Unpacking Environmental Activism in the UK: A Comparative Analysis of the Groups Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil

Thomas Williams, Camilo Tamayo Gomez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In response to the increasingly urgent need to address the existential threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation, grassroots movements have emerged as significant agents of change. This research focuses on two prominent groups in the United Kingdom: Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Just Stop Oil (JSO). Through a comparative analysis, this study explores and assesses the role of these groups, examining their objectives, strategies, impacts, and
challenges within the broader context of environmental activism and social movements. The research addresses a combination of qualitative methodologies. First, a comprehensive review of literature, academic research, news articles, and official documents has been conducted to gather background information and insights into the formation and trajectory of XR and JSO. By employing content analysis approaches, this study identified key themes, discourses, and motivations driving these groups’ activism. Thus, it helped to comprehend how XR and JSO mobilise public opinion and engage with policymakers. Second, traditional qualitative methods including participant observations and seventeen semi-structured interviews have been utilised to gain a deeper understanding of the organisational structures, decision-making processes, and strategic planning of XR and JSO.

Drawing on social movement theory and collective action frameworks, this research identified the factors contributing to the success or obstacles faced by these groups. It also examined how XR and JSO navigate issues like diversity, inclusivity, and potential tensions arising from different ideological orientations within their movements. Findings for this research suggest that XR and JSO differ in their fundamental approaches. XR focuses on disruptive civil disobedience, organising large-scale protests and acts of non-violent resistance, aimed at gaining public attention and influencing policy. In contrast, JSO predominantly targets the fossil fuel industry, engaging in direct action campaigns including blockades and protests specifically aimed at disrupting oil extraction and transportation. This comparative analysis aims to shed light on the differing impacts and challenges associated with these approaches.

By examining the wider societal responses to XR and JSO, this research evaluated whether these groups have effectively shifted the public discourse around climate change and environmental justice. Additionally, this study explored the challenges and potential conflicts that arise when grassroots movements interact with governmental and corporate entities. Through an interdisciplinary lens, this research aims to contribute to the fields of environmental sociology, social movements, and political science, while also offering practical insights for policymakers seeking to engage with these groups and address pressing environmental issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference Socioecos 2024
Subtitle of host publicationClimate change, sustainability and socio-ecological practices
EditorsBenjamín Tejerina, Cristina Miranda de Almeida, Clara Acuña
PublisherUniversity of the Basque Country
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9788490826805
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2024
EventInternational Conference Socioecos 2024: Climate Change, Sustainability and Socio-ecological Practices - University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain
Duration: 6 Jun 20247 Jun 2024


ConferenceInternational Conference Socioecos 2024
Abbreviated titleSocioecos 2024
Internet address

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