The rebellious bees of spring taking flight into the cityscape (Image Source: Nahum Gale)
By Nahum Gale | @NahumGale
It was in the labyrinth of the Adelaide city centre, during Monday’s most recent public holiday, where environmentalist cyclists swarmed the streets.
Their flags flowed green, proudly flaunting their title, Extinction Rebellion, as they flew from Whitmore Square, straight down the spine of King William Street.
Supportive onlookers, receding from their long weekends, cheered and happily tooted their horns in response to the cyclists’ banners: ‘HONK IF YOU SUPPORT CLIMATE ACTION’.
“The purpose of a bike swarm is to disrupt business as usual,” Xanthe Midwinter, a conscientious protester at Extinction Rebellion (XR), said.
The bike swarm fulfils this certain duty through a simple three-point plan: slow down traffic, disrupt the city, and rattle the economic sector.
And rattle, they did.
The cyclists tore through the cityscape accompanied by groovy roller skaters, able toddlers on tricycles, and even one gentleman taming a modified mountain of a double decker bicycle.
They swam through traffic as a unity, not leaving a single soul behind whilst tunes like Redbone by Childish Gambino boomed from the bicycles up front.
“It is such a fun action…you kind of forget that you are protesting and causing a disruption,” Ms Midwinter said.
Holding a position within community and outreach that focuses on recruitment, training and informational talks, Ms Midwinter expanded on the essential motives of XR.
“We are a non-political movement of regular people fighting against the climate crisis…with a group now in every state and territory in Australia,” Ms Midwinter said.
Extinction Rebellion are fuelled by three specific demands directed towards the government.
“One is that the government tells the truth about the climate crisis and declares a climate emergency,” Ms Midwinter said.
“Two is that the government must act now to stop biodiversity loss and to cut emissions to net zero by 2025.
“Three is that the government must create a Citizen’s Assembly to lead decisions on climate and ecological justice.”
To achieve all three demands, XR use non-violent civil disobedience to force an eventual open dialogue with the government.
“We want to mobilise 3.5 per cent of the population in our protests as we saw successfully done with the suffragette, civil rights, and marriage equality movements,” Ms Midwinter said.
Basically, the activist group work to disrupt business as usual through pacifist means, which contextually supports the popularity of their recent endeavour: the bike swarm.
Although, how does a bike swarm work?
Firstly, the swarm of two-wheeled activists gather and proceed to buzz at a chosen starting location, with a debrief and acknowledgment of country.
They swarm, then take flight from their hive, and proceed to consume all lanes of traffic on the left-hand side of the road.
“We have marshals wearing HI-VIS, who stay around the outsides of the swarm to keep us together and to keep us safe,” Ms Midwinter said.
“We usually only take left turns, to make it easier and safer whilst also leaving the right turning lanes free as a necessary exit for drivers.”
Once all these precautions are in place, the cyclists proceed to flutter at a leisurely pace, leaving vehicle bound commuters slowly moving in their wake.
Dinging their bells like the buzzing of persistent bees, the bike swarm attracts a happy-go-lucky atmosphere of simultaneous protest and harmony.
“I was a bit sceptical about participating at first, because I am terrible at riding a bike,” Ms Midwinter said.
“But now, I am hooked!”
Although, this swarm happens to be no random XR action, but instead the first of many cogs in a tightly wound machine, set to completely reconfigure this once supposedly “normal” week.
“This week, from the 7th to the 12th of October, is the international week of rebellion, more commonly known as Spring Rebellion,” Ms Midwinter said.
Operating as a catalyst for a much larger practise of global action, the bike swarm was only a taste of what the people of Adelaide will experience next.
“We will have a traffic swarm on Thursday, including a public rendition of the Nutbush on the road, and on Friday, we will be holding a block party to shut down a busy intersection during peak hour traffic, and on Saturday we will be singing in Rundle Mall,” Ms Midwinter said
So for the next week, strap in for public displays of dancing, singing and partying carried out by Adelaide’s very own XR community.
With climate action growing as a detrimental issue in modern-day society, it would seem these inventive and creative forms of protest are the way to go.
“Generally, the public is also quite supportive,” Ms Midwinter said.
“I have had people cheer us on as they have driven past.”
In addition, like the bee swarm, the XR community continue to pollinate this planet for the better, seeking new participants in their crusade for climate action.
Although most actions may seem a bit extreme for beginners, Ms Midwinter highly recommends the bike swarm as a comfortable jumping-off point.
“We have not had many problems yet with bike swarms,” Ms Midwinter said.
“I honestly cannot stress enough how fun it is!”
So, who knows?
Maybe a quaint ride through the streets of Adelaide within a warm community event is what we need right now to fuel change.
Better we ride into the face of our ambiguous future as a swarm of bikes, buzzing to the words of Childish Gambino, then not to ride at all.