From the US to Ghana and New Zealand to Western Europe, campaigners have shown enthusiastic support for Extinction Rebellion’s declaration of climate emergency.
The first Extinction Rebellion action on the African continent was held earlier this month in front of a church in Accra, Ghana, where dozens of climate activists carrying Extinction Rebellion placards told churchgoers about the global climate resistance being born in the UK.
Extinction Rebellion protesters in front of a church in Accra, Ghana. Image Credit: Mawuse Yao Agorkor for Vazoba
Mawuse Yao Agorkor, a grassroot social activist from Ghana and the general secretary of the West African Vazoba network, said the launch of Extinction Rebellion in London was “an exciting moment” and that he was hoping larger protests would “hit the streets of Ghana soon”.
The Vazoba network has long campaigned against deforestation, the use of toxic chemicals and mining in the region and now hopes to use its organising tools and contacts across West Africa to spread Extinction Rebellion’s message.
Agorkor said he was not afraid of using civil disobedience as a means to ramp up pressure on his government. “I have been working on the ground for six years, and getting arrested for protesting in the interest of our planet is something that my group is not afraid of,” he said.
Agorkor is well aware that if the movement is to spread through Africa, it will have to adapt in places where police brutality is common and protesters could be met with open fire. But for now, Agorkor believes the organising capacity of both Vazoba and Extinction Rebellion constitute “a good starting point”.
Robin Boardman, a coordinator with Extinction Rebellion in the UK, said the week of action that took place across the country was “a prototype for what a global resistance could look like”.
Pointing out that the UK is responsible for only one percent of current global emissions, Boardman added: “What happened in London is a drop in a pond compared to what could happen worldwide in months to come”.
Extinction Rebellion is working to establish campaign groups beyond the UK, with coordinators already working in the US, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Spain.
But much of the movement’s international expansion is focused on the US.
“Like in the Arab spring, Tunisia started the uprising but it was not until it spread to Egypt that the whole movement gripped the Middle East,” Boardman said.
Inspired by US Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, Extinction Rebellion wants to export its non-violent rebellion model and ambition of a widespread system change but allow for autonomous campaign groups to organise independently across the world.
“It is up for local groups as to whether people should be taking up action and what direction they move in. It’s about doing something different and shifting what is acceptable in the context of the climate crisis. When society is ready to lose its sense of fear in the face of state authority, then everything crumbles and change can happen,” Boardman said.
A broad church, Extinction Rebellion has attracted much support from religious groups, including Christian Climate Action, which had several of its members arrested in the UK last week.
Caroline Harmon, from the Christian Climate Action, said that her group has received messages of support from Christian communities across the world, who have been inspired by last week’s actions.