By Ben Kenward.

WE activists in Extinction Rebellion have been non-violently disrupting ordinary life to try to halt climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse.

In November, 5,000 of us caused chaos in London by blocking the five central bridges.

In Oxford, we blocked Botley Road outside a meeting where Highways England were attempting to justify the climate-reality-denying decision to build the Expressway road to Cambridge.

Read again: Watch protestors block traffic on Botley Road

Oxford Mail:

We are genuinely sorry for the inconveniences we know we cause to individuals.

We do this because of deep concern for all of our futures: the crisis has reached a point where other options are near exhausted.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), representing government scientists internationally, has reported that there are perhaps 12 years left to take the comprehensive action necessary to avert climate breakdown.

David Attenborough told the United Nations that we risk ‘the collapse of civilisations’.

On the basis of IPCC impact reports, I’m worried that in my lifetime (I’m 40) increased temperatures, extreme weather, and ecosystem collapse due to extinctions will lead to global food shortages, affecting even the UK.

The devastating flooding that flood-plain Oxford is likely to experience may pale into insignificance compared to the knock-on consequences of global problems.

Food shortages, combined with huge increases in climate refugees from harder hit continents suffering destroyed livelihoods, may lead to the election of fascist governments in Europe.


- WATCH: Extinction Rebellion activists occupy Westgate Centre in latest climate protest

- BBC Oxford demo: Noisy protesters say 'this is just the start'

- Oxfordshire pensioner's climate change arrest 'for grandchildren'

It is still possible to avert disaster. A recent study found that if all carbon-emitting infrastructure is phased out at the end of its design lifetime, there is a good chance of limiting temperature rises to levels where most consequences can be mitigated.

Governments have understood the problem for decades but have not properly tackled it despite extensive lobbying.

There are vested economic interests preventing change. Indeed, many within Extinction Rebellion argue that the required changes are impossible without fundamental transformation of society.

However, radical change may well be achievable without sacrificing the aspects of our economy that sustain welfare – the Green New Deal proposed by US Democrats will decarbonise the economy without reducing jobs, and has support of 81 per cent of the US population.

Road blocking tactics:

- Activists plan to cause gridlock on an Oxford road

- Climate change activists block London bridges with 85 arrested

When a situation is intolerable but the normal channels don’t achieve change, historically people have taken to the streets, often with great effect – witness the US civil rights movement, the UK suffragettes, or more recently the French Gilets Jaunes’ success in causing President Macron to back down on taxes.

The language governments speak is economic, and if we cause enough economic disruption, for example by grid-locking cities, then we may achieve our demands.

As I write, Oxford City Council is soon to vote on a motion declaring Climate Emergency.

Other councils have already taken this radical action, and some cities such as Bristol have declared ambitious but achievable targets to quickly become carbon neutral.

Our councils also need to go further – shamefully, Oxfordshire County Council has still not responded to the campaign to divest its pensions from fossil fuel companies.

Oxford Mail:

In December, we visited the Westgate Centre uninvited, displaying our banner, handing out leaflets, and engaging the public in conversation.

Out of 23 members of the public randomly interviewed by an observing psychologist, all but one said they were concerned about climate change, and 55 per cent of those with an opinion on our action were in support.

We aren’t complacent - we would like this proportion to be higher, and we are constantly discussing ways to be more effective at raising awareness and gaining support for more radical action against climate and ecosystem breakdown. But ultimately, we know we don’t have a choice but to continue to take to the streets and disrupt normal life, because normal life currently will kill us all. As well as serving to pressure the Government and councils into action, our disruptive disobedience symbolises that life just can’t go on as normal. We encourage everyone in Oxford to join us.

Ben Kenward is an Extinction Rebellion activist and senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford Brookes University