Frequently asked questions

The principle of ‘First, do no harm’ is central to medical ethics. By blocking roads are you not causing harm by delaying ambulances?

Extinction Rebellion has a blue light policy, meaning if protests block roads they will always let ambulances and other emergencies through. Please click on the link below to see a video of Ali, a paramedic, answering this question very eloquently:

The following link, filmed at the South West October 2023 Unite to Survive march, shows how XR and other climate protestors always move out of the road promptly for emergency vehicles

We have the right to vote, why don’t you use this to change things?

We don’t believe this is enough for several reasons. Firstly, the 4 year electoral cycle is too long, and we don’t have that much time. Secondly, even though the vast majority of voters have been extremely concerned about climate change for years, the political parties with a chance of gaining power don’t represent these concerns. This is because a tiny minority of the population with vast amounts of wealth exert a hugely disproportionate influence on our democracy. Fossil fuel companies spend millions of pounds a year lobbying our politicians. Five billionaires own about 80% of the media in the UK, and the right wing press has been spewing climate denial propaganda for decades. Labour is bowing to these forces, having back-tracked on environmental issues. The Tories had net zero in their manifesto, but they are not honouring this. Is that democratic? Protest is crucial to counter this imbalance of power, and has always been an integral part of democracy. It is only under authoritarian regimes that protest is banned.

Will I have to break the law?

No. We understand that many people won’t feel comfortable doing this, and the consequences of doing so vary from person to person. Many of our members choose to take on roles that are not arrestable. We want to encourage a diverse range of people and approaches. All we ask is that you believe in the necessity to take collective action, and respect that some people will choose to protest in a more disruptive way.

Isn’t it enough to make lifestyle changes?

We don’t think so. It could be argued that the view perpetuated by advertisers that we can solve the climate crisis solely by changing what we purchase is dangerous, as it can lead to complacency and prevent us from collectively demanding the essential societal change.

The UK has reduced carbon emissions rapidly over the past few decades, aren’t we doing well?

This is true, but it was from a starting point of having the 6th highest total emissions of any country in 1970, which is staggering given our population size, and was mainly due to phasing out coal. We still have high emissions per capita relative to other countries, and these are not projected to reduce quickly enough based on government policy. The Climate Change Committee is clear on this, and the High Court has ruled that the government’s inadequate net zero strategy breaches the Climate Change Act.

China produces so much carbon, isn’t whatever we do pointless?

It is true that China emits a huge amount of carbon, partly due to its population size. However, China is the world’s largest and fastest producer of renewable energy. The UK makes a significant contribution to global emissions, producing the 17th highest amount of carbon of the 195 countries in the world. We emit far more than countries in the Global South, who are feeling the worst effects of climate change. We believe that we need to get our own house in order to be influential on the world stage and encourage a global reduction in carbon.

I don’t live a very ‘green’ lifestyle, I would feel hypocritical getting involved in activism, and I feel worried people in the movement would judge me

We are not about making individuals feel guilty. Of course it is extremely difficult in the society we live in to make ‘green’ choices. That’s why we strongly believe in the need to collectively campaign to pressurise our government and institutions to make changes at this level. You are not required to lead a perfect lifestyle to demand this change, there’s nothing in the least bit hypocritical about it.

I’ve never been involved in activism, I wouldn’t know what to do

Many of us were in the same boat. Every new person involved is incredibly valuable, whatever their level of experience. We are very friendly and welcoming!

Isn’t disruptive protest counterproductive as it turns people off the cause?

Actually, although Extinction Rebellion are not popular with the majority of the public, there is good evidence that their protests increased public awareness about and engagement with climate change issues (have a look at this paper: There is a disconnect between people’s attitudes towards protestors and their attitudes towards the issues being protested about. Most protest groups that caused social change were not popular at the time, for example the suffragettes and the civil rights movement in the US.