Following two days of non-violent action in Edinburgh and the ongoing climate protests in London, Extinction Rebellion (XR) Edinburgh held its Welcome & Introduction Meeting on the evening of 22 April at the Quaker Meeting Room, hosting over a hundred participants. The meeting aimed to inform people on the demands and aims of XR and how they could get involved.
Although the arrested activists take up the majority of media attention, Extinction Rebellion is a large organisation with sub-groups each with a critical purpose.
The meeting started off with a presentation by an XR spokesperson introducing these groups (such as arts, activities, research, outreach and even a choir) and the roles available. The spokesperson then explained the decentralised structure they have as an organisation. Each group has two coordinators who are not there to lead but to get together with the other coordinators and inform each other on what they’re doing.
Another XR spokesperson continued with the aim of a Citizens’ Assembly. The third demand of XR is that “government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” It will ultimately bring the ordinary citizens together to learn and deliberate about climate justice and get them to be involved in political decision-making. The spokesperson gave the example of the legalisation of abortion in Republic of Ireland in 2018, where a Citizens’ Assembly had a massive influence. The idea is that a Citizens’ Assembly reflects what people from all backgrounds in a country want. Currently, XR is trying to reach out to as many people as possible to sign the petition to push the Scottish Government to create a Citizens’ Assembly to tackle the ecological crisis.
An activist involved in the massive climate protest in London, was also present at the Edinburgh meeting: “Whenever you wake up, you’re alerted – which locations do we still have, is the kitchen still there, what will we do?
“You could feel the vitality and togetherness of the people, everyone connected so easily… This is an exponential growth. Just seeing all these people here right now is amazing.”
At the end of the presentation and talks, a question from a participant was asked, concerning the environmental activism of XR and intersectionality, emphasising groups in the society which face oppression similar to that of the environment, drawing attention to institutionalised racism and patriarchy.
The participant asked if XR had any plans to reach out to these marginalised groups and universalise their action. The XR speaker responded that there was indeed a group on intersectionality inside the organisation and that they are aiming to connect with these groups. He added that this was an internal issue of the organisation and a topic they had a lot to learn about. “We need to teach ourselves about systematic racism and patriarchy…this is something we have a lot to learn about and we are conscious about it.”
Finally, the XR speaker stated that Extinction Rebellion wants to remain non-partisan. This was a crucial point because environmental movements tend to be associated with left wing liberal parties, however, climate change is a critical issue of emergency which should concern all people. It requires the collective action of people so that they can put the pressure on governments and private corporations to declare climate emergency and make the necessary changes on their policies.
Image: Extinction Rebellion Scotland