“I don’t know why we bother. We should let you all burn!” Basil Fawlty is fuming at his hotel guests in an episode of Fawlty Towers as they refuse to take his fire drill seriously. And after some extraordinary attacks by Right-wing commentators and Federal Government ministers on the Australians who are pleading for climate action, you could almost imagine the same sentiment being voiced by a member of Extinction Rebellion.
Lara Williamson is a 21-year-old Rebel, as XR members are known, and there’s just no way she’s prepared to let us all burn. In her final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) at Deakin University, the student, volunteer, retail worker and activist says the cost of doing nothing is just too great.
“Think of your present and future children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews,” she says. “In 10 years’ time, could you look them in the eye and honestly say to them you did everything you could to prevent the worst of climate change? In the words of Greta Thunberg: ‘If standing up against climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules, then the rules must be broken.’”
Lara became aware of XR through its activism in London, where the movement was born, and attended an introduction talk titled Heading for Extinction and What to Do About It in Mornington earlier this year. “I instantly knew I wanted to be a Rebel. I was frustrated, confused, confronted, but optimistic, and I knew that XR was the perfect opportunity to turn those emotions into action. I volunteered to reach out to all those who attended and from there worked with a handful of existing Rebels to establish the Mornington Peninsula group. Our group is ever-expanding by the day, but we have a constant group of around 20 or so with around 10 of us heavily involved and 140 followers on our Facebook page. From early 20s to 60s, our members range from engineers to musicians to celebrants and teachers. We all bring different skillsets due to our diverse backgrounds, and we contribute what we can.”
Lara’s first XR protest was during the Spring Rebellion action in Melbourne last month, during which she was arrested. But she says the experience was “overwhelmingly positive” and the public reaction was very supportive. And while it has taken her family longer to accept her decision to join XR, her friends, workmates and boyfriend are right behind her. “I would obviously love the support of everyone, but I know that is not realistic and I would rather focus my energy on working with those who are with us, not against us. We only need 3.5 per cent of the population mobilised to cause major social change — the climate emergency is not going to wait for us to convince everyone.
“This is not about politics, this is about humanity. We are all in this together.”
The Peninsula group meets weekly and new members are always welcome — check out the Facebook page @XRMornPen or contact the group through www.ausrebellion.earth/localgroups