Anxiety linked to climate change, source of a new militant radicalism


To analyse. Young activists mobilized for the climate and against“inaction” governments and large companies multiply the blows of brilliance. Hardly a day goes by without one of their actions attracting media attention. Throws of mashed potatoes, tomato sauce or paint on paintings or statues, blockages of traffic on major roads. Often causing incomprehension or the anger of those who undergo the disturbances related to these actions.

Are these brand new? These new militants, a term to which they prefer “engaged citizens”, do they mark a break with previous generations, those who joined Greenpeace created in the early 1970s, or who acted with Alternatiba or ANV-COP21 (Nonviolent Action-COP21) in the 2010s? Not really: the latter were already designing spectacular and illegal actions to denounce nuclear power, polluting industries or climate inaction.

Recent initiatives, often organized by Last renovation (French movement created in April, member of the international A22 network), and, since March 2019 by Extinction Rebellion (born in the United Kingdom a year earlier), seek first to attract ‘Warning. Some actions are similar to sabotage, a word that some assume, such as the “Radicalized boars” who attack golf courses, or the international collective Tire Extinguishers organizing SUV tire deflations since March 2022.

Prime targets

These militants prefer more radical actions, easy to organize, reproaching the “elders” for their centralized structure. They claim to have marched for the climate, signed petitions, without success. “The climate marches have had the merit of mobilizing people who, for some, have moved on to more direct modes of action”remarks Jean-François Julliard, director general of Greenpeace France.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers To raise awareness of the climate emergency, a new generation of activists at work: “If we don’t sabotage, nothing will happen”

To reach public opinion, sporting events and concerts have become prime targets. “What is new is that they act in a field that is not directly linked to an environmental theme, unlike organizations that target nuclear power plants, ministries or Macron’s portraits in town halls”analyzes Alexis Vrignon, researcher at the University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour, co-author ofA history of struggles for the environment. XVIIIe-XXethree centuries of debates and battles (Textual, 2021).

Impatience in the face of the climate emergency is the common denominator of these young people, most of whom are between 20 and 30 years old, and have completed higher education. The Extinction Rebellion logo, an X in a circle representing an hourglass in the heart of the planet, is an illustration of this. During their actions, they show extreme anxiety, judging that their future is compromised, to the point that some say they do not want to have children. In their eyes, sticking their hands on a ring road is a gesture of self-defense.

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