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In conversation with Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion

Posted on 22 June 2022

In our latest Academy session, environmental activist and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Julian Roger Hallam spoke to Head of Impact Kat Barry about the motives and activities of the Extinction Rebellion movement to date.

Extinction Rebellion originated in the United Kingdom at a meeting of activists including Gail Bradbrook, Roger Hallam and Simon Bramwell in April 2018. Extinction Rebellion has the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel Government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and social and ecological collapse.

Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as Occupy, the suffragettes and the civil rights movement, Extinction Rebellion aims to instil a sense of urgency to prevent further "climate breakdown" and a sixth mass extinction.

Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions
In Conversation with: Roger Hallam

Kat Barry, Head of Impact, Mishcon de Reya

Welcome everyone to this Mishcon Academy Digital Session.  This is a series of online events, videos and podcasts looking at the biggest issues faced by businesses and individuals today.  Okay I would like to welcome Roger Hallam to Mishcon Academy.  Roger is a Welsh Environmental Activist and Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion.  Extinction Rebellion originated in the UK at a meeting of activists including Gail Bradbrook, Roger and Simon Bramwell in April 2018.  Roger, I’d like to start I think with a point of definition so Extinction Rebellion’s view is that we are in a climate crisis and more specifically that we are in the midst of a mass extinction.  Can you tell us a bit about what that crisis is in your view?
Roger Hallam, Extinction Rebellion

Everything about the climate crisis is embedded in the herding space which is in denial.  If we were really emotionally going to be aware of what we face then half of you would be crying by now right, right.  Tomorrow you’d have an emergency meeting of your company but the reason you are not going to do that right, is because you are sitting on nice chairs, you’ve been to quite a few of these meetings, you’ve got this lovely person here saying ‘it’s a little bit of a problem’ and then you’ve got me.  In other words, what is happening in your heads is, there’s this weird guy who’s slightly gone off script but it’s alright because everything else, all the other stimuli in your lives and in this moment is just saying, ‘normal, normal, normal’ you know, after this meeting you are going to go and have a nice day you know, and by tomorrow you’ll have forgotten about it apart from the 5% of you who are either super intelligent and/or super sensitive.  Hopefully both.  I am just like a trained social scientist and that’s why Extinction Rebellion was so successful is because we are a perical, we’re actually starting with a blank sheet of paper and saying, ‘what’s the best way of influencing you know, a bunch of thirty lawyers who are encased in privilege and normality’ right, well if I was going to be really effective I’d take all my clothes off but I am not because I don’t have that much courage okay and I am just a bit lazy and I’ve sort of given up on the elites.

Kat Barry, Head of Impact, Mishcon de Reya

A number of the actions that Extinction Rebellion have taken in the last few years have been seen as pretty extreme and disruptive.  What is proportionate in your view?  So what is the right balance between something extreme and radical that creates mobilisation and disrupts norms versus disruptive action that creates annoyance and actually disengages people?

Roger Hallam, Extinction Rebellion

In King’s College there is 30,000 people okay.  One person transformed their corporate policy in three weeks.  His name was Roger Hallam okay.  So what did I do?  I went with five students, I threw like paint around the Gothic central hall and all those Colonial statues, all that sort of thing, the Vice Principal came within 5 minutes.  The following day I was in the room with the Vice Principal.  I was very nice to him because I was doing a Gandhi routine and he said, ‘what do you want?’ and I said, ‘I want you to divest and become carbon free’.  He said, ‘I’ll see what I can do’.  Then I went on hunger strike.  He said, ‘don’t go on hunger strike’.  I said, ‘I am going to stop being on hunger strike when you divest’ and he said, ‘okay I’ll see what I can do’.  Two weeks later he is shaking my hand, the corporate strategy is changed and you know, they are going to divest by 2022.  XR 10,000 people, ten days in London, Greenpeace accepts that we did more to change the climate debate in this country in two weeks with 10,000 people than Greenpeace with a 50 million, you know, dollar annual budget yeah.

Kat Barry, Head of Impact, Mishcon de Reya

You describe the climate crisis as a genocide but there is a very specific definition for the word genocide which requires an intention to destroy.  Is your view that there is an intention here in the climate crisis or are you using that term genocide in a broader sense?

Roger Hallam, Extinction Rebellion

So how I look upon it is intentionality as a continuum, right, it’s not a binary.  There’s a gentleman on the front, if I really don’t like you and I want to kill you then I have an intention to kill you right.  So that’s like at one extreme isn’t it and by the way, I have got no intention to do anything unpleasant I am just using you as a like concrete example right and then at the other extreme you are in my house you know, there’s a balcony, I haven’t, I haven’t you know, mended the fence on the balcony, you lean against it and fall to your death.  Well I haven’t really killed you have I but I could have mended the fence yeah.  So that’s what, criminal negligence sort of slight.  You see what I mean?  It’s not like you don’t know, I mean when, when this gentleman falls off my balcony maybe I didn’t know that the fence was like you know, wobbly.  Well you could say, ‘well you should have known Roger’, so yeah fair enough that’s like the Grenfell argument isn’t it.  We are facing the end of everything and you are going to sit there and allow it to happen or 95% of you are, or maybe you’re not.

Kat Barry, Head of Impact, Mishcon de Reya

On that note I think we will have to call it to a close as we have reached the end of our slot but thank you very much Roger for coming in and bringing the call to action and we will see who are the 3 people at the end of the session.  If anybody would like to get in contact with Roger, do you want to hold up your…

Roger Hallam, Extinction Rebellion

Here you go, pathway to action people.  Any time over the next four years.  After that, it’s too late.

Kat Barry, Head of Impact, Mishcon de Reya

Thank you very much, if you would like to join me in thanking Roger.


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