An open letter response to our diversity and inclusivity issue
August 16, 2019
This is a response to a number of open letters and articles received by Extinction Rebellion (XR) since the London Rebellion back in April on the topic of diversity and inclusivity within XR. We’d like to thank everyone for reaching out and let you all know that as XR Bristol, we’ve taken the issues raised on board and we’re already working on ways to address them.
We recognise that we have been a majoritively white, middle class movement so far and that that isn’t a fair representation of the world at large. As Wretched of the Earth stated in their open letter to us, ‘the climate movement must reflect the complex realities of everyone’s lives in [its] narrative.’ We welcome any thoughts and contributions from other communities on how they feel we could do things differently and we want to work with them to realise these ideas.
We currently see the issue of diversity and inclusivity within XR Bristol as two fold: inclusivity and diversity within XR itself and the need to stand in solidarity with the communities all over the world that are already standing up for the planet.
We believe that the best way to begin to change this is by altering our outward narrative and our narrative around arrests, in the hope that it will make the movement more accessible to everyone. We would also like to make sure that our actions are as accessible as possible, as well as openly recognise and celebrate the work of those already fighting to save the earth.
Outward narrative shift
We recognise that we need to re-centre our narrative around climate justice. The truth is that a lot of the environmental degradation we are seeing now is the result of an extreme form of capitalism known as neoliberalism mainly driven by the Global North with neo-colonial roots stemming from the industrial revolution. And it is the Global South that is suffering the most as a result, effectively leading the world into a climate apartheid. This is a long standing pattern that began with colonialism, and it is a pattern that we need to break.
Recent research has found that climate change is now the biggest driver of migration, more so than lack of income or political instability. We recognise that we need to stand in solidarity with those who have been, and continue to be, the most adversely affected by the climate crisis.
We need to honour the knowledge that indigenous communities have held for generations of our place in nature and how best to protect it. Our surest way of looking after the planet is to stand in solidarity with these communities, to protect their knowledge and their rights, and to work with them to create a shared vision of the future.
We hope that we can use the momentum that has gathered around the XR movement to help support and draw light to the efforts of communities that are often marginalised or misrepresented in the conservation / environmental sector.
Narrative shift around arrests
We also see that there needs to be a shift in how we talk about arrests. Galdem magazine highlighted the issue perfectly; ‘without an overarching strategy which encompasses privilege, [the XR action] approach makes it difficult for people of colour (PoC) to feel safe and supported in white-led movements.’
We see it as essential moving forward that we recognise the use of our privilege in our actions. Being arrested must be seen as an act of solidarity with those communities that are most affected by climate change. It is a way of using privilege as one of many tools to promote climate justice, not just as a heroic act.
We also recognise that there are many communities that don’t feel safe enough to get involved with our actions because of the risk of them being criminalised and the adverse effects that arrests can have on their lives. We are already rethinking the way we promote our actions and the structure of the actions to ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable enough to get involved.
We want to amplify our message of solidarity and create a truly diverse and intersectional movement because the challenges of climate change are so great we must stand together to tackle them. And this movement will not succeed unless everyone is involved. As Galdem said in their article, ‘ensuring that affected communities are actively included in any movement is central to its success.’
Any discussion around diversity and inclusivity is a difficult one because these are issues that are entangled in the inherent racism, sexism and classism that form the roots of our current global economic / institutionalised system(s). But we have to confront these issues as they are central to the environmental crisis we currently face. And that is what XR is about; we want systems change, we want to help create a society that is more just, more accepting and more harmonious with the natural world as together we tackle the climate crisis that affects us all.
Our sixth principle is that we welcome everyone and every part of everyone. We want to make sure that our core values are honoured. As we keep growing, we will do our best to keep learning and changing and making sure that everyone’s voices are heard and represented.
With love and rage,