“We need the same kind of drastic action that has been taken against Covid": XR make voice heard
Ceara Carney, climate activist and podcast host, discusses Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the current state of climate activism during Covid-19
Ceara Carney protesting with Animal Rebellion. Photograph: Ceara Carney
Being disruptive to governments and large corporations is just part and parcel of what Extinction Rebellion (XR) does. Their three demands are simple: the media and governments must tell the truth about the severity of the climate crisis, action (not empty words) must be taken now, and governments must support the just transition of those working in environmentally damaging sectors.
“These targets that they keep putting to 2030 and 2050 are really not good enough. We, unfortunately, need the same kind of drastic action that has been taken against Covid,” Ceara Carney, Extinction Rebellion climate activist and host of the Book of Leaves Podcast, says.
For Extinction Rebellion to achieve this, direct action is needed — which means making as much noise as possible in a nonviolent way.
“People say, ‘what's the point of that? what's the point of chalk-spraying a building or holding up traffic?’... and it’s to make as much noise as possible because then it gets on the news, people talk about it, and it puts pressure on the government to change.” Ceara Carney
Cut short by Covid-19, 2020 looked promising for climate activism as wide-spread climate protests, spurred on by Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and other protest groups, thrust the climate debate centre stage and into mainstream political discourse. For once, it felt as if governments were well and truly feeling the heat.
“There was a real build-up in 2019 of climate action across the world. We had a big protest in Dublin and the following week our government declared a climate and ecological emergency. That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the protests going on across the planet.”
Ceara Carney protesting. Photograph: Ceara Carney
But shortly after, as Covid-19 hit and subsequent lockdowns took place around the world, it all went very quiet. “Everyone's lives were upturned, no matter where you were. The movement then went very quiet for a while.”
Extinction Rebellion, being a mass-mobilisation group that thrives on people taking to the streets and making themselves heard, was forced to take a step back and reconsider their tactics. The question now was; how can they have the biggest impact using the fewest people?.
“You can have an effective protest that gets into the media just as much as one with thousands of people on the street and we displayed that the day the Climate Bill came out.” Ceara added.
In March, after the government released the proposed Climate Bill, Extinction Rebellion activists staged a socially distanced visual performance, condemning the Climate Bill's failure to address fracking in Ireland. Three Red Rebels, dressed in vivid red robes (to symbolise the common blood shared between species), took to the streets in a visual performance that combines activism and theatrical art.
“If you make something really visual, that's what the media and photographers will latch onto and that's what will sell your story.” Will dressing up in red capes save the planet? “no,” says Ceara, “but it’s going to get us into the media and we got fracking onto the front page of the Independent because we were dressed up.”
Ceara Carney with Extinction Rebellion, protesting over-fishing in Irish seas. Photograph: Ceara Carney.
It wasn’t the only Extinction Rebellion protest to be picked up by the media as of recent. Later that month, on the day of Global Action for Climate, two Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested for showering the Department of Foreign Affairs building in red paint and spray painting “no more empty promises” on its walls.
“The reason for that was that the minister for that department has promised action on climate change. There are communities that are currently dying and losing their homes because of climate change and were still talking about action.” Ceara says.
Although the protest received mixed reactions (some being upset about the methods), many were inspired by the activist’s bravery and willingness to risk their own security to highlight the Irish government's failure in taking serious systematic action against climate breakdown. In fact, one of the activists, Orla Murphy (19), from Cork, remained in prison for over a month, refusing to accept bail. She was released from the Dóchas Centre on the 22nd of April, after signing slightly reduced bail conditions — one of which requires her to sign in at her local garda station every Monday and Friday. She is currently calling for people to take action with her on those days by doing meat-free Mondays and small action Friday’s.
Even though some may have been upset about paint being thrown over a government building — which was sprayed with eco-friendly chalk paint that “washes off very easily” — the reality is, Ceara stresses, “If we don’t do something now, you can say goodbye to all the heritage buildings that you love.”
“It’s monumental the size of this problem and I commend activists who do anything in a nonviolent way to draw attention to the urgency of the matter.” Ceara Carney
Protesting is certainly engrained into the ethos of the Extinction Rebellion movement — but, as Ceara says, “It’s not always on the streets or in front of buildings with placards”. Behind the scenes is a complex network of students, teachers, artists, academics, left, right, young and old, all unified by one goal; protecting the planet.
Ceara Carney, protesting with Animal Rebellion Ireland — sister organisation to Extinction Rebellion. Photograph: Animal Rebellion Ireland
To Ceara, getting involved in environmental activism and running her podcast has not only helped to alleviate her climate anxiety but has stood as a vital way of connecting with others in a community that provides a shared sense of belonging and purpose.
“When you're doing that (activism) you meet new people. Through Extinction Rebellion and doing my podcast I have met so many people who also care, and it’s them that then give me hope. Sometimes you’re stuck going, ‘no one cares!’ but once you start getting active in community groups, you meet those people and it’s just knowing that they exist, honest to god, saves my life everyday because there is such a value and a worth in those relationships and that community.”
If you would like to check out Ceara Carney’s podcast, you can do that here at Book of Leaves Podcast
If you would like to get in touch with Ceara to get involved with Extinction Rebellion, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org