Extinction Rebellion sit-it puts spotlight on climate crisis

Published by Kayle Crosson on

April 19th, 2019

Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion activists brought traffic to a standstill in the centre of Dublin today to bring attention to “criminal inaction” from policymakers on the climate and ecological emergency.

Activists gathered under the Spire on O’Connell Street at lunchtime today to hear from speakers including Fergal Anderson of grassroots farmer organization, Talamh Beo, and environmental journalist and campaigner John Gibbons.

“It is no exaggeration to say that we live in the most dangerous time in human history. And the younger you are, the more dangerous the time is,” Mr Gibbons told the crowd.

“It’s a frightening time to be alive. But it’s also an exciting time to be alive because the next generation will not be able to gather here to do something about this.”

The international movement began with 10 people in the UK last summer, rising to prominence in November 2018 when thousands blocked bridges and glued themselves to public buildings.

The group’s main demands include the declaration of a climate and ecological emergency, immediate government action to halt biodiversity loss and targets to reach net zero emissions by 2025.

Today’s action in Dublin forms one of several peaceful civil disobedience events taking place in over 40 countries as part of the Week of International Rebellion.

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‘This is an emergency’

The near 1,000-strong crowd marched to O’Connell Bridge where they staged a sit-in, blocking traffic but allowing the Luas to pass in line with the movement’s support for fossil-free public transport.

At around 5 pm, the crowd expanded its reach and also blocked off access coming from the Bachelors Walk, disrupting traffic as far back as Ormond Quay Upper.

The organisers of the peaceful protest then disbanded the sit-up around 5.30pm with no arrests taking place.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland (XR Ireland) member Sue Breen said that the group is here to “tell the truth… that this is an emergency” and to get the government to “act accordingly”.

“We are not here to cause trouble or disrupt your day, we’re here because the government and corporations are handing a death sentence to our children and we refuse to be complicit,” she said.

Around 500 protesters have been arrested in London this week as activists block traffic throughout the city, including at Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus, as part of the week of action.

XR Ireland member Dr Ciaran O’Carroll was one of those arrested in London. While no arrests occurred in Dublin today, he told The Green News that members are willing to be arrested for the cause.

“They have kids they have grandkids and they see the science and they see the inaction,” he said. “Being arrested is something they’re willing to put themselves forward for because of the catastrophe that we face.”

Campaigners in Cork City have vowed to demonstrate the urgency of climate action through a symbolic “die-in” in the city tomorrow afternoon.

Disruption now for a better future

Father of two Jim Scheer said that he joined the event today asa bit of disruption now” can help to change things for the better and ensure a “long term future for us and the natural world”.

“The disruption that is caused is regrettable and some people will understandably be mad but we all need to be talking about this together and so far all other efforts have not worked,” such as signing petitions and lobbying politicians, he said.

“They have not saved us from making decisions that are incomparable with our future on a habitable planet. So we are trying this to call for a coming together and massive and immediate action on climate change.”

Thirteen-year-old Saoirse Exton made the trip up from Limerick on the train with her mother for the sit-in in Dublin today.

A key member of the Fridays for Future student movement in her home county, she said that today was “an excellent show of willingness” from people that “want change and now”.

“It was incredible and the atmosphere brought me close to tears. We need to take action now because if we don’t, everything is at stake,” she added.

Impromptu participant Bob Mott, who arrived on a tour from the US only yesterday, said that he had to join once he heard about the movement.

“I heard this was going on and I thought ‘that’s a terrific idea’,” he said. “I have three grandchildren and I want them to have the kind of world I grew up in, maybe better.”

Dr Ciaran O Carroll Photo: Niall Sargent

Climate and biodiversity decline

Last November, a bombshell Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that we only have 12 years to take concrete action to limit the average global temperature to the 1.5°C target outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Biodiversity is declining in every region of the world, impacting nature’s capacity to provide food, water, and safety to people, according to a recent analysis from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The study released last March is the result of three years of work carried out by more than 550 experts from over 100 countries.

The study found that 66 per cent of European habitats now have “unfavourable conservation status” and may become worse under a “business as usual scenario”.

One in every four of the 3,000 species that have undergone a red-list conservation assessment is threatened with extinction in Ireland.

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.