How Normal Was Normal? Extinction Rebellion Eyes a Future Free of the Past

A caution as we collectively emerge from quarantine

Building on Extinction Rebellion's "No Going Back" campaign, creatives from the U.K. and Australia give us "How Normal Was Normal?" It's best to watch full-screen, with the volume up.

London-based Luke O'Driscoll and Marco Mollo worked with Australia's Milos Miynarik, a photographer, and Tim Arnold, a sound designer, to create the one-minute film as a caution for people leaving quarantine.

How Normal Was Normal? No Going Back | Extinction Rebellion

"Right now we're on a knife-edge," author and activist Tamsin Omond, speaking for Extinction Rebellion, tells Muse. "As we emerge from lockdown, there is a moment when we can all use our voices and protest to demand that democracy and the climate and ecological emergency are at the heart of our recovery. If we do nothing, then Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings—with one rule for them and another for us—will spend billions choosing a future for us that takes us back to the 'normal' that caused this emergency."

The video came out on May 28, days after the British public exploded over what happened with Cummings, which already seems like eons ago. A quick primer on that: After faffing over what to do about Covid-19 ("herd immunity" got tossed around a lot), U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson issued a strict stay-at-home order. 

People in quarantine have heard all kinds of heartbreaking stories about people ill or dying, separate from loved ones. That's among the many things we've been asked to take on the chin. But Cummings, Johnson's chief aid, flouted the orders by driving nearly 250 miles to his parents' house, which was apparently OK by Johnson when he found out. This led to a lot of public babbling, mostly by men trying to say it wasn't an exception to the rule, but also trying to not get each other in trouble.

The kind of elitist shenanigans we can expect in 2020, in other words! What Extinction Rebellion hopes to convey is that we've actually learned a lot about what we need, and don't need, while confined. And while that was happening, our environments literally also changed: Stars appeared in cities, and deer meandered down streets. Pollution was dramatically reduced.

This seems like a good time to say that China's pollution levels, which were also much improved, became even worse than before a month after their confinement ended. This isn't necessarily because people are naturally destructive, but because our systems, and those who run them, put a lot of pressure on us to turn the economy back on.

"We cannot let them," Omond continues. "We have to get out onto the streets because protest and non-violent civil disobedience—us all fighting them together—is the only thing that can stop them in their tracks."

It merits saying that when she said all these things, an uprising in the U.S. was in its birth stages, but Extinction Rebellion has also been waging an environmental war, protesting to keep governments from aggressively pursuing a back-to-business strategy.

In a way, these battles are the same. They are about systems in which shared thriving is not a central value. 

"In so many ways, it's now or never," Omond concludes. "These protests are the beginning of Extinction Rebellion mobilizing to make sure that there will be no going back. That this is the moment to create a society organized around wellbeing and care. But for that to happen, we need to get out onto the streets. This is just the beginning."


Creatives – Marco Mollo & Luke O'Driscoll
DP and colour grading - Milos Mlynarik - @milosmlynarik
Edit and sound design - Tim Arnold AV - @timarnold.av
PR / Communication - The Humblebrag Amsterdam

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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