Extinction Rebellion US’ long term strategy is to, in alliance with other movements and thousands of people, inspire and be part of instigating a national, coordinated economic and government disruption on an unprecedented scale that lasts indefinitely, until the government feels forced to concede to the four XR US demands. No one has ever tried to launch a rebellion of this kind in US history for any reason. There is no way to overstate the danger we face from climate change, and on their own, our institutions have proven themselves incapable of addressing the crisis:
Many are successfully lobbying and protesting congress on climate change, moving them closer to where they need to be. There also have been many brave, heroic fights happening for decades using nonviolent direct action to stop fossil fuel infrastructure all over the US. Many in XR have been part of those fights. Some of those fights have been won, yet, when we look at our situation overall, everything we see tells us that long term we can’t succeed if we focus only on this model of isolated direct action – whether it’s one day of symbolic actions, or full on resistance camps devoted to stopping one pipeline or other fossil fuel infrastructure, this resistance model hasn’t been able to stop or even overall slow down the growth of the fossil fuel industry in the US. Even when we win by stopping a pipeline, they are still winning the battle.
It can take many years to stop just one piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, and while we are working our hearts out to do that, the oil and gas industry continues to expand and poison our earth. Worse, sometimes these rare, hard fought victories are later reversed. If we continue to only focus on lobbying congress and/or individual fossil fuel infrastructure fights - on their own without also planning and building for a national, coordinated rebellion - this will continue to lead to possibly stopping one piece of infrastructure while losing the overall fight.
We want a shift to a collective approach, so that infrastructure battles support all environmental movements in preparing for a national, coordinated rebellion that targets the government and industry as a whole. Otherwise, we will continue to get the same result: greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and communities are still sacrificed for the rich and powerful. There is another way that just might work. There’s plenty of evidence that it does.
We can choose to follow the example of the many civil resistance movements abroad that used sustained, coordinated, national noncooperation and resistance to consolidate their people power and kept going until they successfully forced their governments to concede.
This type of rebellion is premised on extensive research that shows conclusively that if 3.5% of the population in any country is actively engaged in sustained resistance over a concentrated period of time, governments inevitably concede or collapse under the pressure. The research shows that governments simply can’t endure this many people engaging in serious disruption if it lasts for an extended period of time.* This is only surprising to most of us because we don’t realize yet that it’s only because many thousands of us cooperate that the government can run and that the system can operate. The moment enough of us withdraw our consent, refuse to carry on daily activities, the whole structure can’t work. If millions of people simply stayed home in a general strike for a week for example, while thousands of others blocked key infrastructure nationwide, the government and industry would not be able to go forward. They don’t teach us this in school. They don’t teach us how much power we have collectively. But those who have successfully used nonviolent people power by the thousands are showing us the way.
XR US is working hard to build alliances with those organizations and people who are willing, or want to become willing, to make such a rebellion practically possible, in future.
Please be in touch if you’d like to discuss alliances for a future national or local, coordinated rebellion .
* Erica Chenoweth: “Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. If that can be true in Chile under Gen Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies – should such drastic measures ever be needed.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/01/worried-american-democracy-study-activist-techniques