Rupert Read is assistant-professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia. In the context of this blog he’s better known as a leading green campaigner and as one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion (XR). This makes an essay he has just published, in which he argues that XR cannot now lead the demand for climate change from the extreme position it has taken as being of note.
In my opinion Rupert has shown some considerable courage in writing this essay. He is criticising some he has worked with. He is saying that there may be a better way to campaign. I think that many will agree with him. I am amongst those who think XR is at least as capable of alienating people as it is of winning support.
The essay is not the easiest read. But it is worth being aware of the argument. This is the introduction:
What next on climate? The need for a new moderate flank
Oct 6th, 2021
This essay takes stock of the state of ‘the climate movement’ in the immediate run-up to COP26 in Glasgow – and in light of its author’s expectation that that historic conference will fail us. It argues that it’s certain that there will be more and more people in the coming months and years wanting to be involved in meaningful climate action, as more and more wake up to the direness of our predicament, and to there being no-one riding to the rescue. However, a movement that is not prepared to be genuinely inclusive of those who don’t reach a certain pre-set standard – of arrestability, or of ‘identity’, or of ideology – will fail to achieve such action at scale. Thus there is a clear and present need for a new set of activities and organisations that will be able to be the ‘moderates’ to XR, who were created to be a radical flank to actually-existing environmentalism in 2018. This ‘moderate flank’ will need to reach further than the organisations that preceded XR managed to do; and to box smarter than XR itself sometimes managed to do. It will have to be designed so as to be more genuinely ideologically and methodologically inclusive.
Thus this essay seeks to build on XR’s extraordinary but limited success by seeking to inhabit the space that XR, building in its turn on previous movements (from Occupy to Greenpeace), has so strikingly pulled open. The greatest legacy and achievement of XR may turn out to be a massive multiform moderate flank that looks nothing like it, yet is even more necessary