Resistance in the Anthropocene

Should we turn to civil disobedience to avert looming ecological disaster?

David Mattin


Extinction Rebellion on the streets of London. Credit: Shutterstock.

People in the UK just experienced a weird, time-shifted summer — in the final two weeks of February.

In west London the temperature peaked at 21.2C. That’s the hottest February day ever recorded in the UK, and the first time a temperature above 20C has been seen in winter.

The February summer wasn’t limited to Britain. Amsterdam also recorded its hottest ever February day, with a peak temperature of 18.4C.

The sudden shift in temperatures was so extreme that climate scientists struggled to analyse it. Dutch scientist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh said that according to current models the probability of a 21C February day in London was close to zero:

‘This is an incredible jump in record temperatures. If you asked me a few months ago, I would have said it is ridiculous…It’s at least a one-in 200-year event, but it could be more because my statistical tools break down.’

Extinction Rebellion was founded in London in 2018. It is an international movement for direct, non-violent action to avert ecological collapse.

The movement was launched by a letter signed by a host of leading academics. It’s worth quoting from at length:

‘Humans cannot continue to violate the fundamental laws of nature or of science with impunity. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is bleak…When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm… 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.’

Among the movement’s demands are ‘legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025’ and the establishment of a new national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee climate action.

Extinction Rebellion activists. Credit: Shutterstock



David Mattin

Founder at New World Same Humans | World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Consumption