Extinction Rebellion co-founder used ‘psychedelic medicine’ for inspiration

Extinction Rebellion Credit: Niall Carson/PA

One of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion has revealed she began the movement after taking “psychedelic medicines”.

Gail Bradbrook, a molecular biologist, said she “prayed in a deep way” while taking the substances on a retreat.

She told a BBC Inside Out West documentary that her prayer was answered within a month, with Extinction Rebellion formed last year.

“I’ve always been interested in how things change, in social change,” she told the documentary.

“I was involved in the animal rights movement as a young woman, I’ve been involved in thinking about gender and issues around racism and so on.

“I’d been focused on trying to start civil disobedience since 2010 and I’ve tried many things and they didn’t work, so I went on a retreat and prayed in a deep way with some psychedelic medicines.

“It was a really intense experience and I actually prayed for what I called the codes for social change, I thought there must be something I don’t understand, and within a month my prayer was literally answered.”

Extinction Rebellion began in Stroud, Gloucestershire, with large protests spreading quickly across the UK.

Dr Bradbrook described how it started with around 12 people in her house but went global within a year.

Extinction Rebellion protesters in Birmingham Credit: Jacob King/PA

“We know we’ve got about 100,000 people on the database in the UK and we reach about a million people with the social media,” she said.

“We’ve got 130 groups across the UK. We’re in 59 countries and it’s growing all the time.”

The movement has three demands for the UK Government: to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to act to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and to create and be led by the decisions of a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.

During the documentary, cameras were allowed into an Extinction Rebellion meeting in Stroud. A number of those taking part in the meeting are seen holding each other and crying.

Simon Bramwell, another co-founder, told the BBC: “Depending on the group, we’ll have prayers. We have a lot of Christians and Quakers involved in Extinction Rebellion.

“Sometimes we’ll have a prayer or a small ceremony or sometimes we’ll have what we call an ‘intentioning’ – just a way of like focusing ourselves, just a grounding or an acknowledgement around the room.

“People are starting to feel the grief and the fear of what’s happening and the meetings are a great way for people to admit this to one another.

“In that vulnerability, as it were, there’s also a great strength and there’s great cohesion and there’s great community, which is something else that a lot of people are missing in this day and age.”

Protesters from Extinction Rebellion in Leeds Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Mr Bramwell, the ex-partner of Dr Bradbrook, spoke about protests in Bristol that blocked a main route leading to the M32.

One man previously told how he was unable to be at his father’s bedside when he died because of the blocked traffic.

Mr Bramwell told the BBC: “My mum is quite ill, she’s in a lot of pain, she’s disabled. I know how I’d feel if I didn’t make it to her bedside for her death, and I can’t communicate with any degree of real depth of how sorry I am it happened.”

He said he wasn’t present that day but highlighted that “thousands of people are dying in Britain from air pollution”.

Dr Bradbrook insisted it is only by causing disruption that people will “have a conversation about an issue”.

“We are killing life on Earth, we’re in the sixth mass extinction event and it’s possible that human beings will go extinct. We’re in a culture that doesn’t want you to think about that.”

– Inside Out West will air on BBC One West at 7.30pm on Monday and will then be available on iPlayer.