Extinction Rebellion has extended an olive branch to Sir David Attenborough by delivering him a ‘starter pack on how to engage in civil disobedience’.
Eco-warriors delivered a letter and gifts including an olive tree to the naturalist’s home in Richmond, London, yesterday after he warned them not to break the law.
They said the 94-year-old’s influence and comments ‘are contributing to the erasure of the voices and sacrifices of front-line earth protectors around the world’.
It comes after Sir David said XR had to be ‘careful that you don’t break the law’ during their protests which have taken over central London in the past.
He said ‘disturbing their lives… is a serious thing to do and could disenchant an awful lot of people’.
He added: ‘Of course I agree with their message, it’s a question of what is politic and sensible in persuading other people to join you?’
Eco-warriors delivered a letter and ‘gifts’ including an olive tree to the naturalist’s home in Richmond yesterday after he warned protesters not to break the law
They said the 94-year-old’s influence and comments ‘are contributing to the erasure of the voices and sacrifices of front-line earth protectors around the world’
A small group of activists delivered the letter to Sir David in response to his comments on BBC Breakfast last month.
The letter says: ‘Nonviolent civil disobedience has a long history of bringing about swift, transformational change.
‘Breaking the law was integral to the achievements of the Suffragettes, Gandhi’s Salt Marchers, the Civil Rights movement and the Polish and East German democracy movement, to name only a few.
‘All who stood were scorned by society during their time, the majority of them mischaracterized as extremists and aggressors (and worse!).
‘But stand they did, and the world is better for their sacrifice. We owe our freedoms to the courage of those who broke the law and risked their lives and freedoms before us.
‘You yourself have said ”We cannot be radical enough when dealing with climate change”.
‘But your recent comments to the BBC, where you said ”you have to be careful that you don’t break the law” and that Extinction Rebellion should question whether their actions are ”political and sensible’,’ suggest you believe otherwise.
Sir David became the fastest person to have one million followers on Instagram, beating record holder actress Jennifer Aniston, after he joined the platform to reach a young audience
‘We urge you now to rethink this position and recognise the role nonviolent civil disobedience plays when communicating to your global audience.’
The letter adds: ‘With your unique position and influence, we fear your comments are contributing to the erasure of the voices and sacrifices of front-line earth protectors around the world.’
Extinction Rebellion said they sent him an NVDA ‘Starter Pack’, which ‘contains everything a person needs to understand how to engage in civil disobedience’.
They also dropped off an olive tree, which they say represents peace, which had pictures of environmentalists they claim were killed by governments globally.
In his BBC interview last month, Sir David said he had been warning about the environment for decades.
He said ‘yet suddenly, in the last five years maybe, it’s as though people have woken up, it’s young people… and not before time’.
The ‘first time I had absolutely indubitable proof (of what is happening to the natural world) was back in the 60s,’ he said.
‘I swam in a coral reef in Australia and saw a damaged reef. It was a terrible sight… like a cemetery.’
A boat is placed in the centre of the traffic junction as Environmental campaigners block Oxford Circus during a coordinated protest by the Extinction Rebellion group on April 15, 2019
Asked how he manages not to feel despondent, he said: ‘I don’t despair because what will you go and do? Just go and hide in the corner?
‘Crying in the corner and forgetting it all and giving up? And If there’s only a fragment of hope we have a responsibility to do something about it.’
Asked about the scepticism from governments in the US and Brazil, he said: ‘We have to do what’s in our power.
‘We can’t take that as an excuse for doing nothing…
‘China is taking very big steps in many directions.. China is moving in the right direction…
‘The present administration in America, is, from a conservationist point-of-view, disastrous but… that’s who’s been elected and we have to go through it.’
He added: ‘Every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we eat, comes from the natural world ultimately, and if we damage it we damage ourselves.’
‘If there is one thing everyone can do, it is don’t waste anything, don’t waste electricity, don’t waste food, don’t waste power’, he says.
‘Just treat the natural world as though it’s precious, which it is, and don’t squander those bits of it that we have control of.’
Sir David became the fastest person to have one million followers on Instagram after he joined the platform to reach a young audience.
His agent has been approached for comment.
Extinction Rebellion’s letter to Sir David Attenborough in full:
Dear Sir David,
We hope you are faring well during these turbulent times. There’s no need to stray far from our front doors these days to know that our world is unravelling in front of us.
But sometimes our doorsteps can bring words of friendship also. So, here we are.
We are a group of Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists and we bring you this letter to ask for your help.
For decades we have enjoyed your films and TV programmes. We share your deep concern for the living planet and the need you have expressed for immediate and decisive action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. Many of us in XR have spoken recently about the similarities in your use of language in your films ‘A Life On Our Planet’ and ‘Extinction: The Facts’ with our own ‘Extinction Talk’, on which Extinction Rebellion was founded.
I’m sure you would agree that now, more than ever, we need new ideas, new courage, new ways of thinking about how to create the change we so desperately need.
Nonviolent civil disobedience has a long history of bringing about swift, transformational change. Breaking the law was integral to the achievements of the Suffragettes, Gandhi’s Salt Marchers, the Civil Rights movement and the Polish and East German democracy movement, to name only a few.
All who stood were scorned by society during their time, the majority of them mischaracterized as extremists and aggressors (and worse!). But stand they did, and the world is better for their sacrifice. We owe our freedoms to the courage of those who broke the law and risked their lives and freedoms before us.
You yourself have said ‘We cannot be radical enough when dealing with climate change’. But your recent comments to the BBC, where you said ‘you have to be careful that you don’t break the law’ and that Extinction Rebellion should question whether their actions are ‘political and sensible,’ suggest you believe otherwise.
We urge you now to rethink this position and recognise the role nonviolent civil disobedience plays when communicating to your global audience.
With your unique position and influence, we fear your comments are contributing to the erasure of the voices and sacrifices of front-line earth protectors around the world. The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples estimates that Indigenous peoples are protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They know they have no choice but to break the law and take action to protect their communities, habitats and the biodiversity that sustains all life. They face violence, arrest, imprisonment, physical mutilation and murder on a daily basis. Much of this violence is sanctioned by governments who are at the heel of corporate power. Global Witness reports that 2019 was the deadliest year on record for environmental defenders. At least 212 were killed protecting land and water from mining, agribusiness and fossil fuel interests. That is over four environmentalists murdered every week.
For our part, Extinction Rebellion and the School Strikers created the space in 2019 for the climate and ecological emergency to reach the height of global awareness. Extinction Rebellion were voted the no.1 worldwide educator/influencer on climate change at COP25. Following our April Rebellion in 2019, the UK Parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency.
This was achieved because many thousands of ordinary people risked arrest for this cause.
We are not hooligans or extremists here out of a joy for breaking the law. We are mothers afraid for our children’s future. We are doctors and nurses who recognise the interconnected health and climate crises. We are young people sick and tired of being sold false promises. We are teachers, bus drivers, office workers, Rabbis, priests, writers, artists, emergency workers, scientists and more. Many of us are life long campaigners who have remained within the law for decades, going on marches and signing petitions, and we have watched in dismay as the crisis has only grown worse.
Those engaged in the fight for a liveable planet – whether those just doing their part, the TV personalities, or the activists committed to nonviolent direct action (NVDA) – are a part of an ecology of change, and the relationship between us makes up one symbiosis. Not one single element of these will succeed independently, but together we can create one united revolutionary moment. Nor will simply urging people to make incremental changes to their daily lives be enough now (although, of course we encourage them when possible!). It is crucial that governments are held to account for continuing their ecocidal activity and propping up destructive industries that are killing us.
We are so grateful for the part you are playing in the struggle to protect life on Earth, and ask you to work with us, not against us, and recognise that we all have a role to play in the times to come.
We are hand-delivering this letter to you in the hope of reaching you directly. We have brought the gift of an NVDA ‘Starter Pack’ that contains everything a person needs to understand how to engage in civil disobedience with XR. We hope you find value in this.
You will also find with it an olive tree representing peace, adorned with photos of environmentalists who have been killed by governments around the world for protecting precious habitats.
We would love to speak with you further about the above and begin a vital conversation about how we can achieve change during these dark times, when all ideas promoting peace and justice must be on the table.
Last week it was revealed XR protests cost taxpayers £15 million in policing costs in a year with disruptive stunts including stripping off naked at the House of Commons.
The Home Office handed the Met millions of pounds of extra funding in the 2019/20 financial year to fund the soaring costs of dealing with the climate extremists.
On March 9 last year around 400 protesters held a ‘Blood of Our Children’ demonstration outside Downing Street.
Members poured buckets of fake blood on the road to represent the threatened lives of children.
The next month around 12 protesters were arrested after undressing and gluing themselves to the glass in the House of Commons viewing gallery during a debate.
The tactic used by some activists sees them go limp when they are being arrested and will often mean four or five people are required to carry them away.
Police officers remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Victoria Street, London, on Thursday September 3
How DID climate anarchists cost the taxpayer £15 million in a year?
Around 12 protesters were arrested after undressing and gluing themselves to the glass in the House of Commons viewing gallery during a debate on Brexit.
Thousands gathered in Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square.
Five activists, including XR co-founder Simon Bramwell, were arrested for criminal damage when they targeted Shell’s headquarters, near Waterloo.
On the second day of actions on Waterloo Bridge police started arresting people at 12.40 pm, but stopped a few hours later when the force ran out of holding cells.
By the end of the day an estimated 500,000 people had been affected by the disruptions and 290 activists had been arrested in London.
Two activists climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side, spreading disruption to railway services.
A large force of police marched on the camp at Parliament Square, arresting people and partially removing roadblocks before it was retaken later the same night by protesters.
Some 428 people had been arrested at this point.
A dozen teenagers, some aged 13 and 14, walked to the Healthrow access road holding a banner which read ‘Are we the last generation?’ They were surrounded by police.
By late that evening 682 people had so far been arrested in London during the course of the demonstrations.
London Stock Exchange is blockaded by protestors who glued themselved to the entrance while wearing LED signs.
Four protesters climbed on to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf.
Activists gathered at Hyde Park to mark an end to the 11-day protest.
JULY 13 – 14
A weekend of protest in east London included a mass bike ride, traffic blockades and talks at London Fields.
London Fashion Week was targetted with Victoria Beckham’s show interupted by a swarm of demonstrators.
200 people gathered for a ‘funeral march’ from a H&M in Trafalgar Square to a fashion week venue in The Strand.
Tried to blockade the Port of Dover by marching on the A20.
Fire engine was used to spray fake blood around HM Treasury in central London.
Opening ceremony held at Marble Arch was attended by a thousand protesters.
Thousands of people blocked central London with various demonstrations.
Half a dozen activists dressed in yellow-and-black bee outfits held an action during the Liberal Democrats election campaign in Streatham, south London.
Activists blockaded a central London road to demand the next government tackles air pollution in London.
Extinction Rebellion members of the University of Cambridge assembled to dig up a patch of lawn outside of Trinity College.
The senior officer’s comments come just weeks after the group took to the streets of central London after declaring a ten-day protest.
Sir Steve told the committee: ‘We have asked them to stop being floppy. It might seem like a silly thing to say, but when we arrest them and pick them up they go all floppy, which is why you see four or five officers carrying them away.
‘It’s a complete waste of officers’ time, and a complete pain in the neck. If they could just behave like sensible adults – you’ve made your point, you wanted to be arrested, you’ve been arrested, get up and walk away with one officer and stop wasting police time.
‘This is a real issue, and they will not do it, and it is a flipping nuisance.’
The police officer added: ‘The problem with them going floppy and four officers carrying them away is that it looks to the general public like the police are overreacting here.
‘We’re not making them go floppy – they’re just being a nuisance.’
Earlier this month, Extinction Rebellion activists held ten days of protest in central London, with the latest figures from the Met showing that 680 people had been arrested.
These were for alleged offences including obstructing the highway, criminal damage and breaching the legal conditions set on the demonstration.
This month activists were also blasted by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for ‘attacking free speech’ after they chained themselves to the gates of Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.
Protestors also blocked access to the presses in Knowsley, Liverpool, on the same evening.
A total of 20 activists have each been fined £10,000 for their involvement in the protest, the Met Police said.
Following the scenes, the Prime Minister said: ‘A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.
‘It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.’
In a speech delivered to the Police Superintendents Association after the protest, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was committed to helping police deal with ‘so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals.’
She said: ‘Attempting to thwart the media’s right to publish without fear nor favour.
‘And a shameful attack on our way of life, our economy and the livelihoods of the hard-working majority. I refuse point-blank to allow that kind of anarchy on our streets.’
She blasted those who took part in the demonstration for being a ‘selfish minority’.
‘The very criminals who disrupt our free society must be stopped,’ she added. ‘Together we must all stand firm against the guerrilla tactics of Extinction Rebellion.
‘That means adapting to the threat they pose and ensuring justice is served. Now in policing, you have a whole range of powers at your disposal, and of course they should be used.’
Labour leader Keir Starmer also hit out at XR’s ‘counterproductive’ protests to stop the printing press.
He warned the environmental group’s newspaper blockade had cost it public sympathy.
The stunt happened on September 4, and left some newsagents’ shelves empty the following morning. It sparked outrage across parties.
Extinction Rebellion describes itself as ‘a politically non-partisan international movement that uses non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.’
A note on its website revealed the group try to communicate with police ‘except for the case where a small group is trying to do a specific action that needs the element of surprise’.
They said: ‘We have made some decisions about security and our interactions with the police.
‘We have made a strategic decision to communicate with the police about what we are doing when we believe that is more likely to enable things to go well (which we can’t always be sure of).
‘Except for the case where a small group is trying to do a specific action that needs the element of surprise, we generally don’t try to be secure in our communications about plans.
‘We expect that we have been infiltrated by those without our best interests at heart and suggest people bear this in mind.’
What is Extinction Rebellion and what do they want?
‘Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and the risk of social collapse,’ according to its website’s ‘about’ page.
The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018.
The worldwide group want to change the structure of power to take authority away from central governments.
Its website reads: ‘We understand that we must self-organise to meet our own needs, which in the context of Extinction Rebellion means that we are working to equalise power by disrupting the usual pillars of power that govern our lives.’
The environmentalist protest group held its first demonstration in Parliament Square on October 31, 2018
Since 2018 members of the group have gathered at London Fashion Week, the House of Commons and various other locations around central London.
On the morning of Wednesday, April 17, 2019, two activists climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side, spreading disruption to railway services.
The following day the three activists were charged with obstructing trains. After pleading not guilty they were sent to jail for four weeks, with no bail, whilst awaiting their next hearing.
On February 17 2020, Extinction Rebellion members of the University of Cambridge dug up a patch of lawn outside Trinity College, as a protest against its investment in oil and gas companies. The mud dug up was later taken to a local branch of Halifax.