Extinction Rebellion (XR), in collaboration with over 200 environmental organisations, is actively addressing concerns about the richest 1% in our society contributing to a Sixth Extinction. We recognise the vital importance of changing how we make decisions, as well as what decisions we make. We want to take power out of the hands of the 1% and hand it back to the 99% so we can make decisions in the best interest of us all.
Proportional Representation (PR) and Citizens’ Assemblies are crucial elements in the move to create and sustain a more democratised Good Society and governance. PR has long been a hot topic, at least among progressives, but has not, as yet, been actioned in the UK by the incumbent winning Party.
Whilst Governments have dabbled with Citizens’ Assemblies to assess their voters’ feelings on key voting issues (such as with abortion rights in Ireland in 2016), we have not yet seen the full effect of having a Citizens’ Assembly at the heart of daily Parliamentary business.
But while the government is lagging behind on these vital issues, organisations like XR are leading from the front. XR UK has decentralised to strengthen local communities by supporting concerns that are shared nationally, for example, high levels of waste water pollution and failing infrastructure caused by negligent Water Companies.
XR UK are keen not to be affiliated with any one political party and we do not engage publicly, as an organisation, with their leaders. We prize the “common sense of ordinary people” over allegiance to any political party and stress the need for any government to create and be led by a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Our interest is in using our direct, non-violent campaigning experience to support and facilitate other groups in outreach. To that end, a canvassing partnership reaching across civil society organisations, campaign groups and political parties, such as between Compass, XR and new progressive parties like Transform/Breakthrough, could prove a potent mix in delivering the message of FPTP versus PR and prompting individuals to personally engage locally with their MPs and Candidates.
This alliance could connect issues like water pollution, shareholders, capitalism, FPTP, and fossil fuels, reshaping public perception away from associating growth with green initiatives and FPTP with political stability. Gradually, the social equations inherited from our outdated, crumbling political system could be erased, and the public could come to demand PR and Citizens’ Assemblies by their voting behavior.
In addition to door-to-door canvassing, XR organizes Community Assemblies, powerful tools for smaller communities to address specific issues through education and deliberation. For example, “How can we stop [local waste water supplier] from pumping raw sewage into the sea in [town/village]?” These assemblies feature expert speakers, breakout group discussions, and the presentation of ideas to local influencers and relevant organizations. Finally, each participant is asked to share, with the group, one new action around the issue they will take after leaving the meeting. The facilitator includes these in the report.
The model is cost-effective, replicable across the UK, and can provide a true representation of what the nation wants to be done. Community Assemblies serve as the local implementation of the Citizens Assembly process, offering a grassroots approach without legal weight or pre-selection of participants.
These are things we can do now to begin prefiguring the Good Society. Let’s come together in a united progressive alliance and begin campaigning with community assemblies in key swing seats. Together we could create an extraordinary first on the campaign trail promoting a collaborative message.