Breaking the law to save the world

What can we understand about people who break the law to save the environment and what is 'appropriate' protest in this time of great environmental change?

The challenge

Climate change activists have significantly enhanced the role of climate change in political and societal discourse in the UK and beyond. This has been achieved largely through civil disobedience practised by Extinction Rebellion (XR). XR’s discourse centres around the claim of an impending climate breakdown leading to a mass extinction of species. Their tactics are justified on the basis that government is unresponsive to this emergency.

Thousands of people have participated in XR’s protests so far and over a thousand have been arrested as a result. XR’s tactics are unusual in that they seek to achieve disruption and getting arrested is a key part of that disruption. Participating in civil disobedience comes at a personal cost as it can lead to a criminal record and have long-term detrimental consequences for the individuals involved.

What we're doing

This project is bringing stakeholders together to enable the development of further research projects into XR’s law-breaking, its consequences and its policy impacts. These stakeholders will be governmental and non-governmental actors engaged in climate change policy and they will have divergent views of XR’s tactics.

The purpose is to engage stakeholders and potentially co-produce research with them. The workshop will take place in May 2020 and will involve brief presentations from scholars working on XR followed by structured discussion around potential research questions and topics. 

How it helps

This research will deepen understanding about actors and processes that are poorly understood and are often discussed based on pre-conceived ideas about what constitutes appropriate protest.

Lead researcher profile

Dr Oscar Berglund, Lecturer in International Public and Social Policy

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