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Mon Apr 15, 2019, 07:47 AM

Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse

George Monbiot

No one is coming to save us. Mass civil disobedience is essential to force a political response

Had we put as much effort into preventing environmental catastrophe as we’ve spent on making excuses for inaction, we would have solved it by now. Everywhere I look, I see people engaged in furious attempts to fend off the moral challenge it presents.


As the environmental crisis accelerates, and as protest movements like YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion make it harder not to see what we face, people discover more inventive means of shutting their eyes and shedding responsibility. Underlying these excuses is a deep-rooted belief that if we really are in trouble, someone somewhere will come to our rescue: “they” won’t let it happen. But there is no they, just us.

The political class, as anyone who has followed its progress over the past three years can surely now see, is chaotic, unwilling and, in isolation, strategically incapable of addressing even short-term crises, let alone a vast existential predicament. Yet a widespread and wilful naivety prevails: the belief that voting is the only political action required to change a system. Unless it is accompanied by the concentrated power of protest – articulating precise demands and creating space in which new political factions can grow – voting, while essential, remains a blunt and feeble instrument.

Today, Extinction Rebellion takes to streets around the world in defence of our life-support systems. Through daring, disruptive, nonviolent action, it forces our environmental predicament on to the political agenda. Who are these people? Another “they”, who might rescue us from our follies? The success of this mobilisation depends on us. It will reach the critical threshold only if enough of us cast aside denial and despair, and join this exuberant, proliferating movement. The time for excuses is over. The struggle to overthrow our life-denying system has begun.


I'm torn here. I have a background in civil disobedience and direct action in my younger years and a lifelong concern for environmental issues, but Monbiot's framing of it as a "rebellion" isn't helpful in a political climate where environmental protesters are already often treated and surveilled as terrorists. (I've had issues with Monbiot in the past, not least because some years ago he was involved in parliamentary select committees about the environment where he proposed all sorts of action that should be taken, but at "the last moment", there should be a grand push for nuclear power as the only "clean" alternative that would have a serious impact. Never mind any misgivings about nuclear power, he obviously hasn't seen the mess that is the UK's nuclear construction programme - the idea that anything in that field could happen fast, let alone safely and with sufficient impact, is ridiculous.)

I could write it off with the usual excuse that the writer doesn't come up with the headline, but here's Monbiot on Frankie Boyle's New World Order last week:

Novara Media

"We've got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it."@GeorgeMonbiot on the only hope we have of stopping climate breakdown.

If that's the only hope, I'm afraid I don't think there's any hope. Monbiot gained a round of applause from the studio audience, but how many will then go on to take action in their own lives, let alone to the streets?

Some of Monbiot's points in his speech are sound. For instance, opposition to the continual quest for economic growth has been part of the agenda of the green movement for years, and few in their right minds or without major vested interests would defend unbridled capitalism.

Maybe I'm not his target audience. Maybe I'm missing a groundswell among young people who'll respond to his calls in concrete ways. But rhetoric like "rebellion" and "overthrow of capitalism" isn't going to appeal to those who hold the reins and who we have to convince have a vested interest in not continuing to hoard obscene levels of wealth and destroy the ecosystem. The struggle needs to become mainstream, and preaching to the readily converted isn't going to cut it. It's hard enough to get young people - hell, many people of any age - to take the simple steps of voting and participating in the political system we have, let alone overthrowing it and - most crucially - putting something better in its place.

What are the prospects of more meaningful and thought-through action, involving likely uncomfortable changes in lifestyles, beyond wordy newspaper articles, rare speeches on TV, or stunts in parliament and demos that will gain a two-minute slot or a pic and caption in the media, then be gone?

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Reply Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse (Original post)
Denzil_DC Apr 2019 OP
safeinOhio Apr 2019 #1

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 08:59 AM

1. The mass revolutions is


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