From 5am this morning, Extinction Rebellion has blocked a total of 15 Amazon fulfilment centres in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands on Black Friday, the major global discount day. In the UK, people from all across the country are taking part, with 13 blockades in Doncaster, Darlington, Newcastle, Manchester, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Rugeley, Dartford, Bristol, Tilbury, Milton Keynes and Dunfermline. These sites account for just over 50% of Amazon deliveries in the UK.
The group is blocking the entrances using bamboo structures, lock-ons, and banners with the words ‘AMAZON CRIME’, ‘INFINITE GROWTH, FINITE PLANET’ and ‘BLACK FRIDAY EXPLOITS PEOPLE AND PLANET’ on them. In Tilbury, a rocket part blocked the entrance with an eager Jeff Bezos sat riding it, and the words ‘TO EXTINCTION AND BEYOND’ written on its side. The group intends to stay for at least 48 hours.
The action is taking place on Black Friday in order to confront the exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices of one of the world’s largest companies. Amazon is known for a long list of widely recognised “crimes” – from tax avoidance to the exploitation of workers, to rampant wastefulness and ecological destruction – while making its founder and largest shareholder Jeff Bezos one of the richest men on earth. The action aims to expose Amazon’s crimes, while holding it up as an example of the wider economic system, which is designed to keep us hooked on buying things we don’t need, at a price the planet cannot afford.
Black Friday epitomises an obsession with overconsumption that is not consistent with a liveable planet. Amazon and companies like it have capitalised on our desire for convenience and stoked rampant consumerism at the expense of the natural world, trapping consumers inside a cycle of buying our way to oblivion. The reality is, COP26 has just passed and failed, for one primary reason; it is not designed to address the issue of an economic system that relies on unlimited growth at the expense of planetary survival. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, who are more concerned with the space race than using his extreme wealth for good, are a byproduct of this toxic economic system.
Amazon is fast becoming a global monopoly and already controls 15% of global online retail sales and 34% of the world’s cloud-computing capacity. By controlling these essential pieces of infrastructure, Amazon can privilege its own products and services and set the terms by which other companies have access to these markets. The company uses data it obtains via its website to manipulate people into spending money to buy things they don’t need. This hyper paced consumption optimises it’s customer base by tracking their behavior and preemptively priming them on how to spend their money, and how much of it to spend.
Chris, a former Amazon employee from Newcastle, said: “Working at Amazon gave me first hand experience of how little the company cares about anything other than making money, and how poorly workers are treated. With new warehouses popping up every month, taking action against Amazon has become an absolute necessity.
“We can no longer live under a system that pushes deadly infinite growth at a time of crisis, manipulating consumers, exploiting workers and destroying the planet. We can no longer live under a system based on manipulated overconsumption coupled with continued, destructive economic growth at a time of imminent ecological collapse. Amazon’s business model has enabled massive growth. As it’s empire grows, so does its exploitation.”
Amazon claims to care about its customers. But the reality is it’s trapping them in a web of toxic consumerism, exploiting the planet and the people who work for them. If we don’t address the obsession with unlimited growth, we will not address the ecological crisis.
- The company said activities tied to its businesses emitted 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year — more than a medium sized country and the equivalent of burning through 140 million barrels of oil. Amazon’s carbon emissions grew by 19% in 2020 and have risen every year since 2018, when it first disclosed its carbon footprint after employees pressured it to do so.
- Not only does Amazon’s business emit more carbon than a country the size of Denmark, but it is actively helping fossil fuel companies such as Shell, Exxon and BP to drill for more oil via its Amazon Web Services.
- While scientists tell us that companies must rapidly decarbonise, Amazon continues to lobby the US Government to fight against climate legislation, despite pledging to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040. This target also does not include its supply chain which contributes 75% of its overall emissions and so far it has published no plan on how it intends to meet this target. They are committing the very definition of greenwash.
- Amazon has a historic record of treating its workers “like robots”, with a report just released on Wednesday this week stating that ambulances have been called out to UK warehouses 971 times since 2018, with the company threatening to fire employees in the US for speaking out about its climate impact. An employee died at the site in Tilbury just last month.
- Amazon routinely destroys millions of items of unsold stock and returned items. Many of the products – including smart TVs and laptops – are often new and unused. The Prime Minister called it “an indictment of a consumerist society.” This wasteful practice epitomises the view that the natural world is expendable.
- Governments are subsidising the growth of this massive monopoly by allowing the e-commerce giant to legally report billions of pounds of sales in a tax haven, meaning they are stealing from the general public in order to grow. This helps Amazon to undercut more responsible businesses and is depriving governments of tax revenue that could be used to fund essential public services.
This list is not exhaustive.
These business practices have helped Amazon’s founder and largest shareholder, Jeff Bezos,0 to become the world’s richest man, while keeping many workers on the poverty line. According to Forbes, Bezos personal wealth amounts to $177bn.
Clarissa Carlyon, who is taking part in the action, said “I have joined this action because we must address the toxic consumerism that is driving the ecological crisis, and trapping us in business as usual. If we don’t talk about what consumerism is doing to our planet and our society then we will not address the planetary emergency that’s happening now.
“Amazon is a prime example of the wider issues we face. It exploits people who work for it, forcing them into unstable working conditions. It avoids paying tax and makes it’s executives rich, while destroying the planet for profit, all the while lobbying governments to protect them rather than the natural world. It’s a complete mess and if we’re not talking about it then we’re not going to solve our multiple, interconnected crises.
“Jeff Bezos may think he can escape climate and ecological disaster here on earth by escaping to space, but the rest of us, who are not billionaires, need governments to act to protect us and address the economic system that’s driving this insane wealth inequality, and therefore all of us off a cliff. We are in the greatest crisis we’ll ever face. All companies need to be in service to life now, not actively working to destroy it.“
Anne Thoday, a grandmother and social worker from Derbyshire who is taking part in the action today, said: “Amazon promises us everything we want, anytime we want it, at the best price, all to make us happier. But in reality, they are manipulating us into spending money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need, using data they collect by spying on us. And what’s even worse, they do it at the expense of workers’ wellbeing and our living planet. That’s why I’m here today: To tell people that a life without consumer manipulation, worker exploitation and planetary destruction is possible – and that it’s not an inconvenience, but a happier life.”
The group is asking people to send Amazon a message today by cancelling their Amazon Prime membership.
The action comes on the same day, and in solidarity with, Progressive International and multiple unions, which today have launched a global campaign called “Make Amazon Pay”. It is aimed at persuading Amazon to be a more responsible company that looks after its workers and the environment and pays its fair share of tax.
Progressive International have issued a call to action asking workers and activists to participate in strikes, protests and actions to Make Amazon Pay.
Notes to Editors
ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.