XR AMERICA FAQ’s
1. WHY DO YOU CALL YOURSELVES "XR AMERICA?" DOESn'T THAT TERM INCLUDE NORTH, CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA?
We made the choice to call ourselves “XR America” because we feel an imperative to mobilize people in our country, the United States of America, as effectively as possible. This is absolutely critical for the entire global climate movement: We face a unique responsibility as Americans because we have one of the largest economies in the world, and have contributed more per capita (per person) to the climate crisis than just about any other country. We also have a federal government actually undermining any attempts to address the emergency.
Those of us in the USA call ourselves Americans. For better or worse, we have no other name for ourselves. In order to connect emotionally with the people in our country and mobilize them, we want to appeal to their love for their country, and their sense of responsibility as Americans. Let’s rebuild our pride in America by helping to lead the way in making the changes needed to avoid the complete breakdown of our planet’s life-support systems!
We apologize to any rebels on the American continents who feel disrespected by our choice of a name. (Honestly, we probably would have chosen the name “US” instead, but that was already taken.) We’re aware that citizens of countries in Central and South America refer to anyone on the American continents as “Americans.” They also see only one continent, “America,” where those of us in the United States tend to refer to North, Central, and South America separately. In Spanish, we’re called “United Statesians.” Unfortunately, “America” is also associated with a history of colonialism, exploitation, and interference in the sovereignty of other countries. We are not proud of these aspects of our history, or of the USA’s continued activities in these regards.
There’s actually something great about the name XR America, though, which few people outside the US are likely to know: The name “America” is one that appeals to Americans across our often deeply divided political spectrum. The “United States” doesn’t conjure up for us a sense of our country as a home and subject of our love, but “America” does, which is why the hymn “America the Beautiful” touches our hearts at least as much as our national anthem. The United States is a political machine that is broken in many ways, but America is our land. It’s our mountains, rivers, forests, and farmlands. Our ecosystems, wildlife, towns, and cities.
We want to call on our countryman’s love for America our home to motivate them to do the right thing: Join us for mass nonviolent civil disobedience to force our state and federal governments to address the climate emergency now.
2. WHY GET INVOLVED IN EXTINCTION REBELLION INSTEAD OF SOME OTHER CLIMATE GROUP?
Well, each to their own, of course! We think you should get involved in XR because all other approaches to stopping climate and ecological breakdown have failed.
We believe civil disobedience is the only way for us to avoid extinction. Fortunately, it has a great track record when it comes to bringing about massive societal changes: The freedom of whole countries, women’s right to vote, and civil rights for people of color, just to name a few!
3. HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU'RE "BEYOND POLITICS?" ISN'T GETTING THE GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS THE CLIMATE CRISIS ALL ABOUT POLITICS?
Indeed, the solutions to our climate crisis will inevitably have to be political, in the sense that they will involve government, legislation, power, etc.
What we mean when we say we’re “Beyond Politics” is that Extinction Rebellion as a movement avoids taking any particular political or ideological stance, except in the most general sense – a sense all people can get behind, like:
We’re for healthy and sustainable life for all people. We’re for preventing mass extinction. We’re for preserving our planet’s natural life-support systems. We’re for phasing out all use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
That kind of thing.
We just don’t spend our time arguing about how those things are going to happen, because we think the best way to figure that out is to create and empower citizen’s assemblies.*
* Assemblies of ordinary people, selected randomly and representatively from the population, and given the information and tools they need to create an effective and fair plan for how to save our lives.
4. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY XR IS "DECENTRALIZED?"
XRA functions using what’s called a “self-organizing system” rather than a hierarchy.
That means we avoid the bureaucracy and power struggles that tend to happen in hierarchical systems by creating a large network of mostly autonomous groups (such as chapters, or working groups within a chapter), held together and coordinated by “circles.” Each chapter/working group sends a representative to the coordinating circle. Coordinating circles help organize things like communication, resources, and actions, at a larger scale, and facilitate the exchange of information between groups so everyone knows what’s happening.
It goes like this: You’re welcome to start an Extinction Rebellion America chapter as long as you abide by the Ten Principles and Values, work to address the climate emergency through nonviolent direct action, and meet the chapter requirements in our Rebel Handbook.
Once you and your chapter get the basic idea, you do your own mobilizing and actions. We give basic guidelines, but there’s lots of room for creativity. As XRA grows and develops, your chapter will form connections with other chapters by participating in local, regional, and/or state coordinating circles, to which you can send representatives. Coordinating circles focused on larger geographic areas help facilitate communication, assist with training and resources, and plan and coordinate large actions that involve many groups. Coordinating circles – including the national one – are meant to support and facilitate the work of the people on the ground, not control it.
Even within your own XRA chapter, things are supposed to be decentralized. There’s no one person, or small group of people, in charge, who have to give their okay to everything that happens. Instead, chapters further decentralize into working groups. Working groups are given mandates (assignments, or tasks), and as long as they don’t mess up anything that others are doing, they can achieve their goals however they want. A coordinating circle within your chapter helps support and facilitate the efforts of your working groups.
If you’re used to hierarchical systems, a self-organizing system can take some getting used to! It can feel a little like barely controlled chaos at times, but it’s also extremely efficient at getting things done.
5. WHY HAVEN'T I HEARD OF XR AMERICA UNTIL NOW?
We just launched at the end of February, 2020!
6. WHO STARTED XR AMERICA, AND WHY?
XR America (XRA) was started by a small group of Americans and one immigrant. Before XRA, we had all been involved in XR or in other aspects of the environmental movement.
We all passionately believe Extinction Rebellion is the best chance we have to change the destructive course humanity is on.
We want to help accelerate the mobilization of XR in the US, because doing so is absolutely critical to the success of the global climate movement. The US has made the highest per capita (per person) contribution to global emissions so far, but has one of the governments most resistant to change.
7. HOW DOES XR AMERICA RELATE TO XR US?
It’s unusual, so far, for a country to have two national Extinction Rebellion mobilizations. However, given the size of the US, the polarization in its politics, and the diversity of its cultures, we think more than one “flavor” of XR is just the American way.
It might seem like having two XR organizations with national mobilization plans would end up being counterproductive or competitive, but that doesn’t have to be the case at all. There is so much work to be done, so many people to be mobilized! Even a small town could have a couple different XR chapters, plus many smaller affinity groups.
Collaboration between XRA and XR US groups, particularly on civil disobedience actions, seems like a natural outcome of successful mobilization.
8. WHERE DOES YOUR FOURTH DEMAND COME FROM, AND WHY IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF XR US?
Our 4th demand is “Government to work for global net zero and planetary repair by 2030 on the basis of equity and mutual survival interest for all communities, countries and generations.” This demand was drafted and proposed by members of XR Global, but it has not yet been formally adopted. (To do so requires a fair amount of consultation and process in their large organization, whereas we are just launching, so we went ahead and adopted it.)
The reasoning behind this 4th demand is this: The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says global decarbonization by 2050 would leave only a 50% chance of avoiding 1.5˚C warming. A 50% chance of avoiding disaster is not good enough and an emergency 10-year plan of global decarbonization and planetary repair is required. The international community must also begin a program of adaptation to the changing conditions that are to come. In order to deliver the emergency plan, high consuming countries will need to reach net zero by 2025 and support low consuming countries with finance and technology transfer.
While XR US’s 4th demand emphasizes the moral imperative to make amends for historic injustice, XRA’s approach is to recognize that justice for the countries and communities that have contributed least to the crisis is equally a matter of mutual self-interest. We need to decarbonize the global economy by 2030, which means all countries playing their part. But why should India or China take necessary action when countries such as the the US and the UK, which have historically contributed most to the problem, are failing to lead the way? That’s why our 4th demand stresses the need for historically high polluting countries such as the US to decarbonize in advance of low consuming countries, and to support low consuming countries with the finance and technology transfer they will need to transition in time.
Ordinary working people must unite to demand an end to policies that are trading our future for short-term corporate profit. But that won’t happen for as long as we allow politicians and their corporate sponsors to divide and distract us by deliberately stirring up racial resentment and inciting violence. Coming together across race, class and gender divides is not just the moral thing to do – it’s the only way we can make our communities strong, resilient and ready to meet the crises to come.