At 2pm on August 25, more than forty women blocked the Oxford Circus junction in central London. They have erected a 2.5m tall structure designed to look like a giant table with a banner that read ‘COME TO THE TABLE’, while placing two chairs facing each other at the top. The chairs were left empty to represent an invitation to all those who identify as female, nonbinary or trans: the crisis is here – come and take your seat at the table and demand the urgent action needed to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.
These women* used lockon devices and glue to form concentric circles around the structure, while blocking all surrounding roads to traffic.
Hundreds of other protestors and members of the public have filled the surrounding space where they have been invited to write their own message on smaller, pink tables, by completing the sentence: “If I had a seat at the table I would…”
The women-led action comes on day 3 of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Impossible Rebellion’ which has seen ‘Crisis Talks’ tables pop up all over London this week – including a giant one in Covent Garden inviting everyone to actively participate in discussions of the worsening climate crisis and possible steps forward.
When the junction was cleared, the words ‘COURAGE CALLS TO COURAGE EVERYWHERE’ were revealed in paint, on the floor of Oxford Circus.
The latest IPCC report released earlier in August, which followed months of extreme weather events around the world including here in the UK, issued a ‘code red for humanity’, warning that many devastating consequences are now ‘irreversible’. Extinction Rebellion demand that the government immediately halt all new fossil fuel projects as the first major step to mitigate the very worst effects of the crisis, a step which is also recommended by the International Energy Agency.
Hester, 41, who is a mother of three, said: “ I have campaigned for climate action for 20 years and I am exhausted. I have three children and know many women who refuse to bear children into this dying world.
“We know that women and children are on the frontlines of this crisis, and at the same time women all over the world are rising to the challenge of this moment. I am small and insignificant; I have no power, influence, wealth, title or celebrity. But when we take action together, in great numbers, we can be powerful.
“If we are to turn around this suicidal system, women all over the world must take their seat at the table. We are just one part of a movement for change, and we invite all women and those who identify as nonbinary, intersex or transgender to join us as we step into our collective power.
The future of humanity is in the hands of our political leaders – and they are failing. After the group’s first occupation of central London in 2019, the UK parliament became the first in the world to declare a Climate Emergency, however no meaningful action has been taken since – just more promises and announced targets. Extinction Rebellion’s third demand intends to upgrade democracy, by forming legally binding Citizens Assemblies made up of regular people who have a real stake in their future.
Research by Global Citizen shows that women and marginalised communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of a worsening climate, including increased human rights violations around the globe: “In Malawi, for example, the disruptions of climate change could create 1.5 million additional child brides in the years ahead. In Australia, domestic abuse spikes after bushfires, which have become more intense and longer-lasting in recent years.”
Many studies have also shown that women are leading the way in the fight against the climate crisis, one of which found that, ‘across 130 countries, women in government positions were more likely to sign on to international treaties to reduce global warming than men’. 
The group cited climate leaders like former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, the school striker Greta Thunberg, Indian activist Vandana Shiva and the Ecuadorian Indigenous leader Nemonte Nenquimo, among many others, on a flyer handed out to passersby.
*this action did not exclude the participation of people who identify as male, but was led by and deliberately inclusive of all those who identify as FINT: Female, Intersex, Nonbinary and Trans.
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.