Chesterfield XR



We chat with Chesterfield Extinction Rebellion to

understand why they are fighting for our planet.

Words: Paul Chapman

Image: Adobe Stock


“Not everyone is out there demonstrating. We have support from many people, doctors, lawyers, senior people, young people and this support comes in many ways, behind the scenes, nonviolent direct-action training, legal support training, social media support etc to name a few.

XR, or Extinction Rebellion to use their full name, have a growing number of supporters who believe that the world we inhabit is not an endless resource to be used and abused, and it’s down to us to make some changes to ensure that future generations can enjoy a long time as custodians.


XR have gained notoriety for their recent protests in London, where their profile has been raised through peaceful action, bringing traffic in the city to standstill. A poignant comment I heard came from radio and TV presenter Chris Evans on his morning breakfast show. He mentioned how clean and peaceful the city of London was without the traffic. It was a pleasant place to be and people occupied the streets and moved about without any difficulty. Some commented how close together parts of the city are when you can walk without the noise and pollution affecting your personal wellbeing.


Children get it, but it’s our actions today that will have a greater impact on their futures. When XR went into Spire Juniors to explain who they are and why they act, they were met by suggestions from the children including: a pool of electric cars, use one from the pool when you need it; and about how they love wildlife and creatures and want to save them all.

In past S40 Local’s when we have asked young people of senior school age to contribute articles to the magazine, many of the topics considered and published, have focused on the environment and climate change.


“30 years ago scientist made predictions about signs on climate change that would be apparent by 2050, but these signs are here today, 30 years earlier than forecast.”

Whatever your views, 97% of scientists now agree that our planet is changing, and we are the cause, so I feel it’s right to talk about XR and let you make your own decision.

The group are active locally and trying to raise awareness of the issues we face; I am meeting Michelle Cadet-Rose and Colin Harrison from Chesterfield XR.


“People think it’s about getting arrested” says Michelle, “but that’s not the case at all, for every single person that does get arrested there are ten that do not.


“Not everyone is out there demonstrating. We have support from many people, doctors, lawyers, senior people, young people and this support comes in many ways, behind the scenes, nonviolent direct-action training, legal support training, social media support etc to name a few.


“Colin and I have taken part in events locally and in London where the depth of support has been amazing.”





What exactly is XR? “XR is a rebellion against us becoming extinct”, scientists say we are heading for a disaster quite quickly, our Government want carbon neutrality by 2050 but the scientists say we need to act much sooner.


“The scientists say there is a ‘tipping point’, a point where we see a change in our environment that cannot be reversed, this is when our carbon production from gases and waste exceeds the rate at which the planet can deal with it”.


“30 years ago scientist made predictions about signs on climate change that would be apparent by 2050, but these signs are here today, 30 years earlier than forecast.”


Michelle continues, “the things I take from XR are the facts: sea levels are changing, coastal areas are being affected now, people crisis’ exist as people migrate inland and towards the global north.


“More locally, we see widespread repeats of ‘once in a lifetime floods’ in Catcliffe, and vast fires in the Peak District. Signs that things are changing.”


“to look at the science that’s out there and make some choices about what difference can be made personally”.

XR have no political ideology, they are completely aimed at the environmental crisis and promote love and understanding. They are nonviolent in every way and have no single leader, people take positions within the group, it’s more like a community where people take roles that suit them and contribute overall in the end goals, which are to:


1. Tell the truth and repeat what the scientists are saying

2. Act now

3. Form Citizens assemblies


The group believe in deliberative democracy, a form of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision-making and in groups that represent all demographics.


How have XR acted locally? In Chesterfield, the group have taken action against Derbyshire County over pensions investment choices. They have “photo-bombed” a polar bear (apparently not a real one) used as a festive attraction by Chesterfield Borough Council on Vicar Lane, to highlight the bear's environments disappearing; and most recently choregraphed a routine next to Hornsbridge Roundabout to raise awareness of traffic pollution related deaths.


What is the best response an XR action can have? “For people to realise that the crisis is real,” answers Michelle, “to look at the science that’s out there and make some choices about what difference can be made personally”.


“We need local and national government to make positive change. For instance, we see councils declaring climate emergencies but then agreeing new airports”.


“We need real infrastructure change, citizens' assemblies to help deliver localism, solutions that meet the immediate needs of the communities we live in. Give people the background info they need to consider how they can make a change.”


“There are some pockets of excellence that already exist. From these groups, ideas result that are implemented and can be replicated. In Europe, some citizens have agreed to pay more tax to fund local change as they see the immediate outcome and are prepared to pay for it.”

Locally there are a number of organisations that exist and to some extent share common aims - Plastic Free Chesterfield, Transition Chesterfield, the Chesterfield Cycle Campaign and Create Change, for instance.


I can understand how some people may not want to be associated with XR, they don’t want to appear militant. Michelle assures me they are not trying to be difficult but sometimes you need to make a step change and raise awareness … and it might be a bit painful for some for a short while.


“Some people’s view is that XR won’t make a difference, but what if no one took a stance? All we are doing is simply trying to raise awareness and would welcome anyone to get involved. People can bring whatever skills they have to help the cause”.


“XR brings people together, we meet on the first Tuesday of the month at Monkey Park and if you want to be part of the change, drop us an email or search us out on FB.”


In January and February, the film ‘2040’ will be shown locally. It depicts what life could look like if we successfully make the changes necessary in line with scientific suggestions; and on 21 March 2020, XR will be holding a fundraising evening at the Phoenix Room, Chester Street.

If people want to help but don’t want to be activists, XR hold introductory sessions on the first Tuesday of each month, at 6:30pm, before their usual meeting at Monkey Park. That way you can find out what they're like and see if you want to become more involved - they have all sorts of subgroups for different activities.


Some Sample Facts


  • The climate is extremely complicated; a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature doesn't mean everywhere will get slightly warmer, as the air over land masses will heat up considerably more than that over the oceans;


  • The current disruption to local weather (droughts in Australia, floods in Indonesia, temperatures well above freezing in Moscow etc.) is exactly what was predicted by climate scientists - it's just happening much, much sooner than anticipated;


  • Subsidies to fossil fuel industries in the UK are over £10 billion a year;


  • The world's insect population has fallen by about 60% since the 1970s; you might not like insects, but they are essential for all life on earth.


  • Lake Chad in Africa has reduced to 10% of it's previous size in the last 50 years;


  • At current rates of warming, all the world's coral reefs are likely to die in the lives of people alive today;


  • 1% of British residents are responsible for nearly a fifth of all oversees flights; the 10% most frequent British flyers took more than half of all international flights in 2018. 48% of the population did not take a single flight abroad in the last year;


  • The 11 warmest years ever recorded have all occurred since 2002;


  • It is predicted that all New Zealand's 3000 glaciers will disappear completely by 2100;


  • Domestic CO2 emissions have fallen 27% in the UK between 1990 and 2014; however, once imports from trade in goods is included this drops to only an 11% - and excludes shipping and aviation!

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