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Pete Lawrence - 21 Apr 2019
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Whilst on Waterloo Bridge in a glorious meditation in front of a line opf police, I found myself musing on the origins of radical protest and their sociological makeup, particularly with regard to the demographics of race, class, sex and age. Clearly, much of XR's early momentum has come from the South West of England, which isn't the most ethnically diverse corner of the UK compared to some (Bristol excepted, of course). And in particular Stroud, Bristol and Frome. But that is all changing fast.

What was also interesting was being at Marble Arch early evening yesterday where a vast '420 cannabis' rally which attracted mainly black urban youths (many, many times the size of the XR camp) in Hyde Park which I walked through en route to the XR site. Quite a few of them stopped off to check out the XR site too and for a while it felt like a very good racial balance. Most of the cannabis crowd were drinking alcohol (which wasn’t encouraged at XR) thereby giving it a different vibe as the sun went down. But it was a heady mix, for a while at least. 

It's interesting to speculate about how XR might reach out to broaden its demographic and in many respects, the same challenges are there for Campfire. @Luke Flegg was making a similar point on Facebook this morning. 

"#ExtinctionRebellion 's greatest challenge is that we're taking direct action in a society entrenched in an economy that makes people ill-informed and indifferent.

Most of us are not passionate activists. We're under paid, uninspired by the work we do, tired, lonely, disillusioned and frustrated; our salvation: switching off on Netflix, a pint at the pub, a flight to Spain.

The greatest opportunity of #ExtinctionR is to learn how to pro-actively reach out to ordinary people, to speak their language and relate meaningfully to them about this crisis. Not just inconvenience them on their way to work and say "sorry but we're saving the planet."

The potential is huge but already a big impact is being made. I noticed that the focus in Parliament Square - where lots of tourists were also passing through - was on the Attenborough documentary that aired on Thursday and how that relates to the XR message. The power of telly again. I suspect it is the likes of him and Greta Thunberg - though not yet well known in mainstream popular culture - that might start to make inroads into the 'Netflix / Pub / Spain' contingent, as Luke defines them.

We are not all activists yet, just as we are not all politicians yet. Many may run a mile from any association with either word, and yet the realisation that each action we take, each choice we make, our every lifestyle choice - measured together - can bring about profound change. 



 

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