In an out-of-character move, Extinction Rebellion, a progressive climate group known for provocative demonstrations, now says it wants to be less provocative. The group announced that it has rethought the strategy of disruptive, attention-grabbing protests in favor of "building a broader coalition."
A considerably delayed but welcome change of heart.
Right-of-center activists such as myself and my colleague Benji Backer have warned for years that extreme climate protests and media-grabbing stunts don’t win favor with the public. As we saw last year, blocking traffic only creates animosity toward protesters, and starting food fights with famous works of art comes across as entitled and out of touch to the average citizen. Instead, we founded ACC in 2017 on the very idea that Extinction Rebellion recently discovered: unlikely coalitions get things done.
Since the inception of the so-called Eco-Right movement – a network of various conservative groups and individuals who work with our side of the aisle to re-engage on environmental issues – bipartisan cooperation and good-faith engagement have been at the heart of our approach. Instead of doubling down on the tried and failed naming-and-shaming strategy, our movement focuses on finding common ground, encouraging steps forward, and having constructive conversations with key stakeholders. Our approach leaves no one behind, intentionally reaching out to everyone from members of Congress to thought leaders to industry players.
With a slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Democratic control of both the Senate and White House, climate provides a rare opportunity for bipartisan wins. Unlike Extinction Rebellion, eco-righters have a history of working with Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between on solutions. And we can continue to do so in 2023 and beyond.
For instance, we helped facilitate a bipartisan dinner for House members last fall, during which we found significant common ground on environmental policy. This approach will be critical in the 118th Congress if we’re to accomplish anything meaningful. In a world full of performative rhetoric and ideological litmus tests, it takes true leadership to reach across the aisle and get to work for the American people without sacrificing core principles.
The payoff from such efforts is proven: without bipartisan cooperation, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which puts money in farmers’ pockets and helps our environment, would never have passed the Senate in a stunning 92-8 vote, nor would it have made it into the end-of-year omnibus bill.
With a slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Democratic control of both the Senate and White House, climate provides a rare opportunity for bipartisan wins.
These things didn’t happen because climate protesters stopped traffic during rush hour or attempted to destroy iconic paintings. They happened when folks on either side of the aisle worked together in good faith toward a common goal. Politics isn’t always that simple, but bizarre, out-of-touch protests don’t work regardless.
Perhaps there was a time when the climate movement needed to raise its profile in a public way, but now that time has passed; we must instead collaborate on solutions for the challenges we face. For those in the environmental space, we should all prioritize quiet negotiation over attention-grabbing stunts.
It’s time for a new climate movement – one that doesn’t require ideological conformity and unwavering consensus. Action demands all hands on deck, including all perspectives, backgrounds and walks of life. 2022 may have been the year of climate protests, but 2023 will be the year of climate solutions.