Decomputation students worked with climate protest group Extinction Rebellion to design a direct action. Under the guidance of co-founder of ER Clare Farrell students created a range of actions and campaigns on the topic of species loss and the current climate crisis. As ER say; ‘Conventional approaches of voting, lobbying, petitions and protest have failed because powerful political and economic interests prevent change. Our strategy is therefore one of non-violent, disruptive civil disobedience – a rebellion. ‘
Leah Mentzis and Michael Tsang designed a direct action related to fast fashion and the catastrophic environmental impact of producing clothing on demand for export. They designed, printed and attached home made labels to clothes in central London shops such as H&M, Primark and New Look. The labels incorporated an image, a provocation, and an envelope of red dye powder intended to leave a trace on the clothes when opened. They carried out the action on Oxford St in opening hours with the shops full of customers, placing themselves directly into the context the project addressed. The action depends on evading detection but if scaled up or targeted to specific brands nationwide has the potential for meaningful results.
Quincy Cardinale, Pierro Pozella, and Jack Hardiker drew on the tradition of protest songs and music in civil disobedience to write and co-ordinate the group singing of a climate change hymn. After visiting local churches and speaking to choirs and church leaders they arranged for the hymn to be performed as part of weekend service. They created a score, collaborated with an organist and presented the idea by having the whole group perform the song. By encouraging direct participation from people the action holds the possibility for viral distribution and scale.
Matt Watkins and Georgie Theiler started by thinking about the consequences of insect extinction for planetary survival. They designed an insect protest to place around RCA buildings and studios and suggested an associated campaign releasing live insects. A second part of their project focused on a strategy for pressuring the RCA to divest from fossil fuels. To this end they contacted the University finance committee and involved the student union, this is ongoing and part of a much wider national effort that has resulted in the UK being the world leader in University fossil fuel divestment.
Some of the challenges for this work are the difficulty of carrying out an action on small scale, the time involved before any results are perceptible and the sense that small actions need to be magnified to have any effect. As the Extinction Rebellion message starts to filter through to mass consciousness, government ministers and policy making the need for direct action will only increase.