Fitchett is “active in XR and as a researcher,” and says that this commitment adds to her insight and access as a social anthropologist. Her project involves comparing the views of XR activists in the UK, where it started, and in Spain, one of 77 countries in which it is active.

Fitchett says that many XR members are motivated by the sense of community and purpose they find there. Her research focuses on the cultural shift that XR is attempting to create through “regenerative culture,” an approach that involves being more compassionate to oneself, to other people and to natural world. “It’s really an ethical movement at heart, not only an environmental one,” she argues.

XR activists, Fitchett says, are diverse in age and cultural background They include older people who often have greater freedom to take part in activism such as voluntary arrest, but also vast numbers of young people, many of whom are also involved in the Friday school strikes for climate.

XR’s options have been altered by COVID. It makes mass civil disobedience impossible, and has encouraged a new approach, the “rebellion of one.” Here an individual aims to get arrested by blocking a road alone, but in the presence of a support group. “There has been debate” about the wisdom of this approach, she adds, “because it involves a bigger risk to the individual.”

Photo credit: Marcus Spiske