As protests erupt at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, we speak with Liam Geary Baulch, part of the new movement called Extinction Rebellion that began six months ago in the United Kingdom and has now spread to 35 countries. Members are taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis, including supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down London Bridge and taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. They are demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we broadcast from the U.N. climate talks in Poland. We turn now to look at a U.K.-based movement taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis. It’s called Extinction Rebellion. Its members have been supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down roads, taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. Extinction Rebellion marched here in Katowice last Saturday to protest U.N. climate talks. In November, Extinction Rebellion protesters shut down London bridges, blockaded the U.K. Department for Business and Energy and attempted to interrupt Brexit negotiations.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 1: Conscientious protection, this is what it looks like.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 2: We’re very concerned about the state the Earth is in, the seriousness of things. You know, we’re leading the world to 3 degrees centigrade. Well, that’s way outside the range that human development has known. Enormous unknown dangers.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 3: Tell the truth! Everybody needs to know what’s coming! We need to prepare for what’s coming!Everybody needs to know! They need to wake up!
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 4: I only got arrested for the first time two days ago, and now I’m doing it again, to basically become disobedient with the system as a result of our impending danger.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 5: The government is criminally complacent in the mass murder of all life on this planet! And I will not be silent!
AMY GOODMAN: Those are members of Extinction Rebellion, a movement taking radical action to combat the climate crisis. It started in the United Kingdom just six months ago, has now spread to at least 35 countries. Extinction Rebellion is demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption, reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
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We’re joined right now by Extinction Rebellion activist Liam Geary Baulch. He just participated in the action here at the U.N. climate summit, not far from the Democracy Now! set.
It’s great to have you with us, Liam.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, even using words like “global warming” or “climate change”—
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —people feel, does not convey the urgency of this issue. You all have decided to use the term “extinction.” Extinction Rebellion is your group. Talk about what you’re doing.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. So, we have been talking to people about the real science that we’re seeing now, not in an alarmist way, but in a realistic way. We are now facing what could be the next mass extinction. We’re already grieving over the lives lost, both human and otherwise, to climate change. And we’re seeing and talking to people about the fact that we might now be facing human extinction. And so we’re asking people to face that grief and feel that emotional response to this crisis, what we’re calling an emergency crisis—we want to shift the language to that emergency crisis—and to respond to that and move through that into action.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain your actions. It’s just been six months since you guys got started.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What have you done in the U.K.?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we just actually did our first action just a month and a half ago. We gathered outside of the U.K. Parliament, and we declared a rebellion against the government. This is not a one-off protest or a direct action against a specific corporation. This is an ongoing rebellion against our government in the U.K. over their inaction on climate change. So, we lay down in the road, and other people read out the declaration of rebellion. And then we said, “We’re here. We’re going to keep rebelling.” And I was arrested that day and taken away.
AMY GOODMAN: You were arrested.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: And then we were released. Most of our activists have been released so far. They’re aware that part of our movement is the fact that we have hundreds, if not thousands now, people willing to get arrested for this cause, willing to give up their freedom about this issue, because the time for action is now. And we’re calling on our government to tell the truth and to act now.
AMY GOODMAN: Supergluing yourselves? Explain what you did.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah, so we shut down the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy a week later. And that led to a whole series of actions where people were risking arrest. We saw that activists decided to shut down this department for six hours by supergluing themselves to the doors. And that’s the department that’s having backroom meetings with fracking companies while refusing to go and meet the people who have to live next door to where they’re trying to frack in the U.K.
AMY GOODMAN: You shut down five bridges. How?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we’ve just seen an amazing response. From that month-and-a-half-ago original action, our campaign has just exploded. We now have a reach of 100,000 people. We’re in over 35 countries around the world. And 6,000 people came out on the street on the 17th of November and blocked five bridges in central London. We had trained affinity groups in nonviolent civil disobedience to take those bridges initially, and then members of the public, in the thousands, took to the streets and sat in the roads and celebrated our resistance against this system.
People are angry, and they’re calling for a change to the system. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing in the action going on behind us here. That’s what we’re seeing in movements like the Sunrise Movement and the school strikes. This is being reflected all across the world right now.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today is the school strike globally that Greta Thunberg has called for, and we’re going to hear from Polish high school students who made it to the COP today, who walked out of school. How would you assess—this is your fourth COP, conference of parties?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Your fourth U.N. climate summit. Do you think it has succeeded? Do you think it’s failing?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: I am aware that this system is broken. The political system in the U.K. is broken. The political system here at the COP is broken. We’re asking for a citizens’ assembly to be formed, a whole new system which can solve this crisis without the politicians kind of continuing to talk to each other. I’m here at COP to talk to activists on the ground, to learn from each other across grassroots movements around the world. And we’re here to talk with those people about how they can join us next year on the 15th of April, when we declare an international rebellion.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Liam Geary Baulch, an activist with the new organization, based in Britain but spreading around the globe, Extinction Rebellion. You’re planning a week-long rebellion April 15th?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. And we hope to see you there. And we hope to see your viewers there. Please, find your local groups, get involved, get trained in nonviolent civil disobedience and take part in the Extinction Rebellion.
AMY GOODMAN: We urge you to continue to watch Democracy Now! as we are there not only in the streets, but in the suites and at these U.N. climate summits, as well as the gatherings that are taking place all over the world. Stay with us.