Do you have what it takes to become an Activist?

What is an Activist?

Activist; someone who campaigns for social change. Activists use online campaigns, predominantly peaceful marches and petitions to lobby governments and leaders to make changes.


Why are we talking about this?

Monday July 13th, eco-warriors from the group “Plane Stupid” chained themselves together in the middle of a Heathrow runway. They were protesting plans to create a third runway at Heathrow; claiming it will damage the environment. Many flights have been delayed and cancelled as the protesters were cut free and taken into custody.


Do you have what it takes to become an Activist?


Tough cookies

Climate Activist are strong; a cartoon of Spongebob Squarepants

Don’t make me angry

Can you withstand freezing temperatures? Can you cope with heights? Then you might be tough enough to join Greenpeace activists hijacking oil rigs drilling in the arctic. Greenpeace use the publicity from occupying the rig to get their point across.

Don’t expect a warm welcome. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo once got blasted by water cannons for hours while trying to board a rig in Greenland. Potential bodily harm? No biggie.

Greenpeace said that their climate activists all have climbing experience in their day-to-day lives. So don’t try this at home, kids.


Patience is a virtue

So you’ve occupied a rig, a public space or an area you wish to protect. What do you do next?

Climate activists from the Earth First group spent four years defending a forest by “tree sitting”. Activists created “nests” high up in the trees and then used ropes to travel between them. Activists took turns just sitting in the trees; preventing the company which owned the land from cutting them down.

After four years of tree sitting the activists were successful. The company ended its plans to cut down the trees and sold the land to the Trust for Public Land, which plans to use it as a community forest.

Perhaps pack that book you’ve been meaning to read.


Media savvy?

Climate Activists have to be media savvy, get those hashtags going


While you’re out protesting don’t forget to let people know what you’re up to.

Public perception is a big deal for activists. Loose the support of the public and funding from donations dries up. It also doesn’t hurt to have the public on your side when in court facing a punishment for breaking the law.

When Greenpeace activists hijacked an oil rig they posted regular updates online. As the saying goes; there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Social media is a great way of organising support for rallies and marches. So, do you know your hashtags from your likes? Very good; but it’s about to get real.


Is violence ever an option?

Activists sometimes have to use violence. Anime shows two girls shooting at eachother

Playtime is over

Living in 1960s South Africa was not easy for black people. Racial segregation called Apartheid meant that black people were treated as second class citizens. An all-white government had been in power since 1948. Black people were forced to live in separate areas. They also had to carry documents so that their movement could be monitored and controlled.

Activist Nelson Mandela headed up the military wing of the African National Congress; an organisation fighting for the rights of black people. For years his military group (called the Spear of the Nation) attacked railways, official buildings and power stations. Over 200 targets were attacked from 1961 to 1964. Though the Spear of the Nation never deliberately targeted people, many died as a result of the attacks.

Today Mandela is seen as a brave freedom fighter; at the time the government viewed him as a dangerous terrorist.


Do you mind being locked up?

Activists will face jail time if they break the law. A gif of a cat trying to escape from behind bars


Break the law and you have to be prepared to face the consequences.

Nelson Mandela was eventually captured and sent to prison for life. He served 27 years in jail before being released. He later became South Africa’s first black President. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2013 Russia arrested Greenpeace activists for protesting on an oil rig. At first they faced charges of piracy; after months these charges were dropped. Russia was about to host the Winter Olympics; many believe the charges got dropped to improve public perceptions of Russia’s human rights record.


Would you put your life on the line?

Emily Davison hit by horse; Not a Climate Activist, but one who gave her life

Activist Emily Davison put her life on the line

The life of an activist is not an easy one. Annoy the wrong people and you could wake up dead.

Sometimes activists get killed by accident. The Suffragette Movement is a good example of how standing up for a cause can be deadly.

The Suffragettes protested for women’s rights. Ladies; they’re the reason you get to vote in elections today. But it didn’t come easy.

1913; a suffragette called Emily Davison, died after she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby.

For years most people thought this was suicide. New analysis of film footage suggests Davison was attempting to attach a suffragette banner to the horse belonging to King George V. Women finally got the vote in 1928.


Do Activists go too far? Do we need tougher punishments for lawbreakers? For which cause would you put your own life on the line for a cause?


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