Extinction Rebellion Co-Founder Says Psychedelic Disobedience Can Address the Climate Crisis

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion has become the most well-known climate justice movement in history.

With over 100,000 members and worldwide protests regularly attracting crowds of thousands, XR aims to use non-violent civil disobedience to share their message: political leaders are not doing enough to protect the world from climate catastrophe.

Now the XR hourglass logo can be seen dotted around most major cities, and local groups are catalyzing a global revolution.

Extinction Rebellion began as a collaboration between climate activists who were becoming disenfranchised by the slow progress of their protest efforts. And uniquely, its roots are deeply set in the world of psychedelic plant medicines.

The Psychedelic Origins of Extinction Rebellion

Gail Bradbrook, one of the original co-founders of Extinction Rebellion, has been very transparent about the psychedelic influences behind her decisions.

Having been involved in climate activism for most of her life, Gail was feeling like nothing was working. Speaking at this year’s Breaking Convention in London, UK, Gail described how she prayed for “the codes to social change” during an ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica. Gail also took iboga and kambo, alongside ayahuasca, during her time there.

In her talk at Breaking Convention, Gail described the immediate lessons she learned from the West African plant medicine iboga, which told her: “Gail, you create your own reality!” The notoriously uncomfortable iboga experience eventually gave way to Gail feeling all her negative thought patterns being gently removed by a grandmotherly figure. 

It was in an ayahuasca ceremony that Gail asked the specific question about where to go next with her activism. The Amazonian psychedelic brew, typically associated with intense physical purging, is often taken by people in search of otherworldly wisdom. “I was praying for guides, and allies, to know that people would have my back.” Although she received no immediate answers, Gail was aware that “ayahuasca is mysterious, and her gifts come later.”

One month after her ayahuasca ceremony, Gail met with activist Roger Hallam, and they talked for hours about the latest research into activism and revolution. It ended with Roger saying “What you’ve got here, Gail, are the codes for social change.”

It looked like her prayers had been answered.

Disobedience was the foundation of these codes, and it directly led to the philosophy of Extinction Rebellion. “It’s only by being disruptive that you get people to have a conversation about an issue,” says Gail. During the press conference at Breaking Convention, Gail called for mass psychedelic disobedience, “where we take [psychedelic] medicine to tell the state that they have absolutely no right to control our consciousness and to define our spiritual practice.”

Gail’s calls for psychedelic law-breaking are a distinct contrast to the mainstream stance of the psychedelic community, who are mostly seeking the medicalization of psychedelic compounds, the first wave of which could come within the next ten years.. Gail has responded to this by saying “We don’t have time to wait for the science. […] Society will have collapsed by then. Why mess around behaving ourselves?”

Psychedelics Can Shift Our Relationship With Nature

Although the Extinction Rebellion organization has no official stance on psychedelics, there’s good reason for XR to be interested in their potential. We know that psychedelics can help to change the way we see ourselves and our position in the world.

People who have more lifetime experience with psychedelics are more likely to feel a connection to nature, and be more environmentally friendly (such as reducing water usage and recycling) compared to others. Even when other personality traits linked to environmental behavior – such as conscientiousness and liberal morals – are taken into consideration, this finding stands up.

It’s also been shown that the intensity of the psychedelic experience can predict the level of connection to nature that people have. Those who have had the most profound sense of a “loss of self” during their psychedelic experiences are the people most likely to feel a strong connection to nature.

These findings are important because our detachment from nature is arguably a large part of why humanity has caused the climate and ecological crisis we find ourselves in. As Daniel Quinn explains in his book Ishmael, the modern narrative of our inherent disconnection from the natural world is a pervasive philosophy that has convinced many of us that humanity is a lost cause.

One chance we have to reject this philosophy is through psychedelics. Science has now confirmed that psychedelics have the potential to change our perspective of the natural world. And any psychedelic journeyer can testify about their power to remind us that there is no such thing as humanity outside of nature.

A Return to Animism?

It’s not just the psychedelic experience itself that can bring us into an awareness of our true place in the natural world, but also the traditions that can accompany it.

Most cultures that have developed alongside psychedelic plant medicines are fundamentally animist societies. This means that they believe every living thing in the world has a spirit, or soul. In other words, every being is just a human in another form; another life.

Animism takes interconnectedness to be the very core fact of life. Although animist societies are not immune to greed, corruption, homophobia or misogyny, in general they appreciate that these actions have consequences. These cultures, though often flawed, very rarely destroy their lands, and they understand that their existence relies upon the wellbeing of their surroundings.

The concept of animism is also starting to enter mainstream Western thought, as our growing understanding of quantum physics points towards consciousness being something of a big deal. The philosophy of idealism, adapted to fit our quantum view of the world, could be about to see a surge in popularity among Western thinkers and scientists. Animism could soon see a resurgence in Western culture.

Westerners often end up taking psychedelic plant medicines within animist cultural contexts, as the most experienced shamans and practitioners usually come from these traditions. This means that psychedelics present a unique opportunity – not just for the encounter with one-ness they can induce, but for the animist wisdom they can bring us into contact with.

Could Psychedelics Catalyze Social Change?

Is an increased connection to nature enough to catalyze widespread social change? Could this be enough to combat the climate crisis?

Gail Bradbrook does not think that this should be our focus. She feels that although changing our relationship to nature will be crucial in order to build a less destructive society, it would be a process requiring “many centuries of work.”

Right now, Gail is calling for urgent social upheaval, starting with large acts of civil disobedience. 

Plant medicines have already catalyzed the formation of Extinction Rebellion. Now, they may be used as an expression of cognitive freedom. And ultimately, they could be a route towards a society that accepts its place in a global ecosystem.

Author bio:

Patrick Smith, PhD, is a biologist and science writer. He has been working in the psychedelic space for the past five years. He currently writes for EntheoNation.

Naropa is doing DMT Research. You can contribute!!

Naropa University

Psychedelics Today is sharing this research project from Naropa in hopes that some with adequate experience may contribute! Below is a message and invitation from the Naropa University team.


We are a team of researchers from Naropa University investigating the effects of N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (N, N-DMT), an illegal substance.

We are inviting you to participate and/or promote our survey about DMT through your individual connections, your group’s email list, and social media platforms. This is an anonymous questionnaire to gather preliminary data about the potential risks and benefits associated with taking DMT. The data that we collect will ultimately be used to create a protocol for extended state DMT research.

Responses will benefit those who choose to use DMT in the future, as well as help the scientific community to obtain more information about a sparsely researched topic.

To participate in this survey, please click on the following link:   https://survey.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_245uviVxh3H7aV7 and you will be directed to a consent form. If you agree to the consent by clicking on the arrow at the bottom of the screen, you will be directed to the beginning of the survey.
If you know people who might be willing to participate, please forward this email to your contacts, or share the link on your social media and/or website.

  • Anyone who has ever used DMT in any setting is welcomed to reply.
  • This survey should take about an hour to complete. Participants can choose to stop responding at any time and may return at their convenience.
  • Participants can use their phone, tablet, or computer to respond.
  • There are no compensations or incentives provided.
  • Responses will not be connected to any identifying information.

If you have any questions, or experience any difficulties accessing the link or completing the survey, please contact Dr. Carla J. Clements ( drcjclements@msn.com) or Dr. Travis Cox ( tcox@naropa.edu).

We appreciate your support.

Dr. Carla J. Clements, BCPC LPC
Dr. Travis Cox, Ecopsychology Professor Naropa University
Andrew Linares, Registered Psychotherapist
Rosario Vergara, Registered Psychotherapist
Mozelle E. DeLong, Registered Psychotherapist. 

Seal of Naropa University

Ayahuasca – The Science of the Vine

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea traditionally used by indigenous communities of the Amazon rainforest for its powerful healing, purgative, divinatory, and visionary properties. As of late, and with the rise in use of DMT itself, ayahuasca is becoming majorly popular for the intense visions it induces, and which are usually attributed to DMT.

Although the brew’s potency is often recognized by its DMT component in the West, the plants that contain this compound are really just admixtures. The core ingredient of ayahuasca is the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, whose name in the indigenous Quichua language is actually aya waska (meaning “the vine of the soul” or “the vine of the dead”).

There are a number of scientific and cultural reasons why this vine is central to the ayahuasca brew. In this article, we will look into its potential as a healing agent and its place in the Amazonian indigenous lore.

Ayahuasca’s Rising Popularity

Ayahuasca has a wide range of ethereal applications: it’s used for diagnosis and healing, learning and training, social bonding and rite of passage rituals, creating hunting and agricultural strategies, finding missing objects or people, and various other kinds of shamanic activities. Its mystical properties have drawn a number of ethnobotanists and psychonautical enthusiasts to explore and chart the indigenous use of this powerful potion since the mid-20th century. 

All the incredible documentation of Amazonian master plant healing practices has brought about the rise of ayahuasca tourism – the phenomenon of Western people visiting indigenous communities in order to take part in ayahuasca rituals.

After decades of development in tourism infrastructure and at a time when viral online information sharing is a highly prevalent means of communication, the brew’s unparalleled popularity can largely be attributed to the wild visions it presents its drinkers with.

Many believe that the source of these visions is the dimethyltryptamine molecule, the major active component in the admixture plants that go into most standard ayahuasca preparations. However, that’s all DMT is – one potential, but well-established additive to an already powerful healing and divinatory potion.

Ayahuasca is more than just DMT. To really understand this, it’s important to learn about the core constituent of this sacred brew – its primary ingredient dubbed the Vine of the Soul.

The Heart of the Brew – the Vine of the Soul

The most common ingredients that make up a typical ayahuasca brew are the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the DMT admixtures: the shrub Psychotria viridis (also known as chacruna, meaning “mix” in Quichua) or, less commonly, Diplopterys cabrerana (also known as chaliponga or chagropanga). Although traditional brews will vary in their ingredients, all of them will contain B. caapi.

B. caapi contains three indole alkaloids with β-carboline structure: harmine and tetrahydroharmine (THH) in high amounts, and lower amounts of harmaline.

P. viridis and D. cabrerana contain DMT, known worldwide as The Spirit Molecule. DMT’s incredible psychoactive properties are likely the result of its role as an agonist at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor

The alkaloids in B. caapi are reversible MAOIs – they inhibit monoamine oxidase enzymes in our bodies, which normally metabolize orally ingested DMT before it can pass through the blood-brain barrier. With this inhibitory activity, DMT remains intact and can access the central nervous system.

Tetrahydroharmine also has some serotonin reuptake inhibiting properties. This means that, like DMT, it may have a psychotropic function. However, it’s not as potent, and higher quantities are needed to produce psychedelic effects. This alkaloid hasn’t received much scientific attention, but a user who ingested the isolated compound claims that closed-eyed visuals resembling those in a DMT experience appear at a certain dosage.

The inhibition of both the MAO enzyme and serotonin reuptake systems as a result of ingesting harmine, harmaline, and THH causes a rise in the levels of serotonin and other monoamines. Ayahuasca’s highly potent antidepressant effects could be (at least in part) attributed to these neurochemical processes.

Aside from their effects on MAO enzymes and serotonin receptors, the β-carboline alkaloids in the B. caapi vine have been found to have antiparasitic and antimicrobial functions, as well as a host of other beneficial effects. A recent comprehensive scientific synthesis explains in great detail all we know so far about ayahuasca’s neurobiological workings and its actual and potential therapeutic and clinical implications.

When consumed on their own, harmine, harmaline, and THH have quite distinct and powerful effects.

According to a report from an experienced psychonaut, “Harmaline is a very mentally stoning drug, causing a foggy dreamy state of mind and making you a little shaky and a little disoriented at moderate doses. Harmine is more stimulating and more clear headed, not as disorienting, but otherwise quite similar to harmaline. Both cause a peaceful emotionally detached feeling. […] tetrahydroharmine feels almost completely different. Its main effect is mood enhancement and pleasant orgasmic tingling all over.”

Many other anecdotal reports available online confirm these characterizations.

Traditional preparations of ayahuasca 

Furthermore, in traditional indigenous practice (i.e. in the preparations of the Napo Runa, the Sharanahua, the Tukano, and the Waorani, to name a few), the ayahuasca brew would often be made solely from the B. caapi vine, and it was only after the popularization of DMT’s effects among westerners that the DMT admixture plants became a universally present ingredient. The development of ayahuasca tourism brought about the need for facilitators of ayahuasca ceremonies to basically guarantee the visionary effects that have become well-publicized by their past visitors, and a yearning of their future ones.

Knowing about these therapeutic and psychotropic properties of the alkaloids in B. caapi, it’s no wonder that this vine has long been revered as the actual healing agent that catalyzes ayahuasca’s spiritual experience.

According to Terence McKenna, who popularized ayahuasca as not much more than “orally active DMT” in the first place, “[T]he action of the Banisteriopsis, as far as the visions are concerned, is to prevent the Psychotria from being neutralized by gastric enzymes” (Calavia, 2011:131). However, DMT-containing plants are just some of the 80 different plant species that have so far been identified as admixtures to traditional ayahuasca recipes (that number is estimated to be much greater in reality). Each plant modulates or enhances the total or partial effect of the brew, and B. caapi is a visionary plant in its own right.

An interesting fact is that many different varieties of B. caapi itself are used in ayahuasca preparations throughout the Amazon basin. Depending on the strain availability in their respective location, and the desired effect, different indigenous communities will use different varieties. These strains are often botanically identical, and the distinctions are only visible to well-trained eyes familiar with the vegetation in that specific part of the jungle.

Some of the commonly distinguished strains include:

  • red ayahuasca (ayahuasca colorada) – used almost always by shamans alone to exacerbate their ability to heal others;
  • white ayahuasca (ayahuasca blanca) – used to facilitate light or dark magic (brujeria), such as projecting spiritual darts (tsentsak) or defending against them;
  • yellow ayahuasca (ayahuasca amarilla) – widely cultivated and used strain, known for its gentle, but powerful healing properties, and crisp visionary aspect; often given to inexperienced drinkers;
  • sky/pink ayahuasca (ayahuasca cielo/rosada) – also a commonly used strain, but stronger than yellow, for more experienced drinkers;
  • black ayahuasca (ayahuasca negra) – very strong and not very visual – most of the visions are said to be drowned out by a thick black fog; intensely healing and purgative;
  • thunder ayahuasca (ayahuasca trueno) – only given to experienced drinkers, brews made with this ayahuasca cause intense bodily shaking and a violent purge;
  • Indian ayahuasca (ayahuasca india) – an ancient and extremely powerful strain which is only harvested from white sand rainforests and is not cultivated;

There are dozens more strains in use. Each has its role in the lives of the indigenous peoples who employ them, and their unique systems of beliefs about the spirits of the rainforest. Their names are given based on their purpose, but also based on the color of the plant (the flowers or the vine when the bark is scraped off), or the shade it gives to the visions.

As these strains belong to the same plant species, no scientific distinction has been made in terms of their chemical composition. However, knowing what we know about the individual effects of the β-carboline alkaloids, it’s safe to assume that the indigenous nomenclature may correlate with the alkaloid level ratios in different strains.

B. caapi has for centuries been revered by indigenous Amazonians as an omnipotent Master Plant – it’s their healer, their medium, their knower. Meanwhile, our knowledge about its components and effects is being broadened faster by independent psychonauts than by academic researchers. Western science needs to step up its inquiry into the vine’s therapeutic properties and substantiate the centrality of B. caapi in indigenous healing practices.

This is a guest post from EntheoNation, a resource that offers guidance on using psychedelic plant medicines for spiritual development.

Guest Author

Xavier Francuski

With a background in research psychology and apprenticeships in ethereal worlds, Xavier tries to reconcile the astounding nature of the realms beyond with what sense we can make of them in this one. Xavier writes for EntheoNation.