“Revolution is imminent” says King’s College London student and climate activist Roger Hallam
Roger has set himself up as the Alastair Campbell of campus activism.
When I first met him, we couldn’t talk for a full minute without a campaigner ringing up for advice or Roger sending off some instructions after a wave of inspiration. It slightly derailed the conversation but all this attention is deserved.
Roger has carved himself a niche in academia – looking at affective mechanisms and processes for promoting succession radical campaign groups. As he puts it, “My PhD is in how to cause trouble effectively.” And boy does he.
Two years ago he was one of two students arrested and detained for 14 hours following a protest at KCL. As part of King’s College Climate Emergency (KCCE), they had spray painted slogans calling for the university to divest from fossil fuels. Roger is still dogged with legal troubles over this and is expecting to be called to Crown Court in the coming months, charged with criminal damage.
He’s no stranger to breaking the law, having eft his undergraduate degree at LSE “to be an activist and go to prison.” In fact, for Roger, going to prison has a “cultural resonance” beyond the importance of the action itself.
He recently told the Guardian that he and other climate activists “can’t get arrested quick enough.”
For Roger, activism all started in the 80s when he was in his mid-teens. the Cold War nuclear arms race and was in full swing, and he got involved with the youth wing, and he got involved with the youth wing of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. There was a pervading sense of terror that if the war carried on, it felt as though “we were all going to be dead” Roger says this has a “certain resonance with what young people feel now days.”
That brings us to the struggle of our time – climate change. How are we doing on that front? “Utterly, utterly, utterly fucked. it’s beyond your imagination bad….” says Roger. “the Arctic is going to melt in the next three to five years.”
“If temperature increases by 5 degrees that’s it. Six billion deaths. Maybe a billion can survive on the north and south poles waiting for the oxygen to run out, which happens at six degrees.”
Roger is not sitting idle in the face of disaster – he’s one of the founders of the climate change campaign, Extinction Rebellion (ER). what activists from ER are doing differently is going across the country telling people how to make the difference.
This group has shot to prominence in recent months with prominent protests such as members blocking Central London bridges and glueing their hands to government building. It has affiliated groups in 35 countries so far.
If it’s such a problem, why is everyone not taking the threat of climate change more seriously? “People generally do, which is why Extinction Rebellion has gone ballistic” says Roger. “the problem is that people don’t a realistic pathway to change things.” It ends up as an abstract intractable problem. For Roger, the success of the movement isn’t just down to the organizers, but a popular mood around climate change.
“Like any rebellion in history, someone comes up with a madden in the right moment.”
“Now you’ve got millions of people around the world talking about extinction and talking about extinction and talking rebellion, for the first time. A year ago, no one was talking about it.”
There are two main factors to this sudden surge in interest. Firstly, recent research from the Global Carbon Project suggests that carbon emissions were globally up to 2.7 per cent in 2018. Secondly, the United Nations report on climate change that shows we have 12 years to prevent a climate change catastrophe.
“Regime change is the only rational outcome.”
According to Roger, this rebellion is inevitable. “Once you get a critical mass in a system it then goes ballistic. There’s a tipping point where everyone goes from complete passivity to complete revolt. I think we’re going to see that revolution,” Roger predicts. “The elites are shitting themselves, because their time is up.”
But that doesn’t mean students can take a back seat. “At the moment, certain students are addicting their historic and social role – to rebel against immoral regimes,” says Roger. “They need to ask themselves whether it isomer important to pursue a careerist option or to pursue rebellion.”