What do we make of this ‘Tactical Change’ from Extinction Rebellion?

Campaigning councillor Richard Morgan considers the New Years Day XR statement

As 2023 dawned, protest group Extinction Rebellion released the following statement. “As midnight strikes, we are making a controversial New Years resolution to ‘temporarily’ shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic. Disruption is powerful, and it works. And we believe that constantly evolving tactics is a necessary approach, and what’s needed now is to disrupt corruption and the abuse of power by those in charge. The UK Government, addicted to greed and bloated on profits, won’t do what’s necessary without pressure.” Richard Morgan is a Bridgwater Town Councillor who has been in the thick of the action campaigning for Just Stop Oil and was at one point jailed for taking part in a protest. We asked his views on the news…..

SL; Richard, you must be massively relieved by this news knowing that you no longer have to superglue yourself to zebra crossings, and  that instead of throwing cartons of pot noodle over artistic masterpieces you can donate them to the poor and needy and  be glad that you can instead just engage peacefully, slowly, in  fact interminably, within the democratic process ?

“This is an emergency” Cllr Richard Morgan

RM I’m not sure if SL are playing devil’s advocate or if Richard Madely wrote these questions… The Climate and Ecological  Emergency (CEE) needs to be treated with seriousness and urgency. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. There is a consensus among the credible scientific community that we are in real trouble.  Targets to reduce emissions and prevent global heating exceeding 1.5 degrees C are not going to be hit.  Right now we are seeing humanitarian disasters such as flooding and crop failure caused by human-caused heating all over the world.  2022 was the hottest year since records began and we probably won’t see another year this cool in our lifetimes.  Right now we are seeing unlivable temperatures and failing infrastructure; 40 degrees is not normal! Net Zero policies are not working and have become a distant target and set of tick-boxes, another excuse to let ourselves and the government off the hook and kick the can down the road again. New licences for fossil fuels are still being issued. The democratic process IS excruciatingly slow but the response to covid shows that it doesn’t have to be. And that’s why protesters and campaigners are trying to force the government to ACT NOW.  We saw what happened with Covid when Boris Johnson didn’t take things seriously and we shouldn’t allow that to happen with the CEE.

SL:- Do you think that this change of tactic has come about because Extinction Rebellion were losing support by basically annoying people and have now realised that instead they should be targeting the oil companies and the government instead of the general public going about their business?

Cllr Morgan lays his credentials on the table

RM Publicity was a main aim but ACTION is the real goal.  Now that we have the attention of the people and the government (and the general public opinion seems to be shifting towards the fact that we are acting in their interests), it’s time for the people to join together en masse and pile the pressure on.  I support the actions of Extinction Rebellion but I am more associated with Just Stop Oil. We wish Extinction rebellion well, they recognise we are facing the loss of the rule of law, of ordered civil society, of our rights and freedoms. That’s what you should be talking about. How will we eat in the coming decade? How will our cities cope with relentless over 40C heat? Why are we opening new oil and gas fields when it will result in the deaths of millions?

XR managed to get a climate emergency declared in 2019 but what has happened since then?  New oil and gas licences are still being granted.  A new coal mine in Cumbria for pity’s sake!  Insulate Britain (IB) and Just Stop Oil (JSO) were formed to put more pressure on the government with much more urgency than before.  The radical flank effect shows that more radical groups like IB and JSO effect positive change more rapidly than more moderate groups but also lead to an increased membership in moderate groups.The truth is we need to take all approaches and do everything we can as THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

Cllr Morgan – Putting his liberty where his mouth is..

If JSO are the radical flank (we are) and the UK and the world are in a climate and ecological EMERGENCY (we are) and the government are not acting swiftly enough (they aren’t) then we won’t stop until our demands are met. Just Stop Oil is demanding that the UK government makes a statement that it will immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.  We demand that our buildings and homes are properly insulated and that there is proper investment in public transport and renewable energy.  These measures should be paid for by proper taxation of the energy and fossil fuel companies.

SL;- Have you achieved your initial aim of getting publicity for the cause and now that’s done isn’t the focus instead on practical ways people, companies, councils and so on can directly change their way of doing things, but now with a greater sense of knowledge and urgency, prompted by you supergluing yourself to their pet Dalmatian.

Flying the flag for Labour

RM;- We have achieved lots of publicity but action needs to follow on from this. I’d like to see more cllrs and influential people (who are supposed to be intelligent, thoughtful people acting in the best interests of the public) taking steps in their personal lives and professional decisions that set an example and show they are taking the climate and ecological emergency seriously.  The nature of these interview questions suggests that the CEE is seen by some as a bit of a joke. Politicians at all levels talk about climate when they want funding but act insouciantly, treating the climate crisis like a project instead of an emergency.  I have chosen to go vegan and signed the flight free pledge amongst other things because I accept the inconvenient truth and choose not to bury my head in the sand any longer. People like me are not getting ourselves arrested and sent to prison, disrupting our own lives, for a bit of a laugh. All life on Earth is in jeopardy and we need ACTION.

SL;- Sir David King says there’s 3 to 4 years left ….is he right? We probably aren’t going to make that are we….so what do we do then?

RM;-3-4 years is the estimated time before we pass a tipping point and move into a very different climate state. It won’t be the end of the world but we might wish it was. As we move out of this stable yet fleeting niche that civilisation has sprung up in, we will see famine, flooding, failing infrastructure and unlivable temperatures leading to mass migration and chaos on a scale not previously seen. This might all sound far-fetched to someone sitting reading this comfortably in the UK but ask people in Pakistan or on a Pacific island if they think the CEE is real!  We need to ACT NOW.  Or, if you don’t believe or care about the CEE, I’d suggest you party like it’s 1999. Don’t just sit and wait for the end to appear on the news. And to quote another pop song ‘don’t pretend to care when you don’t care’.  I want to be able to say ‘phew, we made it!’, not ‘hah, I told you so!’  

SL;-  That Dale Vince bloke, who started as a vegan football, and is now the UN ambassador for climate change, says there’s a balance between putting pressure on governments to do more and on individuals by disrupting their lives as a PR stunt. He’s right isn’t he, and that balance is a bit more in favour of not supergluing yourself to an orphanage and instead just making life miserable for the actual people who are causing the crisis?

‘Just Stop Oil’ activists

RM I doubt that Dale Vince put it quite like that as he supports Just Stop Oil and has funded them.  He does say disruption is part of protest. I can’t give a serious answer to the silly orphanage analogy. Maybe now the tide of public opinion is turning and the apathetic and disenfranchised are ready to join us. Maybe now there will be enough of us to put enough pressure on the government to do their job properly and protect people and planet over profit. The position being taken by Extinction Rebellion allows people that don’t want to be arrested to get involved without fear of getting into serious trouble (especially important with the government set to change laws to essentially outlaw peaceful protest). And maybe, as our numbers swell, the government at all levels will act faster on the CEE the way they have in response to the pandemic to effect rapid change that is desperately needed.

So far Cllr Morgan ‘believes in’ Keir Starmers promises.,..

SL Of course when a Labour Government is elected this will all be sorted. However, if it isn’t will you superglue yourself to Keir Starmer??

RM If Labour get into power and we carry out all of our pledges that will be a dream come true. Whether that will be enough and will be done quick enough we’ll have to wait and see.  Kier Starmer’s track record and stance on unions and protesters and his obsession with business and growth don’t fill me with confidence, however.

If the Labour Party leadership don’t uphold their pledges for a fairer, greener future I guess I’ll have to switch to a party more aligned with my environmentalist and socialist feelings.

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Christian Murray-Leslie
Christian Murray-Leslie
1 year ago

Superb responses to facetious questions and a sensible balanced response to XR and trying to see the bigger picture. Each answer a mini speech, which most of us would have been proud to make. Richard would be a great addition to team who do interviews for JSO. Who incidentally is SL who is asking the questions. Shadow cabinet and Ed Miliband ( Environment) in particular need to read these replies

1 year ago

He answered those questions so brilliantly and calmly! He was asked such ridiculous questions and it makes me ashamed to be a Labour supporter if they’re asking things like whether Just Stop Oil will superglue to people’s pet dalmatians! He is absolutely right, this is an EMERGENCY and we need to treat it as such because only then can we save our society, Sir Keir Starmer should be doing far more as should we all!

K Clarkson
K Clarkson
1 year ago

Kudos to Richard Morgan for calmly answering “Madely’s” questions!

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