Rethinking Environmental Activism: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic and Related Legal Restrictions on Tactics and Strategies of Resistance

Prof. Gabe Mythen1, Dr  Laura Naegler1, Mr Taran Leeks1

1University Of Liverpool

In the late 2010s, waves of environmental activism occurred across the globe in opposition to the intransigence of politically and economically powerful institutions in addressing the impacts of structurally produced climate change. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 and the consequences of the global pandemic soon generated salient dilemmas for environmental activists and movements. In the UK, the pandemic and related restrictions to public gatherings – allied to the increased State capacity for social control enabled by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – has led to unprecedented challenges in terms of tactics and strategies deployed by activist movements. Drawing from qualitative research involving members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) based in the UK, this paper explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on environmental activist’s modes of resistance. In doing so, we raise quandaries around the impact of legal restrictions and increased control on environmental activists’ visibility, capacity to raise awareness, and modes of mobilisation. We further discuss XR’s move towards a “regenerative culture”, self-care and lifestyle politics. This ‘turn inwards’ can be understood as the result of the reimagining of the environmental activists’ idea of transformative action, but also holds risks of segregation and alienation from the wider public.


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Aug 26 2021


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