The Radical Philosophy of Extinction Rebellion
By Jeremy Deaton
New York police recently arrested 66 protestors who rallied outside The New York Times building to compel the newspaper to make climate change a front-page issue. The demonstrators belonged to Extinction Rebellion, a movement born in the United Kingdom that is committed to nonviolent resistance. In addition to protesting outside of The New York Times, U.S. members have taken to the streets against Amazon in Seattle and NBC in Los Angeles, calling on those organizations to treat the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves.
It may seem strange that Extinction Rebellion would target The New York Times, Amazon and NBC, three companies nominally committed to dealing with climate change, as opposed to, say, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and ExxonMobil, which have abysmal track records on the issue. And it may appear self-defeating to block traffic and mob public spaces, which might alienate potential supporters.
But organizers say that's precisely the point.
"We have finite energy, and spending energy trying to win over the people who are absolutely not going to be won over to your side is peanuts compared to mobilizing the people who would be active or passive supporters," said Leah Francis, an organizer with the Extinction Rebellion U.S. national team. "We really want to shift people's perspective on what constitutes normal, socially acceptable behavior around responding to climate change."
It aims to push governments to make the rapid, large-scale transformation needed to prevent the collapse of human civilization. This means massive, disruptive protests that render climate change too inconvenient to ignore — protests that will rouse progressives to the cause, even if they turn away centrists or conservatives.
This is, essentially, mental illness. #ExtinctionRebellion https://t.co/seqlcLTVkY— David Vance (@David Vance)1563208674.0
Big green groups, by contrast, have devoted a lot of time and energy to winning over conservatives with the goal of making incremental progress on climate change. Environmental campaigns ask for small donations or push supporters to call their members of congress, always with the promise that change is just around the corner.
"I just want it to be clear that the mainstream environmental movement has been asking very little of people for decades. They've been using a strategy of not trying to scare people," said Bea Ruiz, also an organizer with the U.S. national team. "There's no element of, 'We are in an emergency. We all need to do more than what we're doing.' There's a lot of emphasis on positivity and hope.'"
A 2018 UN report determined that to stave off catastrophic climate change, humans would need to cut carbon pollution roughly in half by 2030. This would require a radical overhaul of the global energy system, a shift on a scale unprecedented in human history. By some accounts, the UN report was unduly optimistic, spurring Extinction Rebellion to demand countries reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2025. This aim is so ambitious as to be impractical, and politically, it's unworkable. But organizers are committed to setting their goals based on science, not politics.
"We're trying to put out there what's necessary, not what people think is politically possible. And then we're trying to be part of helping to change what's politically possible through direct action," Ruiz said. "We are really, literally, almost out of time, and if we don't make the reductions that are needed based on the science, we're going to be in serious trouble. We can't negotiate with reality."
Extinction Rebellion is focused on mobilizing people who are already passionate about climate change, and then working to consolidate progressive support for drastic action.
"The way you win is by forcing the issue and then asking people, 'Which side are you on?' And we know what side the conservatives are on," Ruiz said. "A significant portion of the country, for example, is evangelicals, who literally believe that, if climate change exists, then it's God's will. Civil resistance movements do not win by spending precious time and resources and energy trying to win over people like that. That's a losing strategy."
Ruiz said organizers were influenced by the work of Harvard University political scientist Erica Chenoweth, who found that when just 3.5 percent of a population publicly takes part in an opposition movement, that movement succeeds. Chenoweth's research further showed that only nonviolent movements are able to reach this critical threshold. That's because nonviolent movements are better able to recruit people, and some of those people will have friends and family who work for the government or news media, or who belong to security forces.
To be clear, 3.5 percent is nothing to sneer at. In the United States, that would mean around 11 million people marching, striking or joining sit-ins. For context, the 2017 Women's March drew an estimated 4 million people, and it was the largest single demonstration in American history. At 11 million people, Extinction Rebellion would be too big and unwieldy for any politician to ignore.
Organizers think they will be able to reach that number. Extinction Rebellion UK is reportedly the largest civil disobedience movement in modern British history. And coordinators in the United States said their stark message on climate change has attracted a host of new members.
"They wanted to hear somebody sound the alarm. They've all told us over and over and over again that they're so glad that finally someone is speaking about this crisis in a way that matches reality," Ruiz said of the people joining their movement.
"Mostly what we're dealing with are people who are just scared, and they are grieving the state of affairs that we have found ourselves in," Francis said. "People have a lot of energy around this, and they want to be able to put it somewhere that matches the intensity of what they're feeling."
Extinction Rebellion protests outside The New York Times, June 20.
One of those people is Art Weaver, a former scientist who now sells small-scale wind turbines in Ithaca, New York. Weaver is a new member of Extinction Rebellion, who was stirred to join the movement after learning how little time is left to slash carbon pollution. "I don't think people are willing to accept that, listen to that, internalize that, be upset about that. They just want to be in denial," he said. "You have got to look at it with open eyes and a clear head."
Weaver spoke to the importance of pushing popular news outlets to routinely report on climate change. He recalled watching Walter Cronkite update Americans nightly about the number of casualties in the Vietnam War and seeing the graphs of the body count. "That image, day after day after day, is indelibly printed on my brain," he said. "That sort of emergency coverage is needed [for climate change]. The news needs to lead every single day with it."
Weaver came to Extinction Rebellion to find what Ruiz calls the "joy of resistance." She said that taking part in the movement can give people an outlet for their anxieties. "Extinction Rebellion is asking people to allow themselves to grieve and then turn that grief and that despair into action," Ruiz said. "When you do that, there is a sense of liberation. There is a sense of joy."
Lisa Fithian, another organizer with the U.S. national team, put it more bluntly. "Yes, we're fucked. Yes, this is coming apart," she said, "We have to reckon with the grief. We have to reckon with the anger. We have to reckon with the fear. And we have to know that deep inside we actually have power and agency, and we can make a difference."
She added, "When it's a fight for your life, you're willing to throw down, especially if you are doing it in a community together."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in ... ›
- Climate Justice, Indigenous Rights Advocates Rally for Wet'suwet'en ... ›
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
- Airborne Coronavirus Transmission Must Be Taken Seriously, 239 ... ›
- Trump Halts WHO Funding Amidst Criticism of His Own Coronavirus ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
- Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains ... ›
- New Species of Diamond Frog Discovered in Remote Pocket of ... ›
- Frogs Are on the Verge of Mass Extinction, Scientists Say - EcoWatch ›
A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
- Trump Admin Denies Endangered Species Protections to Pacific ... ›
- Trump Admin Failed to Protect 241 Species From Extinction ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
- 8 Ways to Tell if You Are Vitamin D Deficient - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common ›
Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
- Could the Climate Crisis Spell the End for Maine Lobster? - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters - EcoWatch ›
- World Leaders, Media Ignore Biodiversity Report Detailing Mass ... ›
- The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect - EcoWatch ›