An Extinction Rebellion Handbook
-Why You Should be Scared and How to Fight that Fear
Writer: Charley Rose
This is a book about love. About the love we should have for humanity, and the love we should have for the planet. About the love we are currently lacking. And the love that we desperately need. With love and peace. Rebel for life.
– Sam Knights, ‘Introduction: The Story so Far’, This is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook.
The little pink book summoned me almost the second I walked through the door of Lighthouse. The design for the Handbook is really effective: it’s a small book, so it doesn’t look too intimidating, and the pink is not only reminiscent of the now famous pink boat that can be seen at Extinction Rebellion events, it is eye-catching and a little punky. I also feel the need to respond to some comments I got the last time I wrote about this: the book is printed on recycled paper. Don’t come at me.
The handbook is divided into two sections. The first section, ‘Tell the Truth’, was truly a lesson in compassion and empathy for me. Like everyone else with half a brain, I am aware of the climate crisis, and it does give me anxiety; however, it is very simple to forget that the crisis at hand is global, and that we in the UK do not form part of the community that is currently experiencing the worst of it. There is a definite bias in what and who gets covered by the media and often the coverage is about the future of the planet: essays from writers such as Kamla Joshi and Bhuvan Chand Joshi in the Indian Himalayas and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim in Chad reminded me that the climate crisis is happening right now and is causing the disappearance and devastation of ecosystems that indigenous communities have survived off for centuries. In other words, it forced me to recognise my own privilege in the face of the climate crisis.
One of the arguments that is fundamental to the entire book and movement is that social justice is inextricably intertwined with ecological and environmental justice. Although I am acutely aware of my privilege as a white woman from the United Kingdom, I am not from the privileged elite. Douglas Rushkoff’s essay on technology, the elite, and the future of the planet highlights that the average person should not rely on what Rushkoff calls the ‘lifeboat for the elite.’ Climate change is truly threatening the entire existence of humanity and we are still stuck in a global system where the main perpetrators of such negative changes are the top 1%. Those same 1% are asking experts like Rushkoff for advice on how to escape, not fix, the problem that they have primarily caused. That is why community and togetherness is so integral to Extinction Rebellion. It is going to take a whole lot of people from below to force the hands of those with the power to change anything.
This is what the second part of the book – ‘Act Now’ – is about. It not only highlights what Extinction Rebellion has done and continues to do, it reflects on what chances the planet truly has and what steps need to be taken to reach anything even resembling a positive outcome. It rejects conventional forms of activism, such as letter writing, and it also rejects violent activism; it essentially asks you to be a big old, nonviolent, pain in the arse and put pressure on those in power by causing a huge nuisance. There are chapters on what it is like to get arrested, and how important this is to the movement. There are also chapters on the importance of food for the rebels at Extinction Rebellion events and tips on how to feed huge groups of people. There is a chapter on the Extinction Rebellion art factory, as well as chapters on the importance of replacing the current economic and political structures. In other words, the movement is inclusive of everyone, whether you can put yourself on the frontline or not, and the book seeks to not just educate you on what the different segments of the movement are about, it also seeks to find a place for you in it.
It is difficult for someone like me – someone who loves stories and fiction and words – to read nonfiction that is covered in numbers and scientific jargon. As much as I’d love to quote figures at you about the environment right now in order to convince you that Extinction Rebellion is important, I couldn’t. The first part of the book activated this underlying fear in me, and the second part of the book guided me in how to use it. It gave my climate anxiety a function. I now know what parts I want to play in Extinction Rebellion and the future of the planet, and I am so grateful for that. If you are at all like me, I implore you to read this book. If you’re not, I still implore you to read this book. It is probably going to be one of the most important books I will ever read in my life-time.
Please feel free to respond to this article by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, comments, rebuttals, etc. You can buy the book at Lighthouse Bookshop and most other bookshops.