Peterborough has a history of having an undercurrent of progressive politics, so it seems natural to have activist and advocacy groups around climate issues – especially in this climate, physically and politically speaking.
The newest climate activism group in Peterborough is Extinction Rebellion (XR) Peterborough. Growing out of the first XR’s homebase of London in the United Kingdom after the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report, the cause has spread to several chapters around the world sharing the same goal: force governments to take notice of, and respond to, the present climate and ecological crisis.
At the core of XR’s philosophy is nonviolent civil disobedience, says the XR central website.
“We are completely nonviolent, our actions are done in full public view and we take responsibility for them. We have an Action Consensus which outlines how we work together on actions,” the website states.
Courtney LaRocque and Ness Pringle are two Trent University students who are a part of XR Peterborough. They hope to get an XR group started at Trent.
Pringle, who does tech work for XR Peterborough, joined XR Montréal doing artistic coordination, and sought out the Peterborough chapter when they arrived.
“We’re not a group that sends around petitions online… we don’t go door-to-door canvassing,” they said about what sets XR apart from other groups. “We do direct action in the streets.”
“I didn’t really see anything happening in Peterborough, but I was really worried about the climate – I still am,” said LaRocque, who now does outreach coordination. “So I messaged [XR Peterborough].”
XR has three core demands: tell the truth, act now, and go beyond politics.
The demand to tell the truth focuses on advocating for all levels of government to declare a climate and ecological emergency. This often involves working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
“[City Council] hasn’t [declared a climate emergency] yet, and their plan is apparently not to [do so] until May 2020, which is extremely late,” Pringle noted about Monday’s night action at City Hall. In January, Peterborough City Council approved the collection of donations to a “Climate Change Action Plan,” which will pay for climate change mitigation projects, according to the Peterborough Examiner. High school students in Peterborough Youth Empowerment protested outside of City Hall in May to demand Council declare a climate emergency and adequately fund an action plan.
Once climate and ecological emergencies have been declared, governments must “act now,” or take the severity of the situation seriously. XR advises governments to halt biodiversity loss, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 as two major actions.
“Declaring a climate crisis is great, but lots of cities have already done it and actually not taken any action on it,” Pringle explained.
To ensure that everyone is honest and appropriate action is taken, the final demand is that governments “go beyond politics”: rather than receiving recommendations from their party politics status quo or from corporate donors, politicians that from governments must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice. Citizens’ Assemblies are democratic processes through which citizens deliberate controversial or difficult decisions with experts and stakeholders and then present recommendations from the assembly to the government in power. Citizens’ Assemblies are conducted by non-partisan organizations with independent oversight. They are used more regularly in European governments, though Canada (in British Columbia) and Australia have also used them.
An upcoming action for XR Peterborough is “slow swarming.” A group of protesters stands on the crosswalk of an intersection at a red light, holding posters and banners, encouraging passersby and motorists to think about the climate crisis. The group then rotates to the next red light in the same intersection. They hope to have slow swarms once a week indefinitely.
XR is also holding an International Rebellion week beginning October 7.
“It feels really good to get out, go out and talk to people like this. It feels really good to find these people, and to step out of your comfort zone,” LaRocque said about joining XR Peterborough.
To learn more, follow Extinction Rebellion Peterborough on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.