Rebellion prep work

XR Inner East

It can seem as if activism is just yelling in the streets. The reality is that activism, like all political effort, is hard graft, day after day of organizing, convincing, planning, and so on. I’m not suited to it at all.

But I’m hard at work getting ready for Extinction Rebellion’s biggest year yet of non-violent disturbance, action and protest. The first fortnight of 2020 have been spent preparing to assist in the running of my local Extinction Rebellion group, XR Inner East. I’ve had to learn how it’s structured and organized. I’ve absorbed the tech tools it uses to facilitate discussion, retain member records, issue newsletters, choreograph events, and enable member communication. The last three days have vanished in a blur while I do what I do best, which is absorption of information and systematic organisation of data. The group is small (at least in terms of active members) at the moment, but new members are joining fast, as the catastrophic bushfires jolt citizens into taking action. The people are wonderful, just ordinary folks like me, and I’m most excited.

In the meantime, my complementary efforts at keeping on top of the rapid science improvement and the global political tapestry continue apace. I’m also wrestling, as I no doubt shall for the rest of my life, with the inevitable cycles of philosophical angst and renewal. More on those aspects soon.

Rebellion Big Year: Motivation


In the early 1980s, I was a peace movement activist. Not for that long, three or four years maybe. I remember it as inspiring but also exhausting. Campaigning for change outside the established political party system is brutally harsh because it involves butting up against the enfolding fabric of our society. No one wants to be the party pooper, do they? No one sets out to rebel. Rebellion occurs because it takes hold of you, because you can see no choice.

So it ever is. When I chanced upon Extinction Rebellion in the middle of last year, I immediately knew it was for me. I’d spent two decades watching planet Earth slowly warming up. I’d read the science, puzzled over the consequences. In the 2000s, my governing emotion was incredulity (“can’t they see?”), in the 2010s despair kicked in, but by 2019, what took hold of me was anger. Rage, if you wish to be more precise. In simple terms, I was willing to pay whatever price – and at that stage, price meant money or time or inconvenience – was necessary to fix this thing, to keep the globe in good shape for my children, but nothing … zilch … nada was happening.

Grandchildren arrived. Photos of glaciers, then and now, exhibited their retreat. Corral reefs set out on death marches. Arctic sea ice commenced a disappearing act, while the great ice shelves of Greenland and Antarctica began slow meltdowns. Species headed for extinction. Hot countries, mine included, began to experience drought, deathly heat, and fire. I had to act.

You can see that my motivation was raw, primal, and you can see I had to act. But now, three months since being arrested during an Extinction Rebellion action, I need to develop a more nuanced philosophical perspective. Over this summer break, that’s what I’ll do most days, as part of my daily Big Year commitment.

Announcing: Rebellion Big Year

Extinction symbol

In the Anthropocene Era, the first geologic era featuring wholesale human impacts, we gamble with extinction. Extinction comes slowly but we can see its distant shadow clearly in 2019, and my great-grandchildren will be middle-aged in 2100, when impacts threaten to be truly dire.

When I turned 60, one of my aims was to spend at least one of my next ten years focusing heavily on some kind of activism. I consider my writing to be meaningful and moral, but direct politically oriented action, irksome though it often is, was something I knew I would have to turn to at some stage. Now, four years later, I commit to working every day of the 2020 Rebellion Big Year to turning back the tide of climate change.

How? I’ve chosen as my vehicle the movement Extinction Rebellion. Its aims align with mine: tell the truth, act now (take Australia’s emissions to zero by 2025), and appoint a binding citizens’ assembly to decide how. It is full of passionate, wonderful people sacrificing much for future generations. It is effective, insisting upon nonviolent direct action as a key strategy.

I may do other things as the year progress. Let’s see.

How do I structure this kind of Big Year? I commit to spending some time (call it a minimum of half an hour even in ferociously busy times) each and every day of 2020 doing activist work or keeping tabs on climate change science and global politics. I commit to averaging 2 hours a day on this activity. Amidst my writing projects and within a hectic family life, this will be demanding. But I commit.

As part of the Rebellion Big Year, I commit to blogging often, both to document my own progress and thoughts, and to tease out insights and implications. Given the nature of activist work, my blogs will be rather non-specific, often reflections on my own mind rather than diaries of activity. Nonetheless, I vey much look forward to an inner dialogue during a year that will seem most unfamiliar to me.

Hope is action. Inaction is no future at all. We must all rebel in some shape or form.