ writes Ciaran O’Carroll.

Ciaran O'Carroll

IT HAS BEEN two weeks since I was released under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in London for taking part in the International Rebellion.

My arrest took place under slightly surreal circumstances. Having just given an interview to RTE news I decided to attend a talk being given by a young woman from East Africa at the centre of Extinction Rebellion’s blockade of Oxford Circus.

As she explained how extreme weather events had destroyed her village’s crops and left her family destitute the Metropolitan Police requested that I, and the rest of her audience, leave the immediate area.

I explained to the police officers politely that I wanted to hear what the young woman had to say since she was making a very important and emotional speech about how climate change – caused predominantly by emissions from the world’s richest nations – had destroyed her community and that I believed it was our moral duty to listen to what she had to say.

However, as she pleaded with the police not to arrest her audience, we were taken away one by one, herded into police vans and duly taken into custody.

If there is one positive thing about sitting alone in a cold police cell for hours and hours with just a blue blanket for company – it is that it gives you plenty of time to think and there was only one thing on my mind.

Will this finally be the moment that governments start to take climate change seriously?

But it should never have come to this. Scientists have been ringing the alarm bell about climate change for more than 30 years and in that time global emissions have risen by over 60%.

Governments should have acted years ago, instead, we’re faced with a climate change catastrophe that threatens the existence of life on Earth as we know it within our children’s lifetime.

And that’s not according to some eco-hippie-warriors, that’s according to the UN Secretary-General, NASA, David Attenborough and the world’s top climate scientists.

Our own president recently decried the world’s treatment of the planet. At Ireland’s first national biodiversity conference he said: “If we were coal miners, we would be up to our knees in dead canaries.”

Yet, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland’s emissions are projected to continue to “increase from most sectors”.

Faced with government inaction and the impending collapse of our ecosystems ordinary, law-abiding citizens have been forced by their moral consciences to rebel against their governments.

For many people, the Extinction Rebellion appears to come out of the blue – but it hasn’t.

Two years ago a group of researchers and activists started to meet to seriously consider two questions. Why has campaigning failed over the past generation? And how can we make it work?

Drawing on the ground-breaking research of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in their book Why Civil Resistance Works, they came to the conclusion that the only way to overcome entrenched political power is through extensive campaigns of large-scale, nonviolent direct action.

Nothing in these tactics is new. Extinction Rebellion is humbly following in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. We are simply rediscovering what people do when they can no longer tolerate an unjust status quo. 

And it does appear to be working. Already in we’ve seen declarations of climate emergencies in Scotland, Wales and Wicklow which suggest that – along with the inspirational school’s strikes – Extinction Rebellion’s protests are finally forcing governments to at least acknowledge we are in a crisis.

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And this is just the beginning.

Since the wave of protests began in recent weeks, support for Extinction Rebellion in the UK and Ireland has soared. In the UK 30,000 new backers or volunteers have offered their support and in Ireland, our Facebook followers ballooned from 1,000 to over 5,000 people in the space of a single week.

Attitudes are changing as well, a poll released on Tuesday found that two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 64% said the government is responsible for taking action on climate change.

For the first time in a long time, there is a real feeling of hope that the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into meaningful action and relentlessly keep up the pressure on governments to act.

For those who don’t believe in our methods we can only apologise for any inconvenience caused.

However if we don’t act now we are condemning our children and grandchildren to a world of wildfires, hurricanes, storm surges and droughts – which will cause the collapse of our societies and ultimately the extinction of the human race.

We in Extinction Rebellion have decided to rebel as if our children’s futures depend on it – because they do.

Dr Ciaran O’Carroll is a member of Extinction Rebellion Ireland and lives in North Dublin. 

About the author:

Ciaran O'Carroll

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