This blogpost explains Extinction Rebellion’s third demand, which flags a future where every citizen feels like their contribution can be meaningful.
These demands require mobilisation of similar size and scope to those enacted in times of war. We do not, however, trust politicians to make the swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve this. Instead we demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes needed to repair our suffering ecosystems and communities.
What does this even mean, a ‘citizens’ assembly’? Well, here in South Australia we had a small taste of this with the citizens’ jury which was created to judge whether we should have a nuclear waste dump in South Australia. After some deliberation, two thirds of the jury of 350 people decided that the government should not do this, and the State ALP government at the time was forced to shelve their plans. This put real power in the hands of a group of citizens, in a way which does not usually happen.
A citizens’ assembly might work something like this. Extinction Rebellion internationally is still refining its ideas about how this might work. Drawing on good ideas from groups who are already working to revitalise democratic institutions, they are looking at ways to take away the power of vested interests and big business, which have undermined environmental process in the last fifty years.
One example (and you can watch a TED talk here) is the idea that our representatives (I won’t call them politicians – which has become a dirty word) could be selected by sortition – the sort of random process used for jury duty. Just as we trust juries to make good decisions about really significant things, like criminal convictions, so we would trust a representative group of South Australians to make decisions on our behalf.
Imagine a parliament that genuinely represented all South Australians, rather than the over-representation of wealthy, male, white, heterosexual and able-bodied people who currently serve. These randomly selected citizens would have the benefit of unbiased advice from capable public servants and other experts. They would be paid well (but not excessively) for their service, we hope, and when their terms were finished, they would hand over to new representatives from across our state.
We believe that every citizen is capable of making good decisions, in combination with others, and that these would be decisions that reflect the real experiences of those who often are not well-represented. A poor single mother could get the chance to have her say on issues that she has lived through, as well as all other issues of importance. Indigenous communities from across our State would be effectively represented, as would other rural communities. People with disabilities would be as likely to serve as those who have not had to experience the disabling effects of a less than inclusive society.
When it comes to climate change, and reducing our destruction of ecosystems which preserve our atmosphere and our biodiversity, then such an assembly is vital. Our current political systems (and almost all those we see across the world) continue to fail to take meaningful action to address the climate emergency. By reducing the impact of lobbyists, and big money, Extinction Rebellion believes that both truth and justice will win out, with effective and necessary action being taken, in a way that does not disadvantage the most marginalised in our community.
Yarrow, Media and Messaging, XRSA