The Expresso Series is a podcast created by two University of Edinburgh students, Honor Crean and Grace Volante, to “dissect the social and political issues of the day”. This week featured an interview with Dr Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (XR), a non-partisan international movement that uses non-violent actions to persuade governments to act justly on climate and ecological emergencies. XR is all-inclusive and is founded upon three demands:
- “The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.”
- “The government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.”
- “The government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”
Like other climate movements, Extinction Rebellion rode the same popular wave in the min-2010s as climate activist Greta Thunberg. Now, in the age of COVID-19, the climate movement is being reimagined. Bradbrook equated all previous actions taken to combat climate change as “trying to turn a plane into a helicopter mid-air“, aka virtually impossible. But with the emergence of COVID-19 and a stall in our global economy, significant environmental improvements have been made in just the past three months.
Climate justice and environmental responsibility cannot be separated from issues of finance and economics. Today, we adopt what is described in the podcast as “totalitarian agriculture”: an all-consuming agricultural practice that produces the maximum amount of resources with little consideration for environmental consequences. This can also be applied to industries around the world. As we produce and consume to increase our economy, we destroy our planet.
For this reason, Bradbrook hammered into the entirety of the British government—and rightly so—to stop bailing out unsuccessful and outdated industries that harm the environment. Companies that eat their profits, produce wasteful goods, and take government money that belongs to the public are destroying the environment for nothing. When asked to comment on Labour leader Keir Starmer and his outspokenness for climate change, Bradbrook stated that mainstream politics prevent good, effective politicians from thriving in Britain’s government. Unless steps are taken to handicap a system that ensured previous climate change leaders were never elected, not much can be expected. Besides, it’s hard to believe in a system that has failed the public more times than we’d care to count.
The idea that the public needs to hold governments and repressive systems responsible for backtracking issues like climate change was stressed countless times by both the hosts and Dr Bradbrook. Transformations of long-standing political systems are not made by individuals in power, but by a public unity that forces people to say, “we’ve had enough!” As Dr Bradbrook said in the podcast, “every place we can build togetherness is building our resilience.”
However, when talking about diversity in Extinction Rebellion, Bradbrook clearly deflected away from a key issue of today—racism. As a movement, XR takes risks and sets aside traditional forms of protest in favor of “economic disruption to shake the current political system and civil disruption to raise awareness” which can often lead to arrests. After asked how the movement protects its members from police brutality and racial profiling, Bradbrook dodged the question by saying that XR recognises that the experience of being arrested is different for everyone and that, as a movement, it doesn’t “ask” members to be arrested. This was not an acceptable answer. She should have openly condemned racism and offered an example as to how the movement will address the issue. Honor and Grace were smart to question Dr Bradbrook on the subject but did not pressure her further, something they later admitted to and apologised for.
Other than the previous point, Dr Gail Bradbrook’s interview was educational and introduced a conversation that revealed how power operates to prevent advancing climate change policies. The Expresso Series proved itself as a forward-thinking podcast that has you questioning authority within minutes. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to their show then I don’t know what will.
The Expresso Series is live every Wednesday at 5:00 BST on FreshAir.org.uk!