Civil Disobedience How to Make Enemies and Influence People – Global Issues

XR Red Rebels at a climate protest in Rome. Credit: Paul Virgo/IPS.
  • by Paul Virgo (Roman)
  • Interpress service

The methods used by radical climate groups that have sprung up in many countries in recent years, such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Insulate Britain, appear to be better suited to alienating people than engaging them to stop the looming threat. environmental disaster. And alienate the people they have.

A good example is the reaction of the Italian group Ultima Generazione (UG – Last Generation) to the roadblock demonstrations in Rome in June. The videos released by the group will make you sit in awe of the protesters. In one, a car drives so close to a young woman sitting in the road that she appears to be hit by the vehicle.

In another, drivers violently drag protesters off the road, with a young male protester being dragged away by his ponytail. Online abuse is also high, with group members being called everything from spoiled brats to terrorists.

Many commentators cannot understand why the protests hit ordinary people doing business and not the rich and powerful. Other actions, such as gluing protesters to Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera in the Uffizi Gallery or throwing paint at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, have also caused consternation.

The actions have not only come under criticism from people who are unaware of the scale of the environmental crisis.

Even Adrian Ramsay, co-leader of the Greens in England and Wales, told The i newspaper that “we don’t always agree with their tactics” when asked about blocking Britain’s motorways.

But as the consequences of the climate emergency become increasingly apparent, these groups are not afraid to be unpopular until their message is heard.

“The main purpose of our protests is to break down the wall of indifference and polarize people,” Beatrice Costantino, a qualified vet who quit her career to dedicate herself full-time to climate change with UG, told IPS.

“We can’t have an ongoing deep debate about climate and the ecological emergency without touching people’s emotions. We don’t want to make people feel guilty for driving or not doing much to reduce their carbon footprint. “But we want them to remember that they are citizens and members of the community.

“So they have rights as we live in a democracy, but they also have responsibilities. We can no longer shirk our social responsibilities and have to accept that our inaction is the biggest part of the problem. We cannot demand that the government change if we do not put enough pressure on it and are not ready to lose our privileges, benefits and freedom for the (common) good and truth.

A group that led the way in embracing non-violent civil disobedience to demand climate action was Extinction Rebellion in the UK in 2018. UG and JSO are among several younger and even more radical groups that belong to the international A22 network. Stop Old Growth in Canada, Derniere Renovation in France and Declare Emergency in the United States are other members.

They are inspired by examples of the successful use of civil resistance in the past, such as the suffragettes and the civil rights movement in the United States.

They believe that small groups of determined people can muster the active support of a relatively small portion of the population, perhaps as low as 1% or 2%, to reach a certain social tipping point that produces rapid change.

“We’re sure that’s how many people we really need for a nonviolent revolution, because that’s mostly what happened in the past,” Costantino said.

“When people are constantly bombarded with news about the climate crisis and people fighting against it, they start looking for more information, discussing it with friends and family, reflecting within themselves.”

He says that the activities of the A22 network have already produced results.

“In Canada in 2021, over 1,000 people protested the destruction of native forests, going into the woods, blocking trucks, climbing and tying themselves to trees.

“But they received little media attention, and many Canadians were either unaware of the problem or didn’t care. “Now the campaign to save the old growth with less than 70 people is troubling the public. “They’ve been in the national news, they’ve been jailed, and they’ve shocked the nation. “Polls show that more than 80% of Canadians are concerned about the problem and want the government to stop their deforestation.”

Another characteristic of these protesters is their fearlessness when it comes to weighing their own safety and freedom. Indeed, many have been jailed for this cause, including 51 JSO supporters who were jailed on September 15th after they staged a sit-in at the Kingsbury oil terminal in Britain.

Whether most people like these tactics or not, we’re sure to hear more from these groups as more protests are planned in the coming weeks and months. “What is the price of inaction?” Costantino said.

“If we don’t reduce emissions now, more than three billion people will be forced to leave their homes by 2070. “We need to open our eyes and realize that our parents, children and loved ones will die in huge numbers if we don’t act now.”

© Inter Press Service (2022) — all rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service