Podcast 97, EXTINCTION REBELLION - NO FASHION ON A DEAD PLANET

Sara Arnold protesting at LFW last season

Sara Arnold protesting at LFW last season

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EPISODE 97 FEATURES EXTINCTION REBELLION

IS IT TIME WE TORE THE WHOLE THING DOWN? Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a grass roots activism movement demanding radical action on the global climate crisis. The group formed in the UK in October 2018 on the premise that trying to be a bit more sustainable, tinkering around the edges of the system but essentially carrying on with business as usual, will not save us from climate breakdown. They are calling on governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, and to act immediately to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.

In this Episode, you’ll hear from some of the XR protestors who staged a “funeral” for London Fashion Week in September, then sit down with activists: Clare Farrell, Sara Arnold and Will Skeaping to find out why they think civil disobedience is the way to go, what to do about the scary science, and where fashion fits in with all of this.

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This is Not a Drill, An Extinction Rebellion Handbook is published by Penguin.

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WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

THEY SAY: “We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making…We must act while we still can. What we are seeing now is nothing compared to what could come.” They point to sea level rise, desertification, increasing extreme weather events including fires and hurricanes, water shortages, crop failures and millions displaced. In such a context, business as usual, they argue, is madness.

“But our leaders are failing in their duty to act on our behalf,” they say. “Our current systems of governance are compromised by a focus on profits and economic growth. Politicians can be influenced by lobbies of powerful corporations and the media are hampered by vested interest of corporate advertisers undermining our democratic values. We have run out of the luxury of time to react incrementally.”

SO WHAT DO THEY SUGGEST?

Read more here.

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WHY IS FASHION INVOLVED?

By 2050, if current consumption levels continue, the global textile industry could account for one quarter of all carbon emissions. XR says: “The fashion system is broken. Globally we produce up to 100 billion pieces of clothing a year, taking a terrible toll on the planet and people who make them. What’s worse, new reports predict the apparel and footwear industry will grow by 81 per cent by 2030, putting an unprecedented strain on already devastated planetary resources. We are facing ecological collapse due to the effects of climate change – and the fashion industry plays a big role in this.”

The Red Rebels bring theatre to the protests

The Red Rebels bring theatre to the protests

Several of the key figures in XR came out of the fashion and advertising industries, including Farrell (who used to be a fashion designer and once worked for high street brands), Arnold (who studied fashion and runs, or at least used to run, the designer fashion rental website Higher Studio) and Skeaping - an ex ad man who used to work for the agency McCann London.

In September, XR’s new Boycott Fashion arm wrote to the British Fashion Council saying, “We beg you to cancel London fashion week in respect of the crisis and use all influence to save life on earth. We ask if the industry is to convene, it is for crisis talks and as a platform to declare emergency.” Read more here.

Arnold told British Vogue that, “Some of the press have said that we’re shutting down London Fashion Week. We’re not. The actions we’ve planned are largely symbolic.”

However, Farrell makes it quite clear in this podcast interview that this is not time for the business of fashion as-we-know-it. “I’m really sorry…It would be great if we could all carry on, and people could make sustainable collections and be listened to, and the industry would change and what would actually result in something meaningful,” she says. “But it’s just not a great time to be in the process of production right now.”

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CONTROVERSY

Protests in London in April brought some of the city’s busiest routes to a standstill over 11 days. More than 1,100 people were arrested, reportedly costing the Met several million pounds in extra policing.

Some, such as Andre Spicer writing in the Guardian, argue that such tactics alienate most people. “The identity offered by the Extinction Rebellion movement will resonate with would-be rebels, but the majority of people who could potentially be won over to their cause don’t see themselves as ‘rebels’. Instead they identify as parents, workers, neighbours, members of ethnic or religious groups and many other things. To effectively reach out, the climate change movement needs to connect with these identities.” Read the rest here.

Others point out, quite rightly, that it’s only privileged white people who can afford to court arrest. “Extinction Rebellion is overwhelmingly shaped by the concerns, priorities, and ideas of middle-class white people. If it doesn't tackle white supremacy, it doesn't serve us.” This piece on Vice drills it down.

Emma Thompson was accused of hypocrisy for flying from LA to London to join the protests.

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Until next time,

Clare x