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East Anglia Future 50

'I am prepared to get arrested' - a new brand of climate change campaigning comes to Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 13:00 09 March 2019

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

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Extinction Rebellion groups aim to use non-violent direct action to raise awareness of the pending "climate emergency".

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last monthExtinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

Extinction Rebellion is an international movement, which started last year and now has a presence in 30 countries. In recent months supporters have started branches in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich, as well as in Colchester, north Essex.

Co-ordinator for the Bury group, Robert Possnett, said Extinction Rebellion has three main aims.

READ MORE: ‘It’s scary’ - what do young people in Suffolk think about climate change?

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last monthExtinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

“Firstly, we must declare an emergency and the Government and media must start telling the truth about climate change,” he said.

“When we had the warm weather recently, rather than talking about global warming, the media ran stories about people sitting on the beach eating ice cream.

Net zero

“We also want to see carbon emissions reduced to net zero by 2025 - that’s a massive thing to achieve and something our politicians won’t be able to do. We’ve seen they can’t come to a consensus over Brexit. That’s why we also want to see the formation of a Citizen’s Assembly made up of people who are selected at random – not professional politicians with vested interests – to deliberate over the facts and not argue a position.”

Robert Possnett  Pic: Robert Possnett.Robert Possnett Pic: Robert Possnett.

Mr Possnett said a recent Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Bury attracted around 100 people.

He added: “It’s easy for the media to portray us as eco-warriors and tree huggers but Extinction Rebellion is not party political at all. We are a broad enough church to get everybody under the same banner.

“I’ve recently written to the local Conservative Association to request I give a presentation. The Conservatives are rooted in a belief in law and order, which will collapse if climate change continues.”

Unchecked climate change

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last monthExtinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

The spread of Extinction Rebellion comes as there is a growing awareness about the threats of unchecked climate change.

In October, a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - made up of the world’s leading climate scientists - warned there is only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Extinction Rebellion believe that faced with the inaction of politicians that non-violent direct action, such as that used by the Suffragettes or civil rights protesters in the American South in the 1960s, should be used to raise awareness.

Protesters from the group have been arrested for blocking roads and bridges in London and gluing themselves to the doors of a hotel where an international petroleum conference was taking place.

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last monthExtinction Rebellion demonstrators at the March for Our Children event in Bury St Edmunds last month

Raise awareness

Last month, four members, including Mr Possnett, were arrested after an occupation of Norfolk County Council Chambers in protest about road building plans.

READ MORE: ‘Why we occupied Norfolk County Council meeting’ - arrested climate change campaigners speak out

He said not everyone who joins Extinction Rebellion would be expected to take such steps although he has decided he is prepared to.

“I have been arrested and I am prepared to be arrested again - in the same way the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights campaigners with Martin Luther King got arrested to raise awareness of their cause,” said Mr Possnett.

“It’s a very effective way of raising awareness - other approaches haven’t worked - and we simply don’t have the time to delay action any more.”

“Thirty years ago we all started to recycle and expected the market to change - and everyone bought high consumption flat-screen TVs instead. We really need to change the system in which we live. Everything has been tried so now we are trying non-violent direct action.”

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