Extinction Rebellion: more harm than good[?]
So large parts of London have been brought to a halt by Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters wanting to raise the profile of climate change. An admirable aim of course, but almost certainly counterproductive in practice.
Let’s look at the evidence:
- Mad Dad-dancing in the streets and circus skills might feel good for the participants, but from the outside it looks like a bunch of crusties having a party at everybody else’s expense.
- Targeting public transport networks: a bizarre decision as public transport users are already making low carbon choices. Not only does the disruption upset the wrong people, it could help push those people into higher-carbon personal transport. It also gives the right-wing press plenty of ammunition to ridicule the whole movement.
- Likewise, targeting Jeremy Corbyn: I’m no fan of Jezza’s re-fried 70s socialism, but he’s hardly an oil baron, is he? In fact, his eco-ambitions are one of the few things I’ll give him credit for.
- The bonkers ‘Zero Carbon by 2025’ demand. This rate of change would almost be guaranteed to cause social unrest. The violent Gilets Jaunes protests in France were triggered by a single modest eco-tax. If we effectively pull the plug on modern infrastructure over the next 6 years (it can’t possibly be replaced in that timeframe), we’d find out the hard way that anybody can take to the streets.
Many of us have worked long and hard to make ‘green’ the new normal, building a world where ordinary people go about their lives in a quietly eco-friendly way. The UK is decarbonising faster than any other major economy as a result of efforts from Government (national and local), industry, charities, pressure groups and individuals. Yes, we have to accelerate progress, but we can only do that by bringing people on board, not alienating them. XR’s tactics seem to be more about the protesters’ egos rather than making real change happen.
Update: now the protest has finished, I’d like to backtrack somewhat on my criticism – to my pleasant surprise the public response to the events (dad-dancing and all) has been much more positive than I expected. Maybe it is the synergy with the interventions of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, along with general Brexit-fatigue, that has created some real momentum in the public awareness and for this XR should be commended. However, I still think their zero carbon by 2025 demand is dangerously naive, and targeting low-carbon public transport was wrong-headed. The Stock Exchange protest was a much stronger message and more appropriate target (I heard on the grapevine there was an element of mid-course correction during the protests).