Extinction Rebellion Durham: “However small the action is, it’s worth taking the action”

By

Recently, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a group that rose to prominence in the late 2010s and early 2020s, has opened a chapter in Durham. Palatinate sat down with Rachel Garlake-Louw, co-head facilitator of XR Durham, to discuss the need for XR and wider student-university responsibilities in relation to climate change.

The original incarnation of XR fell apart during the COVID-19 pandemic, so Garlake-Louw and some fellow climate activists started the chapter again in February 2022. After months of organising and getting to grips with how to run XR Durham, they made their presence known at this term’s Fresher’s Fair in order to grow their numbers.

Durham XR quickly rose to prominence, being particularly popular with students who were keen to get involved in climate activism for the first time. At the protest against Rosebank on 1st October 2023, Palatinate spoke to a first year student who had only been in Durham for a week at the time of the protest – they felt like, living “in the middle of nowhere”, that “it was hard to get involved in this sort of thing.”

“I’ve had these beliefs, but I haven’t really been able to do anything about it,” they said.

“If we start, at this point, making a positive impact and try to act to protect the planet then it will set us up for a future of changing the world and making the world a positive place”

Protests against the Rosebank oil field have been Durham XR’s main focus this term, after the Stop Cambo campaign in 2021 “made a real difference”, according to

“The project was stopped because of protests,” Garlake-Louw told Palatinate, “We really believe that if our protests continue across the country and across the world to the same extent, we have a real hope of reversing Rishi Sunak’s decision and that would be massive for keeping warming to below 1.5 degrees”

Garlake-Louw felt like students have a very real responsibility towards raising awareness of and combatting climate change: she told Palatinate that “we have our whole lives ahead of us and our whole careers ahead of us and while we’re at university is where we decide what career we want to go into and how we want to make a difference in the world.”

“If we start, at this point, making a positive impact and try to act to protect the planet then it will set us up for a future of changing the world and making the world a positive place.

“We’re at such a critical time now with three-to-four years until an irreversible tipping point that we can’t afford to wait until we graduate before we start making a difference, we have to do it right now,” she said.

“If you think there’s a problem and you do nothing against the problem, then you are part of the problem”

Since the revival of Durham XR, the group have attended Stop Rosebank protests in both Newcastle and Durham, and have worked alongside Durham Greenspace and EcoDU in the planning of future action.

“We work very closely with Eco Durham,” Garlake-Louw said. “I am co-head facilitator XR Durham and also campaigns co-ordinator on the exec for Eco Durham. So, we do a lot of things together, lots of members are members of both groups.

“Also, the newly founded Durham Just Stop Oil group. I am going to push for lots of inter-organisation collaborations with Just Stop Oil because all Eco Durham groups are fighting the same cause and we need to work together and grow a community of likeminded people, from whatever avenue or perspective they’re coming from.”

A Durham branch of Just Stop Oil went public on social media on 25th October 2023, holding its first meeting on 28th October.

For Garlake-Louw, one of the most important parts of being a climate activist is the constant action, and she sees organisations like Just Stop Oil as significant in this: “every single change we can make, people should make, and however small the action is, it’s worth taking the action. If you think there’s a problem and you do nothing against the problem, then you are part of the problem.”

She continued, “I think we do hold individual responsibility. I think that partially more important than individual change is system change. That’s one of the main foundations of XR, it’s trying to get the government and investors to change their policies…. We have to hold them to account for their actions, which is what a lot of XR is about.”

Image:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.