The "bodies" lie in the middle of Commonwealth Bridge in Canberra, strewn across the bitumen, blocking traffic. A leg twitches. Someone stifles a giggle.
But the theatrics hold.
This is the capital's first big "die-in" - a protest designed to bring the city to a standstill, to disrupt business as usual in the home of business of usual, and help governments realise that radical action is now needed to avert the worst effects of climate change or we could all end up... well... you know. It's dramatic, it's silly, it's inconvenient. But that's the point. And it might just work.
It's easy to be sceptical when you're stuck in a traffic jam and all you can see of the greatest climate movement in history is a few dozen people carrying home-made signs and yelling about the end of the world. But the school climate strikes - and now the Extinction Rebellion - have seen millions take to the streets in recent months, shutting down cities and towns across the planet. Many veteran activists have hailed the strikes as a "game-changer" for the environmental movement, drawing bigger crowds in Australia than the Vietnam war protests. What began with a Swedish teen skipping school on a Friday to protest outside her parliament has become a circuit breaker bringing students, parents, teachers, Indigenous communities and workers together under the same banner of "climate justice".
This month's "Spring Rebellion" is still non-violent but decidedly more adult. Activists are scaling bridges, gluing themselves to roads, even marching nude to force a response. So far, that response has been mostly irritation. But some fear the group's actions are leaving the world more divided than ever, as anger boils over into government crackdowns and protesters are increasingly branded as "extremists". A number of those arrested already have come under notably harsh bail conditions and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has declared he wants them all thrown in jail or cut off welfare.
Climate change protest causes major traffic disruptions in Wollongong CBD
"We're being treated like criminals, when they're the ones knowingly polluting the planet and lining the pockets of politicians to keep it all quiet," one teen protester said.
Given the science has been settled on global warming and its cause (burning fossil fuels) for more than a few decades now - with some chillingly accurate early research coming from inside oil companies themselves - that seems like a fair complaint.
And, for all our outrage about these protesters' supposedly "guerilla methods", about wasted police resources, squandered school time and now dole-bludging, we seem to have forgotten that just about every successful protest movement felt much the same to those watching on at the time. The Suffragettes lost a lot of their own early sympathisers when they turned to more "mischievous" and "unladylike" stunts to draw attention to their cause. Both the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war protests took years and many brutal police crackdowns, before they were hailed a success.
Direct action never wins you many friends but it gets results. Research shows it only takes 3.5 per cent of the population in sustained civil disobedience to topple a dictator. In Australia, it's saved swathes of wilderness - including the Franklin River - as well as Aboriginal land. In the UK, where Extinction Rebellion first emerged, days of blockading London eventually forced the parliament to declare a climate emergency earlier this year. And up north a small camp of determined activists have managed to both delay and drastically shrink down the controversial Adani coal mine now under construction in the Galilee Basin.
That project, as Kelly O'Shanassy of the Australian Conservation Foundation tells me, is a "climate bomb". The mine will open up one of the largest untapped coal reserves left on the planet - threatening to blow the world's remaining carbon budget in almost one hit. It's a big reason Australian protesters have largely given up on going through the "proper channels" - and why we as a populace hold more power in this debate than we realise. The government loves to remind us that Australia is only a small player on the world stage, that we should aim low, be polite, even as our emissions at home rise and our coal exports keep grinding out. Now the window left for change is excruciatingly tight - scientists agree we are already in the deciding decade.
To give the planet a good shot at staying below two degrees of warming since the industrial revolution, countries need to triple their emissions reduction targets. To keep below 1.5 degrees - the thoroughly less calamitous scenario - ambitions need to grow five-fold. Both these futures still hold punishing extreme weather and disease, but the UN estimates the latter could save more than 190 million lives.
In August, a lead author of the UN's upcoming 2020 report confessed scientists were panicking - as early temperature modelling came back forecasting higher than expected warming. While the market is now largely fighting the battle for campaigners as renewable energy falls in price, many people, including the protesters, say it will still take a specialist emergency response to hit our targets on time - similar to the kind of fast mobilisation the world saw at the outbreak of WWII. Part of that means drastically cutting emissions - the rebels and strikers are calling for net zero emissions by 2030 - by saying no to new fossil fuel projects, investing more in renewables and winding back deforestation rates. But it doesn't have to mean our economy goes down the toilet either - huge opportunities are now opening up in renewable exports as technology catches up with demand.
"We're already in the transition and when you're in it, it's messy, it's hard to see... I think it will only accelerate from here," O'Shanassy says.
Dom Rowe at Greenpeace agrees, saying Asia could become a booming market for Australian solar power. But it will be fossil fuel workers shortchanged in the end if governments don't step up and help fund a fair shift to renewable jobs when mines close. There is an opportunity here to make the energy sector and vast parts of our society fairer and better - collateral damage of our climate clean-up. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, overthrow our governments and install a new Platonian panel of scientists as our emperor kings. But we no longer have the luxury of waiting to see what happens.
Because, buried within the many thousands of pages of climate change research, there burns on a bright ember of hope. There is still time to fix this. It's short. In fact, it could even be measured in the hourglass sign you keep seeing at those damn protests.
But then humanity's always been good at beating the odds.
That's what we're doing right now.
- Sherryn Groch is a Canberra Times reporter.