Our Mandate: Making Extinction Rebellion Cool

Do we need to get XR a popular, cool, “in” thing, or what!?

Check out this very short video by Otpor (Serbian student anti-dictatorship movement) co-founder Srdja Popovic on the importance of the movement being Cool.

How can we do it ?

Key things here are probably
a) Celebrity endorsement (start small and work up)
b) Youth involvement
c) Throwing good parties… Who knows, perhaps festivals will be off the cards for a long time, but a Protest may still be allowed - or vice versa.

@GullyBlake @ebxroz @Cath.s @epacris etc :slight_smile:


Hey Andy,
Thanks for this. Just a couple of initial thoughts…

XR UK has used the concept of “notables” to really drive the movement in the UK. These people are referred to in the XR literature as “notables”. There are some “celebrities” (see link below); but the movement also lists eminent scientists, journalists, MPs, authors, naturalists, etc. as supporters of the cause and believers in climate change.

I believe we really need to work on this concept here. I can try to track down a recent article about similar figures in Aus who are aligned with XR (tho probably not yet members). There was a letter published earlier this year by thousands of eminent scientists around the world called for governments to accept the science of climate change and act accordingly. Many of those were Australian, so we could try to get some of those specifically endorsing XR Aus. Two other names that spring to mind are Tim Flannery and Richard Flanagan. Someone with a really interesting profile we might get on board is Prof David Caroly. Let me look into this a bit.

And while I absolutely agree that it is essential to get a greater youth presence, I think we also need to challenge people of ALL ages and ALL walks of life to join XR. I have no idea what’ going on with Grey Power Vic - nothing seems to have happened for months. We need to work out why people young AND old are not getting on board and being engaged in a meaningful way. The we can create programs to target specific demographics.

Finally, throwing a good party is ALWAYS a good idea! I’ll bring the bubbles!!! :clinking_glasses::champagne::clinking_glasses:
But seriously, festivals and festivities that celebrate good causes and and try to promote XR in a joyful way would be great to add too!!!

There’s a lot to think about here. One thing I would suggest at this stage as an urgent priority is that we somehow need to identify the disconnect between XR and the “general public”. We don’t seem to have enough general support and it would be worthwhile to come up with a PR type of approach to “win hearts and minds”.


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Here’s the link…it’s old, but relevant…

Like cool Tupperware parties?

Sure - cool tupperware parties… I’m not so familiar with that terrain.

But I would also like to re-post what @the-river-jordan posted about this in another forum which I think is relevant:

mm… maybe we don’t need to make XR cool, but need what’s cool to make XR.

What I think would make XR cool is a pluralistic identity. A diversity of spaces and interpretations. Its inability to be defined or pinned down as one cultural space, but as many different seemingly contradictory spaces.

Less about being inclusive for everyone all at once, and more about creating distinct spaces that align with different kinds of people. Spaces that are productive, creative, and rebellious, and liberating.

This might involve more meeting go of the reins, encouraging diverse groups to interpret XR for themselves, and also being aware of the cultural spaces we create and whether we are perpetuating a dominant cultural space in the movement or creating cultural spaces that feel different to what has come before.

We might even encourage groups to form around common visions of activity or style.

Affinity groups are what allows people to find a sense of belonging and build tribal identity through common action.

Also @epacris yes “notables” is a better term, more diverse support is what we need from leaders from all communities.


QUESTION: who here likes an AFL/NRL/Soccer/Whatever team ?

Do you like them enough to know the players names?
Something I’ve never tried, and imagine XR maybe hasn’t tried, is hanging outside of the training stadiums for a day and talking to the players/trainers etc about XR as they arrive, handing out Stickers.

We could create a very easy “Mobilisation template” for this mobilisation activity and encourage people across the country to give it a crack. Probably only need 2 people to try.

We are a self-declared sports loving nation - remember the controversy when we performed badly the last Olympics, we will go far if we get sports celebrity engagement

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I don’t know who suggested Tupperware parties - but I think that was meant to be somewhat ironic!!! :rofl:

Below are some quick thoughts on this topic…that probably need a lot of finessing!

I don’t want to sound negative, but XR really needs to dig deep and think honestly about where it is going in this country. These are a few key issues XR faces if it wants to grow and be taken seriously here. What I am about to say will not be popular, but I have given this a lot of thought over recent months…and talked to a LOT of people about their perceptions of XR.

I honestly believe that XR in Aus does NOT need to be seen as “cool” (tho we can do cool things like DISCO-bedience - that is brilliant!). What XR needs is to be seen as accessible, relevant and inclusive.

I think what Jordan explains is really interesting. But my personal take on all of this is that we need to talk less about the philosophy, and definitely limit the rhetoric. If we want a real grass roots movement that is inclusive to all and draws on the skills, talents, interests and concerns of people from all walks of life, we need to make XR appealing and accessible to everyone.

When I read a lot of the XR documents and comments in Base, Mattermost, etc. , there is a LOT of ideological stuff, and not a lot of practical detail (i.e. who, what, why, where, when, how).

My suggestion would be NOT to make XR “cool” in the first instance, but make it “accessible” to all. In talking to many people about how they see XR in Australia, they say several things consistently. This is a quick summary of the views I hear expressed commonly:

  1. EXCLUSIVITY: XR seems very “lofty” and ideological, and driven by well-educated “elites” (to quote several people I’ve spoken with) - who are in a position to dedicate themselves solely to the cause.

Many people are concerned about climate change but cannot commit themselves in the way that most current XR members do. And from a outsider’s point of view, joining some meetings can be quite alienating because everyone uses so much jargon - it can take ages to work out what anyone is actually talking about. Additionally, several long-term XR members with previous activist experience go out of their way to make new members feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome - simply because the new members are inexperienced. This is an awful situation, and really should be stamped out.

These sorts of behaviours make XR feel like an exclusive club - and not an inclusive movement. This sense of exclusivity makes it hard to take part, and has turned people away. (I have certainly felt this personally, and a number of people I know from various new LGs have expressed the same feeling. Most of these people have now walked away from XR.)

  1. DISRUPTION: Obviously mass civil disobedience is a key strategy for XR, but most people do not understand why or how this helps the cause. They just see things like road block actions (as an example) as annoying, disruptive to their activities and therefore stress-inducing.

I get that this is the point of civil disobedience - but there is a massive disconnect between the average person being inconvenienced and understanding the link between this inconvenience and climate change. They do not link civil disobedience with saving the planet.

Right now, there is higher than ever level of concern about climate change…but the person in the street cannot see how mass or smaller-scale civil disobedience can bring about change of actual policies or laws. And in fact, it is hard to find concrete evidence that this is the case.

  1. COMMITMENT Many people are very interested in XR but are put off at an Intro Talk because there is SO MUCH emphasis on getting arrested and also on “joining in”. When new rebels start going to LG meetings, many of them are overwhelmed by both the “insider language” (i.e. jargon) and the level of commitment that is seemingly required.

There are so many meetings to attend and so much to learn and so many roles to take on in the early stages of the establishment of a LG. Most people are not able to commit that amount of time to the cause. They have full-time jobs, study, families and all sorts of other commitments. They feel that they are not able to be involved adequately…so they drift away.

The other issue that I have witnessed first-hand on numerous occasions is the emphasis on people being arrested. Many people are not in a position to do this (for all sorts of reasons); and yet this is pushed so hard that they feel that they cannot contribute to XR unless they are prepared to face arrest. These people drift away too.

Far more emphasis needs to be placed on the “supporting roles” that are mentioned in some of the new AusMM documentation. This states that for every designated “arrestable rebel’ there are 5-10 supporting rebels required. Why not explain this a lot more, and really emphasise this in some way? Run a campaign that explicitly discusses why civil disobedience is important (and why this works)…and explain the importance of the non-arrestables. Start running NVDA training that is NOT focused on being arrested but instead emphasises the many ways everyone can take part in both protesting and building awareness of the planet’s peril.

This is probably not the feedback you were hoping for. Admittedly, all of the above is anecdotal and I have not completed any formal surveys. I just talk to loads of people about this and am not surprised by what I hear.

So, I guess what I am saying is XR doesn’t really need to be “cool”…it needs to be accessible to everyone. It would be great if people felt that the movement really does accept everyone, and every part of everyone.


Interesting about Tupperware parties … I’ve never been a fan of Tupperware parties, but it was a ‘Climate for Change’ event (based on the Tupperware party model) that I attended, that finally got me active after years of frustration and anger at climate denial, ignorance of the science and plain corruption in government. What happened next was that I organised my own ‘Climate for Change’ event and then joined XR.

And while ‘cool’ is great, I’m not cool myself. And in XR Nillumbik I’ve been working alongside a whole bunch of other people who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves ‘cool’ but have been doing cool things since we started last July. So when Jordan suggests letting go of the reins, and that affinity groups are what allow people to find a sense of belonging, I agree. And people find their belonging in many different ways.

So maybe less emphasis on cool and more on “Any person or group can organise autonomously around the issues that feel most pressing for them, and take action in the name and spirit of Extinction Rebellion – so long as the action fits within Extinction Rebellion’s principles and values.” That’s what drew me in.

However, we have to be prepared for people to do exactly that. And Jordan’s ‘diverse groups’ will create themselves.

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All of your points are really valid, but did you watch the video about Otpor’s success?
They made it very cool to be in the movement - “if you weren’t in Otpor, you weren’t getting laid, you weren’t going to parties” etc etc. Learn from the Pro’s!

Part of XR’s wide demographic appeal will have to be to be cool to young people.

Agree entirely. It’s both/and, not either/or. And being laid is over-rated (just joking :smile:)

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At the risk of sounding like a boring old fart, I think it’s all a little more complex than being seen as “cool” or popular! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


As an old fart - and possibly boring - I think that XR is already cool. Though no doubt we can make it even cooler. What makes XR cool is the exhilarating boldness of telling the truth about how f***ed we are and the surge of energy that comes from actually rebelling rather than just sitting watching the world fall apart.

It’s very hard at the moment though. Endless Zoom meetings and endless documents to fine-tune. Starting on time and finishing on time with never a hug or a glass of wine.

It was such a pleasure to hang out with some Darebin rebels and do stencilling with real people … and hear about the amazing actions that are going on quietly behind the scenes particularly the brave rebels putting their bodies on the line to save local forests. And later on, out postering. Great fun and very low risk of arrest.

There are heaps of fun arrestable and non-arrestable roles. The main thing is to find a way of organising that keeps to a highly efficient minimum the tedious meetings, makes the most of whatever face-to-face contact we think is safe in coming months, and maximises the creative, daring, loving, adventurous and super-worthwhile actions we can take together to save ourselves.

PS. It’s worth watching the other short videos in this series too. Great find @ageorge!

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For my 2 cents I think our visual identity and creativity probably aren’t as strong at they used to be globally. We don’t have a beautiful consistent presence online, although we are doing the best we can.
To comment on that, it is a really hard time for the Arts and artists, so many of us have had to step back. I don’t have access to many of my tools and I don’t have the capital to self-fund XR things right now. I think supporting artists to run-events could be a really great way of reconnecting and rebuilding?

Apart from endorsement and parties I think one thing to consider to make XR cool or even appealing is designing a welcome or way of running things that facilitates a better connection and value for new rebels. TBH you don’t sign up to XR to have your life overrun by meetings, action points and agendas.They are necessary sure, but are they sexy, no… not to most. Is there any work on that with the welcoming team?


I really appreciate your points Sharon. It reflects many of my own observations as a newcomer. Having said that, all the posts on this thread make good points!