Parts of Westminster are brought to a standstill by the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion. Its aim, as listed on their website, is to â€œhalt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapseâ€ through acts of civil disobedience. Among their demands are the reduction of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2025 and the creation of a Citizenâ€™s Assembly to advise the government on climate and ecological justice policy. These things would be considered an adequate response to the neglected climate emergency declared earlier this year in parliament. Protests are set to last over a two week period and over 1000 people have so far been arrested.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) as a whole is a new organisation, founded just 10 months ago by a group that includes King’s alumni. After a failed attempt to occupy the Strand last month, members of KCL XR, the universityâ€™s division, have rejoined the fight. George Gaillet, co-founder of the group and an environmental politics and globalisation student, described a difficult few days in which the protest sites were slowly reduced to six. He also remarked that â€œthe lack of student involvementâ€ is surprising at such a large and socially active university; KCL XR has just 37 members.
â€œThey are one of the better universities in regards to green stuff and their footprint,â€ he said of Kingâ€™s, â€œbut there’s definitely more they can do and I would like to see lecturers and academics down here supporting the movement.â€
His sentiments were echoed by Autumn Dellaway, media rep for Southwark Greenpeace and student at KCL.
â€œI was disappointed in the lack of student involvement in climate issues,â€ she said.
When she arrived at Kingâ€™s to begin her masters in art education, she â€œwas not sure whether there was an XR society at all,â€ a challenge surely frustrated by the divisionâ€™s recent challenges with the police to demonstrate and promote around campus.
It is difficult to balance lectures and serious sustained protest. Often the commitments of university can make it difficult for students to hold ground on their own for prolonged periods and to organize effectively to effect tangible change. This coupled with the serious threat of arrest makes joining the protesters a daunting prospect for many, especially for those students who do not have permanent status in the UK. Still, Gaillet is convinced of the urgency of the cause:
â€œIt is not really good enough to just recycle and just focus on things that are individual changes. We cannot rely on technology to get us out of this problem. We need to come together as a society and collectively face the challenges and confront government.â€
Reported by Theresa Wong and Sam Light