Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Talia Woodin, I’m 20 and work full time as media and messaging coordinator for Extinction Rebellion Youth. Up until a couple of months ago I was an Anthropology student at Goldsmiths, University of London, but have now stopped doing so to work full time within the climate justice movement.
What does Extinction Rebellion Youth do, and how does it operate?
Extinction Rebellion Youth is an autonomous youth lead movement that grew out of Extinction Rebellion. Aimed at young people born after 1990, we work to advocate for the youth voice within the climate movement and to include young people in the fight for global justice by empowering and uniting efforts from groups on an international scale. We function around Extinction Rebellion’s three demands and twelve principles, but operate in the belief that this fight should be lead by those that have done the least to cause this crisis, yet face the greatest threat as a result.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Firstly, my days are far from typical. At the moment with the October International Rebellion fast approaching most of my time is spent in the London office. As media and messaging coordinator for XRY I spend the majority of my time attending meetings, answering emails and writing documents. Within those pretty mundane activities I do also get some amazing and exciting opportunities however. Whether it’s being a spokesperson for the movement through interviews such as this, getting to connect with incredible young people on an international scale or being out on the streets and part of actions this work never ceases to throw incredible experiences at me!
How did you first get involved with XR Youth?
Environmentalism and activism are both things that I was introduced to at a very young age and so have always been a big part of my life. Both my parents being standing Green Party politicians and active in environmental activism; the climate crisis and other such issues is something I can’t remember ever not knowing about. When I moved to London last year for university I was really keen to get more involved with activism on my own grounds rather than just through my parents. I came across an event for a ‘non-violent direct action’ training that XR were holding so went along to that and have been involved ever since. At that point XR Youth didn’t exist so, so I ended up having various roles for example as a photographer for the movement and setting up a group within my uni, before getting involved with XRY.
What are some common misconceptions people have about XR Youth, or the movement as a whole?
When it comes to XR as a whole, the most common misconception is probably around the involvement of arrest and the exclusivity and inaccessibility this creates. Although there is weight to this and within the movement, especially in XRY, its something we are continually trying to address, it is mainly misunderstood. When it comes to press coverage, the main element of the movement that is covered is the extravagant actions done, which more often than not do involve people being arrested.
However, what the press rarely pick up on is the amount of individuals and roles that go behind every action done and involve very low, if any, risk of arrest at all. When it comes to XRY especially, and working with young and often more vulnerable people, we ensure that arrest is always optional for every individual and that whatever action or event organised always has multiple roles involved so that everyone can take part safely.
This leads onto another misunderstanding of the movement. Because we are decentralised, as long as groups stay true to the founding principles then they have complete autonomy over their actions and decisions. If a group as a whole wants to steer clear of arrest then that is completely within their remit to do so and in no way negates their standing within the movement. Arrest is one small element of what we do and in no way compulsory.
How can people get involved?
Whether you’re an experienced activist or just wanting to understand more about the movement, the first thing to do is to make contact with your nearest local group. As a decentralised movement, meaning that there is no one in charge and all groups have autonomy, most things happen from the ground up. Local groups enable all people to be involved, even if they don’t live in London for example. Through your local group there’s opportunities to meet other young people engaging with the movement and begin to explore what it means to rebel. Of course we are always looking for more people to take on more full time, overarching communication and coordination roles, but every form of engagement is just as necessary in the growth of this movement, so regardless of what amount of time and skills you can offer we need everyone!
Outside of your work with XRY you are also a photographer. How did you get into it?
Photography is something I’ve always gravitated towards. I picked up my first camera at the age of seven and have rarely been seen without one since! I have no professional training, and before XR had little experience more than just practicing myself. It’s always been a great passion of mine though, and so always something I practice at every given opportunity. Nowadays I have the privilege of not only doing it as a hobby or even on the side of my activism, but both come hand in hand! When I was seven, I used to say that I wanted to be a Greenpeace photographer when I grew up. Now I feel like I’m living my childhood dreams and even better!
What is it about the medium that appeals to you?
Photography allows me to be part of moments that so often go unnoticed, whilst still being unnoticed myself, which I sometimes like best. I think that a lot of the time the world looks so much better through the lens of a camera! The world that we live in is so hectic and damaging at times, being so involved with the climate justice movement can often be overwhelming and photography helps me to balance this. I can lose myself in a single moment or detail and create something that has the potential to positively impact people in the face of all the negativity.
Who are your inspirations?
When it comes to inspiration I tend to get more from the subject that I’m shooting rather than specific artists. Lighting, colour or someone’s expression can often inspire me more than anyone else’s work. However, one of my greatest inspirations when it comes to using visual arts in collaboration with activism etc, is James Balog, specifically his documentary ‘Chasing Ice’. I first watched it when I was about 15 and it has been a huge motivator for me ever since.
And where can people see your work?
Some of my work can be viewed on my online portfolio here:
I also platform a lot of my work on social media, specifically instagram, @taltakingpics and am very privileged to have my work platformed by both Extinction Rebellion and XRY!
All photographs Talia Woodin