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Extinction Rebellion goes for digital disruption amid pandemic

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist Larissa Payne, 42, from Bondi said the protests would be less disruptive to ordinary people than last spring when activists blocked roads, bridges and public transport networks in capital cities across the country.

“I think it will be effective, it just won’t be as effective purely because we don’t have the physicality, we don’t have the colour, we don’t have the numbers in one place,” Ms Payne said.

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“We’re still seeking to draw people in and present something that shows we haven’t forgotten and we’re still watching the government and we’ll still hold them to account, that just because we’re in isolation doesn’t mean that we’re going anywhere.”

Ms Payne said XR was sensitive to the fact the pandemic and economic downturn had already disrupted people’s lives. They would also use the digital rebellion to launch “rebel aid” – an Extinction Rebellion take on mutual aid, where local communities and streets self-mobilise to help each other with food, shelter and other needs.

“It’s a beautiful and helpful measure for COVID but it’ll be essential when we’re met with the pointy end of recession or the next bushfire season,” Ms Payne said.

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Fellow XR activist Jordan Dowding, 26, from Abbotsford in Melbourne, said the contrast between the government’s response to the pandemic versus climate change was “astounding”.

“Now is our time because people have had a bit of time to reassess a few things and see the scale of action that the government can take, if its priorities are in the right place,” Mr Dowding said.

“Just listen to the language that is coming out of government about how we deal with this crisis, particularly around listening to the science. We were able to close down all these things to protect life and we need to put that kind of thinking into the context of the climate emergency.”

AJ Tennant, 38, an XR organiser from Glebe in Sydney, said it was important to protest as the government was discussing plans for the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and had suggested it could be underpinned by an expansion in gas, a fossil fuel.

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“The pandemic isn’t a hiccup that we have to get past and go back to business as usual,” Mr Tennant said.

“Events like this, whether it’s animal-borne diseases and pandemics or floods and droughts, both in Australia and overseas, are going to continue to create crises like this that will have huge economic impacts,” he said.

“For us and for our children and grandchildren, it has to be a different kind of economy that we’re going to rebuild after this.”

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