You’d probably have to go back to the Suffragettes to find a protest movement that is as creative, hard-hitting and effective as Extinction Rebellion (XR).
It is hard to think of another radical movement that has been able to turn out thousands of people for several days of sustained activity – with many of them volunteering to do things they know will almost certainly get them arrested.
The targets XR chose for its actions in October were exactly right.
Traders at London’s Smithfield meat market were broadly sympathetic with The Times quoting one as saying “I don’t agree with everything they’ve got to say but I agree with the core idea”.That idea is that diets based on massive consumption of meat and dairy products in rich countries are major factors in the climate crisis.
They also targeted the rich world’s addiction to air travel.
London City Airport was built solely to serve rich business travellers flying into Canary Wharf and London’s business centre, a much smarter choice than Stansted or Heathrow which cater for many more working-class travellers. And XR admitted their debt to the protestors defying the Hong Kong police who did something similar at the airport there.
XR has put climate change on the political agenda in a way that makes it impossible for the media and the political class to ignore. The impending election will be a critical moment.
Labour is committed to a potential net-zero carbon target of 2030 and has made its environmental policy one of its most prominent campaigns. XR has given many Labour Party members a newfound confidence in not only prioritising the environment as a whole, but also thinking seriously about more controversial areas such as transport, agriculture and diet. The fact that a Labour government will be strongly influenced by the ideas XR has made mainstream is another reason why putting Jeremy Corbyn into No 10 is so vital.