An Open Letter To Extinction Rebellion

A little history first. I first became aware of Extinction Rebellion (ER) when I saw a leaflet or a poster in Cambridge. I wasn’t sure what ER was but I didn’t take to the logo.

That is, I am not keen on stark black political logos, so I was ‘on guard’ as it were. I could see it probably represented the sands of time running out, but still it looked too much like other signs to which I have an aversion.

For example, there is the white racist African National Movement that was headed by Terre’Blanche. And there is the logo of Arrow Cross, the Hungarian nazi party during World War II, to name but two.

I can understand how ER might want to wrest that type of the logo from the Right and use it for good. But still..

And yes, I know the ER logo and the others are not the same, but they are of that same idea of a black, angular graphic. Maybe it is just me, and if that was all there was to this post I would invite you to stop reading now. But there is more.

A bit later, when Tamara and I were in the lobby after a talk at the University Of Cambridge about a year ago a man invited us to an ER party. I still didn’t know much about what ER was and he explained, kind of. We didn’t want to go to a party, so we said no. I thought it was a party (as in drinking, talking, dancing) and maybe it was.

Then, last April Tamara and I stayed in London for a week. ER had nailed a yacht (yes a yacht) to the road at Oxford Circus in central London, blocking traffic. They nailed the yacht to the ground and handcuffed themselves to the yacht. The yacht was there for days and meanwhile the police didn’t know what to do. It had come out of the blue and it obviously had political ramifications, so the police weren’t sure what they could or could not do. In the end they arrested some of the ER members and removed the yacht.

I wrote about it at the time and the post is here along with photos of the yacht that I am also putting here.

A lot of business people, that is van drivers, taxi drivers, people who needed those roads for work, were angry with ER because the road closure affected them in their pockets.

But everyone agreed that something needed to be done to stop the rush to fill the planet ankle deep in plastic. And most were convinced that climate change and a climate emergency were real and needed addressing.

And to some extent that emergency gave a pass to whatever kind of action ER felt driven to take to tell politicians that they had to change course.

Now forward to December last year when I went to photograph people at the Mill Road Winter Fair in Cambridge. One man I saw who was supporting ER was plainly very upset. He was shouting and exhorting people to take action to stop the madness as he saw it.

I photographed him and you can see that photo there and here it is:

Then in December, ER here in Cambridge did a die in in one of the malls. It was coincidental that I was in town. Of course, I took photos and one of them seemed poignant. It’s this one of a nicely dressed Asian woman (Japanese?) looking polite and somehow unfortunate as she entered the mall with the ER protest around her. I don’t suppose she was immune to the irony of her being the consumer walking past the ER protest against consumerism.

Then a couple of weeks ago I saw posters that ER had plastered on the windows of Christ’s College in the middle of Cambridge.

The text on the posters reads “The University Of Cambridge must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.”

I thought it was a mistake, a tactical error to paste posters on the windows of the College.

It was such a juvenile ‘hit and run’ protest. They came when no one was about, pasted the windows and then ran off.

It just seemed against the spirit of standing up (or lying down) and protesting in person. It was against the idea of ‘owning’ their protest.

And against the idea of doing no damage, even the small irritation of someone having to scrape the posters off the antique glass in the windows.

Dig Up The Grass

And now this week ER did something that managed to unite everyone against them. This is the grass in front of Trinity College.

ER dug up the grass and then took a barrowful of it and dumped it in a local Branch of Barclays Bank. The action was in protest at Trinity College proposing to sell off some agricultural land they own in Suffolk, for development. I don’t know what the connection with Barclays is.

The tree in the background is a graft taken from the apple tree under which Isaac Newton sat. And I read in one of the newspapers that one of the protesters chained him or herself to the tree.

By the way, there are two Newton apple trees in Cambridge The other Newton apple tree graft is in the grounds of the Botanic Garden here in Cambridge.

You may wonder what Newton’s connection with Cambridge is, and here’s a short extract of the Wikipedia entry for Newton. As you can read, he was a student at this College.

In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, on the recommendation of his uncle Rev William Ayscough, who had studied there. He started as a subsizar – paying his way by performing valet’s duties – until he was awarded a scholarship in 1664, guaranteeing him four more years until he could get his MA

Open Letter To Extinction Rebellion

I don’t know how much control the central governing body (assuming there is one) of Extinction Rebellion has over groups such as the Cambridge group. And I don’t know what they make or would make of what has happened. But in my view the local group is antagonising people whose support it needs.

Or to be more specific, they have lost me if they keep on destroying things in the cause of mending things.

I put my thoughts about climate change here.


  1. Their logo has made me uncomfortable from the very first time you mentioned it here; so no, you aren’t the only one David.


    1. Thank you for your feedback, Deb. It’s not ‘fashionable’, is it, to be wary of groups pushing for climate action, so it’s interesting to hear that you react similarly to the logo.


      1. Well, never have cared much for what’s ‘in fashion’… (More about the ‘W5’ and who might have something to gain from this? :/)


  2. Joan E. Miller says:

    I agree, David! The logo is awful. It reminds me not only of the worst in history, but also of the yellow and black radioactive warning sign! It is interesting to see it as an hourglass, for sure. But I would prefer it to be green rather than black, at least to set it apart from some of the others. But maybe they like the starkness of the black. Maybe a green curved hourglass? But I agree with what they are trying to achieve, though not with vandalism and such. That’s what I like about Greenpeace. They never destroy property. They hang banners and plug pipes that discharge toxics, and climb on things, but they do not do damage. I say right on! the world needs to stop once in a while and SEE what’s going on in the world. As Al Gore said, it’s “inconvenient” for us to change our habits and behaviors and viewpoints.


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