In the two short years since its inception in 2018, Extinction Rebellion has largely changed the face of climate activism. Shutting down five of London’s major bridges during their first demonstration, the decentralized global environmental movement has undeniably brought conversations about environmental collapse into the homes of millions in the U.K.—and across the Western world—some of whom may not have been reached otherwise. Since that first rebellion, the group has grown to mass levels.
Words by Ione Gamble
Photographs by Ben Toms
Styling by Nell Kalonji
Founded by activists Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion has three core aims:
Tell the Truth: The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
Act Now: The government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Beyond Politics: The government must create and be led by the decisions of a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.
But despite growing into a global movement, with acts of civil disobedience taking place across the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and Europe, Extinction Rebellion hasn’t been immune from its own fair share of criticism. As its notoriety grows, the movement has experienced increasing scrutiny from the establishment—and from those within Extinction Rebellion itself. Earlier this year, the group was declared an extremist organization by the U.K.’s counter-terror police, a move that was supported by Home Secretary Priti Patel. Other activists have been critical of members of Extinction Rebellion’s willingness to be arrested and the ignorance this may demonstrate toward how police violence disproportionately impacts marginalized groups.
However, when I spoke to a group of over 20 Extinction Rebellion members, the overwhelming atmosphere was both communal and hopeful. While undoubtedly, there are tensions, they are aware of the internal issues—and they are fighting to create a movement of which they can be proud to form a part. These pages display a cross-section of activists from all walks of life working together and supporting each other, all of whom are unwilling to accept the demise of our planet.
“Kids shouldn’t have to be doing all of this. Sometimes, what kids are doing, people don’t take it that seriously. But I think adults are starting to realize that climate change is a big deal. So many people from around the world are coming together to strike and make a difference—and that’s what counts. To the adults that aren’t listening to us, I say, ‘You need to wake up and realize that our planet is dying. Just because we are young, it doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s going on.’” Shane Asante-O’Neill
“My idea of a flourish-ing future is one where we can face [every-thing] together—all of the emotions such as fear, hopelessness, sadness, and anger, but come to it with love for one another and face it together. There can’t be division. Unity is definitely what I hope for.” Sarah Greenfield Clark
“I got involved in climate activism because we’re destroying the environment and killing the animals. I’ve gone to lots of the marches. I think adults that don’t take climate change seriously are stupid.” Clemency Carter
“Activism needs art. It draws people in, it’s a form of outreach! The aim is for people to realize we need to change as soon as possible. People need to remain enthusiastic, and art helps with that.” Joy Oluwapelumi Anuoluwa Akintan
“I tell people to follow my version of the three R’s. Instead of reduce, reuse, recycle, it’s recognize, research, and rebel. Climate change is not really something that any of us can pick and choose to engage in. You are engaging with it in every single action that you take, however insignificant that feels. It comes down to how our society functions and how our society conducts itself within the global community. We all have a part to play in that. So, if you think you aren’t engaging, you’re in denial at this point.” Talia Woodin
“I don’t think you have to sacrifice joy, beauty, and art to be environmentally conscious. Art is imperative for social change. Art is full of joy, and joy is imperative to survival. The last 30 years, scientists have been saying the same thing we are now, but there has been a dissonance between the people and the science. Throughout history, music and film have influenced social change—and continued to add fuel to the fire of social revolution. The arts can disseminate information in a way that is palatable for people. Artists can take the facts and make them human. People like stories, people like to see themselves in other people—and you can’t do that with facts.” Fehinti Balogun
“I’ve never missed a single school strike. Despite all the hope towards this movement, a major factor that holds me back is my ethnicity. At nearly every strike, or even on the news, actions taken towards ethnic minorities can be very scary and intimidating, and a lot of the time, unjust. In society today, there is an underlying racism in every infrastructure. And I, being part of an ethnic minority here in the UK, can only hope that the goal we all need, a solution to this ecological crisis, is successful. I hope everyone that is in this movement is strong and ready for what is yet to come and that everyone will soon realize it isn’t a choice. It’s a lifestyle.” Ella Soriamo
“What keeps me hopeful is that I know a lot of people that are willing to do absolutely anything to stop the catastrophe that we are facing. I know a lot of people that are willing to go above and beyond even what I would be willing to do. Even though it would inflict damage on themselves, even though they may get arrested, even though they could end up in jail. They put themselves on the line to prevent what’s happening and to try and slow down the climate collapse that we are diving into.” Will Mullen
“Being part of the youth section can sometimes be intimidating. Adults are adults, and as young people, we’re conditioned to always listen to and appease adults and are brought up believing they’re always right. Actually, that isn’t necessarily the case. Being part of Extinction Rebellion has definitely taught me that I have equal power to the adults in the group. Age is just a number, and it’s a number that doesn’t mean anything anymore.” Elijah McKenzie-Jackson
“The biggest misconception of Extinction Rebellion is that everyone involved is white and middle class. As a person of color who is also working class, I read these articles, and it’s just like the media is excluding a massive group of important people in the movement. There are diversity issues in every movement, but the media’s portrayal of it furthers that idea. Climate activism has been fought for so long by indigenous activists, and calling it a white, middle-class movement erases the work those people have been doing for over 30 years.” Mia Tomlins
“Fashion is one of the biggest communication tools we have in society. Now, we have so much green washing, which is a problem. But as a communication industry—in a climate emergency like the one we are facing now—we need those in fashion to use their platform to tell the truth, pressure the government to act, and to act in the interests of the planet and not profit. Fashion is usually underestimated. People look at fashion as a superficial thing. But it’s not, it’s a massive industry that can demand change.” Martina Sorghi
“When I first went to an Extinction Rebellion meeting, I was worried it would be too weird for me. But once I got there, everything just clicked. It wasn’t as radical as I thought it would be. It was just like I had found my people. Everyone is just motivated and inspired. Being in that meeting, I just suddenly realized my own power. I’d never felt like a rebel before in my life, and suddenly, I was spending weeks at a time at protests, running around dancing, and running away from the police. It’s not for everyone, but it’s fucking empowering.” Paula Rue
“For me, Extinction Rebellion is about bringing people together. It’s about finding out what actually matters to everyone, and what is on our minds. The more I speak to people, the more I start to see my own beliefs echoed in them; it’s just a lovely energy. Most people have an idea of what is going on in our society, but there is a lot of fear surrounding being bold enough to step forward and actually stand up for what you believe in.” Nicky Adesanya
“At the start, people thought caring about climate change was a bit of a joke and a phase that we were all going through. But now, people are realizing it’s serious. Whereas at first, I was attending events as a bit of fun, I now feel a duty to. Growing up knowing that we’re living through climate collapse is sad. It’s just draining—a lot of my friends cry when they talk about it. I could die from climate change before I die from old age, and that’s the scariest part.” Catherine Brown
“Extinction Rebellion has provided a home for me, a space, and a social group of friends that I feel immeasurably safe with. That’s something I’ve never had before. It really is a chosen family. There are these people who I’ve never met before, who I can just come across at events, and it’s like, ‘Were we separated at birth?’” Daniel Walsh
“Since getting involved with Extinction Rebellion, my lifestyle has completely changed. I’m now a vegan, completely straight- edge, and just trying to help in whatever way I can. I like to stand up for what I believe in, and the environment is in crisis. Alternative subcultures and things like punk definitely intertwine with helping the planet. Casual rebellion always eventually does something. No matter what you do, you will be making an impact.” Jack Gray
“It’s important to think about our roots, and how some communities still get disenfranchised and feel very isolated. We need to break through that and support those communities, so they feel they can be a part of Extinction Rebellion. If we are together and transparent in being together, we can hope to change these people’s experiences through what we are doing. We need to ask questions and be critical with an open heart.” Mothiur Rahman
TALENT DIRECTOR Holly Cullen MAKEUP Crystabel Riley using Absolution HAIR Naoki Komiya (Julian Watson Agency) SET DESIGN Janina Pendan PRODUCTION Mini Title PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANTS Jack Symes, Tarek Cassim, and Cameron Williamson DIGITAL TECH Emma Gibney STYLING ASSISTANTS Rebecca Perlmutar, Fleur Van de Merlen, and Hedda Askheim TALENT ASSISTANT Abi Corbett MAKEUP ASSISTANT Melanie Christou HAIR ASSISTANT Taylor-Mary Anthony