You famously said climate change was this generation’s nuclear-free moment. But when Extinction Rebellion uses the tactics of the Nuclear Free movement, you say you aren’t impressed.
We are a fire alarm, and fire alarms are disruptive. When our house is on fire, and we’re asleep, a noisy alarm is what’s needed. Our house is already on fire. Scientists agree we are in the middle of a mass extinction driven by human-led climate and environmental breakdown.
We aren’t comfortable being the alarm. Before this emergency, many of us would never have considered even joining a protest. We are Tangata Whenua, lawyers, parents and grandparents, retail workers, church ministers, scientists, mental health advocates, business owners and others. And yes, some of us are activists who love to sing. We would prefer to be going about our daily lives, spending time with our families and enjoying ourselves.
But, this is an emergency.
Without action we face widespread human misery.
We acknowledge your Government for doing more on climate change than the previous one. We celebrate the end of future oil exploration permits as a world first. We understand the “political reality”, but the science is clear that it isn’t enough.
We already have enough oil to push us beyond 1.5 degrees of warming – the limit agreed upon by the Pacific and United Nations to prevent a human catastrophe and collapse of ecosystems. Despite this, OMV (one of the 100 climate criminals responsible for 70% of global emissions) will soon explore for oil in pristine, untouched waters near Otago and Taranaki. The Austrian oil giant could only do this because MBIE extended OMV’s existing permits. MBIE could only extend their licenses because your Government allowed it.
Fire alarms aren’t just noisy; they work.
The United Kingdom was the first country to declare a climate and ecological emergency. The British Parliament credited the declaration to Extinction Rebellion UK’s non-violent disruptions in April. In Aotearoa, we have our own proud tradition of strategic non-violence. Without it, the suffragettes wouldn’t have won women the right to vote.
We commend the Labour-led Government for acknowledging the school strikers, while National and Act parties derided them. But this isn’t enough. On Monday, you asked the media why anyone would support our disruptive actions when thousands of students had just protested in the street. Like many New Zealanders, seeing waves of young people marching for climate justice gave us hope. But for us it isn’t an either/or. We support and marched with the school strikes. Yet your Government’s failure to put in place the school strikers’ demands is precisely why we back mass symbolic action and civil disobedience. We need more than lip service. As Greta Thunberg says: “We don’t need you to congratulate us, we need you to act.”
Our three demands.
Extinction Rebellion demands the Government:
1. Tell the truth and declare a climate and ecological emergency;
2. Act now and halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2025 and
3. Go beyond politics and setup a citizen’s assembly on climate and ecological justice.
We are consulting members to develop a fourth demand acknowledging Tino Rangatiratanga and climate justice.
While Extinction Rebellion is a fire alarm, we can’t be the escape plan. The citizens’ assembly we suggest will bring people with a range of expertise together to learn, deliberate and make recommendations to act. Similar to jury service, members are randomly selected from the population and quotas are used to ensure the assembly is representative. Assembly members hear balanced information from experts and stakeholders and work in facilitated groups to develop a recommendation. They are run by an independent body and are transparent, inclusive and effective. It was aCitizens’ Assembly that international media outlet DW says “broke decades of political deadlock in Ireland to usher in legal abortions and same-sex marriage”.
The Government needs to transition to a fully sustainable energy network, withdraw OMV’s permits, and end fossil fuels exploration.
It’s time to draw the line.
On Monday you told media you drew the line on illegal and violent action. Your use of our campaign slogan “Draw the Line” to spread a mistruth is unfortunate. Extinction Rebellion is committed to strategic non-violence and is inspired by Parihaka and the Nuclear Free movements. Police Inspector Wade Jennins told Stuffon Monday that we “were peaceful, did not damage anything or threaten anyone.” He noted that we thanked the Police for how they acted. No one was charged with an offence.
We will take whatever non-violent action is necessary to protect our future. Monday was just the beginning and we are willing to suffer the consequences of further action. Sometimes you have to get burnt to pull someone out of a fire. But it’s worth it.
Because this is an emergency.
Either we make history or we’re history. Like the Nuclear Free movement before us, we choose to make history.
Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa New Zealand