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The 'Extinction Rebellion' from students' perspectives

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Five London bridges were blocked by environmental protestors last Saturday in an ongoing campaign against government policy.

University of Sheffield students Gerrard English and Eve Merrall were among the thousands who took part in the coordinated movement known as "Rebellion Day". 

After setting off from Sheffield at 5.30am, they joined the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest on Waterloo Bridge, at 10am. Traffic had already come to a standstill, and protestors were sitting, singing and making speeches.

Extinction Rebellion is a peaceful movement designed to put pressure on the government to reduce carbon emissions. It also demands the creation of a Citizen’s Assembly to oversee proposed changes and greater transparency in environmental policy. 

Gerrard, who studies a Research Masters in Ecology and Environment, says, 'I was there because I like studying biology and I spend all my time hearing about how much of a terrible state the environment is in, and how humans are driving countless species to extinction. Nothing really gets done about it. There’s enough science to know this is all happening, but it’s just not translated into any sort of policy.

'We want some meaningful policy decisions, to reduce fossil fuel consumption in this country, to put more protection on wildlife, and more investment into renewable energy, because they’ve scrapped the subsidies that used to be on solar power, and they’re investing in fracking, which seems like the complete opposite.'

Eve, who studies a Masters in Zoology, says, 'I went because climate change is the most important issue of our time. It will affect everyone, and our government is doing next to nothing to fight it. Civil disobedience might be the only way to make them listen. Unlike many of the people who will be worst affected by this catastrophe, I am privileged to have the time, resources and agency to take action and protest without fear, so I have to.'

Eve goes on to say, 'The change that XR are asking for is that the government commit to being zero carbon by 2025, which would be amazing, but the figure isn’t that important, the point is that we need to be doing everything we possibly can to be zero carbon as soon as we possibly can, and this isn’t happening. As major players on the world stage, it’s our government’s responsibility to fight for global change, not just meet our own targets.'

Backing for Extinction Rebellion and its movement was officially launched on 31st October 2018, when 94 signatories, primarily academics, scientists, and MPs declared their support.

According to The Guardian, the declaration read: 'When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The "social contract" has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.'

An assembly of protestors including Caroline Lucas and George Monbiot gathered in Parliament Square on the same day. Campaigners occupied roads in front of the Houses of Parliament, and 15 were arrested for continuing the sit-in.

Gerrard explained that people are prepared to be arrested because it triggers greater exposure for the cause.

He says, 'If they want to arrest people for sitting there peacefully protesting, I think I’d be happy to get arrested for it. It gives quite a strong message.

'We want media coverage, showing that there is momentum, and this is what people care about. The more media coverage we get the more chance there is that people get involved and it’ll seem more normalised, rather than just a load of weird hippies that care about the environment.'

XR has made national headlines every day since 12th November when the protests began, and protestors will take to the streets again this Saturday.

To read more about Extinction Rebellion and their demands, click here.

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