Former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas are among the contributors to a forthcoming handbook about how to become an Extinction Rebellion activist, which will feature instructions on everything from organising roadblocks to dealing with arrest.
As 65,000 copies of Swedish student Greta Thunberg’s manifesto Rejoignez-nous (Join Us) hit French bookshops this week – with British publishers also understood to be chasing English rights to the book by the teenager who has sparked a global youth movement – This Is Not a Drill by Extinction Rebellion went from manuscript to the printers in 10 days and is being rushed out by Penguin for 3 June.
The book, which will also feature contributions from names including Susie Orbach, Kate Raworth and Clive Lewis, was originally planned for September. Penguin editor Tom Penn said: “We thought, ‘This is an emergency, and we have to react like it’s an emergency.’”
The activists in the book write: “This is our last chance to do anything about the global climate and ecological emergency. Our last chance to save the world as we know it. Now or never, we need to be radical. We need to rise up. And we need to rebel. This is a book of truth and action.”
Extinction Rebellion activist and editor William Skeaping said the book had originally been envisaged as more of a manifesto, “but we felt that didn’t really capture the movement, which is far more emotional and personal and still being developed”.
“When we were giving advice, we wanted not just to be speaking in platitudes but to have lived the experience. We’ve had a good start, but there is so much more to be done,” Skeaping said.
The book, said Penn, is in two parts – the first looking at how “we’re in denial, and need to understand what the climate emergency means”, as well as “delving into the psychological trauma of what it means to understand our world is changing irrevocably”. The second is a handbook for activists, with stories by people Skeaping described as being “on the front lines of climate emergencies”, from a Himalayan farmer to a firefighter in California and the president of the Maldives.
“These are people who are literally about to die – they’re reminders of how close these front lines are,” said Skeaping. “This is not just about a climate emergency, it’s also ecological – habitat loss, the loss of biodiversity, that’s what’s going to kill us first. This book is about what we can all begin to do, and because it’s not by just one author, it’s the crowdsourced knowledge of our movement.”
With activists fresh from gluing themselves to the London Stock Exchange and protesting semi-naked in the House of Commons, Extinction Rebellion is an international protest group that uses non-violent civil disobedience in its environmental campaigns.
Penn admitted there were questions for an environmental group releasing a printed book. But This Is Not A Drill will be printed, he said, in a carbon-neutral paper mill that plants two trees for every one it uses, and it was felt the book needed to appear in print for maximum impact. “In an ideal world there would be an entirely non-impactful way of doing this, but this is a means to an end,” he said.