Extinction Rebellion isn’t funny or clever

Well, I suppose they might have been that day when they made their protest in the Commons chamber. It was a visible reminder that we are preoccupying ourselves with Brexit when the entire future of our planet is in doubt. And it was quite funny watching MPs trying to maintain their composure and keep their faces straight.

But the recent spate of protests by the climate change campaigners are doing their cause more harm than good. Ok, so they get attention, but what on earth is the point of gluing themselves to trains, for goodness sake?

I thought public transport was a good thing. Obstructing it, potentially making low paid people with not much power in their workplaces late, is neither big nor clever.

And holding up the traffic might grab headlines but it doesn’t do much for air quality in the vicinity.

The powerful message of children walking out of school to tell us to secure their future is so much more persuasive.

And I think Extinction Rebellion went a bit foo far yesterday by attaching themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s house. 

People’s homes are off limits for this kind of stuff, whether there are politicians or heads of companies. If you want to protest go to their public offices. Nobody’s family should have to feel like they are under siege.

Back in 2012, UK Uncut organised this mass protest of 400 people outside Nick Clegg’s house, a move I criticised at the time.  

The Clegg family was not home – but what if they had been? What about their neighbours? Whatever you might think about Government decisions, politicians’ partners and children should not have had their lives disrupted.

Imagine if they had been home when these 400 people descended? The children are 10, 8 and 3. To a 3 year old, people outside having a go at your daddy, however nice they think they’re being, could be really scary, the stuff of weeks of nightmares.

Now, note that I am not saying that such protests should be illegal, but with rights come responsibilities. UK Uncut have done their cause no good whatsoever this weekend – and that’s a shame because when it comes to some of the welfare reform cuts, as you know, I agree with them.

UK Uncut will have had to have distributed Nick Clegg’s private address to a fairly large number of people, for a start, the 400 there and anyone they tell. How can they guarantee the conduct of every single person who would turn up. It was ok this time, but at some point, if this continues, someone will turn up with malevolent intent.

And that was before an MP was murdered. In the current, febrile climate, when you have emboldened fascists taking to the streets, going to politicians’ homes is not a good look.

The aim of many protesters seems to be to get arrested. Ben Smoke used a Guardian article to regret his previous actions as one of the Stansted 15 who stopped a deportation flight.

But because even though 11 people remain in Britain because of our action, the two years that followed the action saw an unfathomable amount of resources, time, money and energy from across the movement poured into helping us fight our case, to helping us stay afloat, and avoid a life incarcerated. It took valuable resources away from those at the sharp edges of the hostile environment that we were protesting about.

And Renni Eddo-Lodge, who wrote Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race makes a really good point about the privilege of those seeking arrest:

We all want to see global action on climate change. The most basic instinct of self preservation should motivate us to stop killing our planet. But there are effective ways to go about it and there’s stunts like Extinction Rebellion’s. I appreciate that this makes me sound like an old reactionary stick in the mud, but I would probably have said the same thing when I was a young student.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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88 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '19 - 9:05am

    Personally I deplore the violence of the suffragette campaign, while supporting the cause. Before I was born there was a free vote in the Commons in 1917, also enfranchising lots of men who did not need to own property. The attack on Lloyd-Georges’ house was unnecessary. Some of the arsons could have become murders.

  • I fear that the whole business of marching to effect change is losing its effectiveness and may well be counterproductive — we should have learnt that from the Iraq war protest. OK — so people make a stand and feel better, but what then? We need to find a new way for better partcipative democracy that includes priority of truth over fake news. How that can be achieved is a conundrum for cleverer minds than mine. There are many forces stacked against us — but let us watch the goodly David Attenborough this evening.

  • OnceALibDem 18th Apr '19 - 9:45am

    20% of the people on my local election ballot papers (town (Parish) and district) have addresses withheld. That’s been available as an option for a while but I’ve never seen it at this level or scale.

    Says something.

  • Mark Johnston 18th Apr '19 - 9:52am

    The train action was ONLY at Canary Wharf DLR station i.e. in heart of the financial district from where global fossil fuel destruction is funded. Caron, perhaps you were triggered by the framing chosen by the mainstream often right-wing media including BBC?

  • The basic problem is that people want the kudos of environmental concerns but only as long as it consists platitudes. All while the activities that are destroying it are increasing. More flights. more stuff, freer trade, mass building programs, more utilities used and so on and so on. You can travel thousands of miles pumping thousands of tons of toxic fumes directly into the atmosphere to bemoan the damage and destroy great chunks of the countryside to put up housing with a few solar panels or a wind turbine or two here and there, but actually point out how ridiculous it is by annoying an MP and you are dangerous subversive damaging your own cause.

  • David Becket 18th Apr '19 - 10:28am

    Extinction Rebellion may not have done the climate change case any good in the eyes of the general public. However they have a point, this is an issue that should be the number one priority, but is nowhere near that position.

    Our own party is supposed to be concerned about climate change, but our performance is not fit for purpose. Ed Davey was less than impressive when debating with a leader of the student climate change movement, though at leat he turned up.

    Fighting climate change is going to require changes in life style, some of that will not be pleasant. As a political party we should be telling the truth and putting forward some proposals. As it is I suspect there is a so called Liberal fighting the erection of a wind turbine somewhere in the UK.
    Extinction Rebellion have a message for the Lib Dems, no Carron we have not found an effective way to challenge this, which is why we are down to stunts.

  • William Fowler 18th Apr '19 - 10:44am

    These protesters seem more against capitalism then anything else, the point of convergence, I guess, being the somewhat wasteful nature of capitalism – short-lived products, never ending need to upgrade, etc – and believe that an even more wasteful system such as socialism will bring better answers. The inability to accept the underlying problem, far too many people on the planet, and begin to answer it by rejecting the notion of having yet more kids seems rather amusing insofar as it indicates an inability to look in the mirror.

  • I am reminded of the “Reclaim The Streets” of the 1990s, the same sort of tactics & probably some of the same people; certainly The Green Party were involved in London & Edinburgh. Those earlier protests fizzled out without having much political effect & having really pissed off a lot of ordinary people.
    Certainly these protests are getting a lot of publicity & may be getting some new people thinking about the issues but that is the easy bit, convincing them to change the way they live is going to be slow & hard.
    I worry that we are seeing the same sort of polarisation that Brexit has generated with each side dominated by its most extreme voices & neither listening to the other. Its actually not true that nothing has been done, just look at the recent growth of the Renewable contribution to UK Electricity production for example or the growth in Electric Car use. Change is happening, just not fast enough.
    Sorry this comment is so long.

  • Upsetting the general public is always a mistake…

    Those who should’ve been inconvenienced are on yet another of their long ‘holidays’. Targeting the Palace of Westminster when MPs are there gets both the media attention and public support.

  • Joseph Bourke 18th Apr '19 - 12:21pm

    As a party we need a clear program for achieving carbon neutrality within a decade as David Attenborough warns is urgently required.
    This means quite radical changes in lifestyle around transport, energy provision, diet, construction materials, plastic use, recyclig etc.
    Freezing fuel duty in the UK for 9 years is the wrong approach despite the rampaging of the gilets jaunes in Paris. Climate change needs to be tackled along with economic justice. We are probably looking at something along the lines of a green new deal as being advocated by some of the more ambitious US democrat representatives.

  • Sue Sutherland 18th Apr '19 - 1:35pm

    I’m not sure that the existing ways of going about producing a global response to climate change are actually producing effective results. I’m surprised that this group chose a time when MPs are on holiday to have their protest but, for me, the message that the effects of global warming will be dire hit home.
    At a time when the USA and the UK governments are at best disinterested in climate change the view of the general public needs shaking up and this is what these protestors are trying to do. I think we should be supporting their aims while gently deprecating their methods because we are on their side. They certainly showed up Jeremy Corbyn as someone who doesn’t have the well being of our environment at heart.
    The general public has been horrified by the films that David Attenborough has shown about the harm that plastics are doing to our rivers and oceans, so public opinion is changing. It seems to me that our economy as a whole needs to benefit our environment and this kind of change requires public support. It could then become a capitalist project rather than an exercise in deprivation and the technological advances in artificial intelligence could be part of this huge change in how we need to live our lives.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Apr '19 - 1:55pm

    Caron we do not agree every posting or article, as it should be amongst fellow individually and socially inclined, we cannot see eye to eye but must interact.

    When I support your view , it is with real strength .This is an example .

    Here is the best of your arguments. Far in fact from being a fuddy duddy old grump, you clearly are not that. You are displaying what is needed in our party and society. A sense of responsibility.

    The climate protest by schools on strike, was children trying to be grown up, succeeding according to levels of their understanding. The extinction rebellion is adults behaving like children and they fail completely to show any level of understanding.

    They are a disgrace. As this excellent piece explains to disrupt that which helps fight climate catastrophe, public transport, and endanger people is awful. To utilise the time and work of the police in our capital when they are dealing with the far more immediate horror of knife crime is terrible.

    On climate change and knife crime our spokespeople call for a far more committed effort , plus a public health approach. This is correct.

    The Green party spokespeople are supporting this so called rebellion and prove our party is the only game in town, whatever its faults.

  • Roland Postle 18th Apr '19 - 3:09pm

    I think we struggle as individuals to get our minds around climate change. It challenges our instincts of self-preservation, our reproductive tendencies, our materialism, our optimism, the very human natures that got us where we are today. It poses ‘us vs them’ questions not only within our own society and between geographically distinct societies, but also across generations and species. ‘How much do I care about the future of humanity and other life on this planet when my own lifespan is finite?’ is ultimately a deeply hard philosophical question. It’s no surprise most people’s reaction is to ignore the question and get on with more manageable everyday problems.

    I see the protests as our collective cognitive dissonance brought about by refusal to engage with this hard question. You don’t have to agree with the tactics or the proposed solutions, and certainly don’t have to find them funny or clever. Just the fact that many people are so passionate about disrupting the status quo forces us all to take notice, and forcing us out of our detached mindset is exactly what *is* needed. Disrupting London traffic temporarily transforms an inexactly defined, future problem into an immediate and well-defined problem that’s easier to comprehend. If that frustrates people it should do. If they think about it they’ll realise that climate change is the ultimate cause of them not being able to get to work, not the protesters.

    Personally I think the urgency validates the tactics. I’m surprised it’s taken this long. I’m glad it’s remained non-violent. I’m glad a small unthreatening group went to Corbyn’s home rather than a mob of hundreds. I’m glad they’re listening to concerns about the message tube disruption would send. Protest is always a blunt tool but that doesn’t void the cause. Most of all I’m glad people are questioning whether specific tactics justify the ends, because it means more people are talking about the ends.

    And yes Lib Dems are disappointing on climate change. The first leadership candidate to go down and talk with the protestors and show a little support (without necessarily approving of the tactics) would probably get my vote, but I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Often environmental action is seen as making certain things more expensive and letting market forces then lead to a change of behaviour. This is the wrong approach. Regulation on new things is a start, for example every new home built should have a car parking space with an electric car charging point. Regulation for other sectors is a possibility: for example each local council should have to provide say one electric car charging point for every 3000 adults in their area funded by central government; for example every employer who provides free car parking for employees should ensure all car parking spaces have an electric car charging point, with a maximum charge set.

    The feed-in-tariff was a good idea and we should be advocating a replacement that ensures that it takes less than 25 years to recoup the costs of solar panel installation. Regulation should be used, solar panels should be compulsory on new buildings.

    Making existing homes more energy efficient is the next task. All people on benefits should be offered free upgrading of their home to meet our energy performance target. It should be a whole house programme and not just for some bits such as roof insulation or wall insulation.

    For commercial properties an improved Green Deal scheme could be established whereby the load is interest free and paid back from savings on the electric bill for the next 20 years.

    The plug-in car grant scheme should be expanded to include a scrappage element for petrol cars of up to £30,000 which is means tested on disposable household income. With a ten year programme the full amount could apply to all cars over 20 years old dropping by 5% for each year younger than 20 for the first five years and 10% for the next five years and being nothing for 10 year old cars. Then each year for say the first five years the 20 years would be reduced. So in 5 years’ time a car older than 15 would be eligible for the whole £30,000 plus the plug-in amount while a 5 year old car would be eligible for only £7,500.

  • Catherine Wilson 18th Apr '19 - 4:17pm

    When I hear people complain that the extinction rebellion protesters are disruptive to commuters, I think of the people whose lives have been disrupted by climate change. The flooded homes, the homes burnt to the ground in forest fires. The people starving and dying because of years of drought. Or crops being destroyed by extensive floods. Because of what we are doing to the planet the incidence of these climate disasters will only increase. Island communities are going to be obliterated as the sea rises. All this is a bit more disruptive than being an hour or so late for work. Let’s get our priorities straight. I applaud the commitment and energy of extinction rebellion.
    I blame Theresa May for the disruption. If she met with the protesters as they are requesting, and promised to do the right thing by making climate change a government priority, they would thankfully go home.

  • Mark Smulian 18th Apr '19 - 4:22pm

    Caron is right. We cannot operate on the basis that governments act according to who has the numbers to block the streets. Who might do it next – the English Defence League, people allegedly ‘betrayed’ over Brexit?

  • David Becket 18th Apr '19 - 4:25pm

    @ Lorenzo
    If we are the only game in town then, on our current performance, the world is doomed.
    Wera Hobhouse, our climate change spokesperson, has indicated she backs Extinction Rebellion, and wants a stronger policy on climate change, where is the backing from our leadership? Why are her views not more widely known, at least among party members?
    Why does LDV not back Wera on this issue?

  • There are a host of causes out there which good people feel are important – climate change, third world debt, the crises in Syria, Lybia, Oman, education, the NHS etc etc

    Are they to have a London bridge each to block? And a tube line each to paralyse?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Apr '19 - 7:22pm

    David

    If Wera had the wisdom and understanding of many a lot older than her, such as you, or a number of years younger , like me, and many of us on here of any age, she, like other spokespeople would reach different conclusions, and more voters.

  • Richard O'Neill 18th Apr '19 - 8:42pm

    Totally agree with Caron on this.

    It seems to promote the idea that the people who are loudest and most aggressive in support of their views should be listened to more than the quieter (and often more vulnerable) members of society.

    @ Crewegwyn
    “There are a host of causes out there which good people feel are important”.
    Perhaps even more worrying, there are a host of causes that bad people feel are important.

    Beyond that, attacking public transport is just plain wrong. Yes, Canary Wharf has large banks. But I use the DLR a lot and it is not a train full of rich people. In fact, even at Canary Wharf, the richest people use cars instead of travelling by public transport. On top of that, the people at the coalface who actually have to deal with this (police, TFL workers) are not rich.

  • John Marriott 18th Apr '19 - 10:10pm

    Whatever we do on these islands will have little impact on the environment unless giants such as the USA, China and India come on board. That’s where these so called protesters should be doing their stuff. Mind you, to get there without flying may take rather a long time. What a waste of Superglue if you ask me!

  • Whatever we do on these islands will have little impact on the environment unless giants such as…
    @John Marriott – forgetting the slogan that was common on posters in the 70’s: Think Globally, Act Locally…

    Yes, there is little we in the UK (and even less when we leave the EU) can do to directly influence others, however, there is plenty we can do to avoid being in the same mess as they will be in, in the coming decades. Ironically, Brexit, if you believe the various economic forecasts actually provides a major opportunity to dramatically re-orient our society and economy, however, as yet none of the major political party’s have shown the slightest of inclination to move away from the current economic system and thus show any form of real leadership, I know that whilst I may dream of unicorns, in the cold light of day all I will see are donkeys…

    I have my sympathy for Extinction Rebellion as it is clearly proving difficult for them to conduct a (mostly) peaceful campaign to bring home to city people what climate change etc. actually means. Additionally, they are not being helped by the police adopting a standback approach – not seen in the 70’s and 80’s, which has resulted in few arrests and confrontations of the type the media loves.

  • Michael Sammon 18th Apr '19 - 11:31pm

    I think this is a good article. I can’t get behind Extinction R. The way they are behaving goes against a democratic principle. It just feels wrong. It would be difficult to complain of brexiters doing the same if we support this, which could easily happen. We are a civilised country and don’t do this kind of thing so much. Better keep it that way and use your voice in legal protests and at the ballot box.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Apr '19 - 11:53pm

    For once in a while, I think you are so so wrong, Caron. The word extinction is not an exaggeration. so what are you going to do to stop it?

  • People take to the streets in protest for whatever cause they may have, not because they are thoughtless and undisciplined, or because they just like marching and shouting, but because they are desperate and cannot think of any other way to make their voices heard.

    In a democracy, the people’s voice is supposed to be heard through its elected representatives. But when those representatives are silent, what else can people do but demonstrate?

    If you are appalled by demonstrations, then figure out a way for *every single vote to count* and for every person to have a representative whom they can be confident represents their point of view.

  • David Evershed 19th Apr '19 - 1:34am

    I agree with Caron.

    Extinction Rebellion are earning themselves and their cause a reputation for irresponsibility and lack of concern for the public.

    Getting media coverage is not the same as being effective in bringing about change, particularly not for bringing about cultural change. Their student type behaviour is more likely to encourage irresponsible behaviour by others.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Apr '19 - 7:23am

    @Michael BG
    “for example every new home built should have a car parking space with an electric car charging point.”
    Oh really? Why – if/where new homes are built with access to decent public transport systems?

  • What Mark Smulian said. Might is not right.

  • Peter Martin 19th Apr '19 - 8:01am

    @ Noncomformistradical,

    “Why (EV charging points-PM) – if/where new homes are built with access to decent public transport systems?”

    This seems a silly question to ask. Can’t you figure out the answer for yourself?

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Apr '19 - 8:29am

    @Peter Martin
    Re providing every new with a vehicle charging point.

    You do not get it – do you?

    Providing every new home with a vehicle charging point merely encourages people to take the easy option and use a car even if public transport would suffice and would be better for the community. That may clear their consciences re climate change but it is only going to result in even more congestion on the roads than we already have.

    One of the problems as I see it is building new estates without the necessary infrastructure – employment, education, shopping, services etc – around them. We are not building communities – we are building merely doss-down places.

  • John Marriott 19th Apr '19 - 8:35am

    @Roland
    As John Donne famously said; ‘No man is an island’. So what we do here affects what happens elsewhere. Remember the acid rain largely generated a few years ago from our coal burning power stations killing off Scandinavian forests? There wasn’t much our neighbours across the North Sea could do on their own to stop this, unless by not planting any more trees, perhaps. Small beer compared with what could happen on a global scale if the big boys don’t mend their ways. What they are continuing to do will affect us all. Well, I suppose it makes some people feel good. Pity they are protesting in the wrong place. As I remember seeing somewhere; ‘Everyone wants to go back to nature; but nobody wants to go on foot’.

  • John Marriot
    So your argument Is go and protest somewhere else, nothing to see here guv. Britain has a large population, is a major centre for air travel, has millions of cars, produces thousands of tons of waste and is the fifth largest economy in the world. It isn’t low population forest covered Scandinavia.

  • Peter Martin 19th Apr '19 - 10:26am

    @Nonconformistradical,

    People are going to want to use their cars no matter what you and I think. I’d be in favour of making them emission free if possible.

    Yes we can provide effective and cheap public transport, yes we can provide cycleways. I’d be in favour of both. But its not going to make a huge difference unless the Government impose heavy taxes on all forms of powered four wheel private transport.

    If that’s what Lib Dems want to do then fine. But you need to be clear about that with the electorate.

  • Lord Stern was on radio (as a result of the ‘stunts’); his report years ago was a turning point in the argument because it showed that it makes business sense to change the way we use the planet’s resources and the harmful financial effects of carrying on as we are. He now says the case he once put was inadequate because since then things have changed to make his argument even more strong. The effects of not doing something are even worse than he thought.
    I am pleased that the stunts have drawn attention, but they need now to cool it a bit and others, like our party need to beef up our collecting of evidence and arguments. One fundamental argument is that climate change is a huge harmful symptom of the wrong way in which we use the planet and do business. Thus, Lord Stern’s argument that we need to change the way we do business of all types.

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Apr '19 - 11:00am

    1. The protests are not targeted at the people with the power and money, therefore they will be a costly failure.
    2. The growth in human population is probably the biggest threat to the planet, but the protesters don’t appear to be talking about that. More equitable resource allocation will only delay the increasing scope for environmental degradation and conflict in the longer-term if we don’t limit our numbers as well.
    3. If your protests make people’s lives more miserable then they’ll become more resistant to change, not less. In my large village my household is the most progressive in terms of pursuing eco-friendly practices with regard to resource management, habitat conservation, transportation and waste, but I try to lead by quiet example not get the backs up of my neighbours by disrupting their lives or preaching at them.

  • Peter Hirst 19th Apr '19 - 2:11pm

    From what I saw, they thought they had to do something however disrupting and who can blame them. Who is to blame for that? It is us who decry their actions who are responsible, not them who are just responding. So lock us all up.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Apr '19 - 2:25pm

    @ Caron,
    I agree with you regarding the homes of politicians, and I am puzzled as to why anyone would try glue themselves to public transport, but what makes you think that children are not involved in this protest?

    I think we need to state our particular view of when a child becomes an adult, because for some it appears to be a moveable feast leading a lack of clarity.

    There were tearful young people, all under the age of 17 taking part in the latest direct action protest. For example Felix, along with others holding a banner at Heathrow, ‘ Are we the last generation?’

    ‘I’m Felix, ! am fourteen years old, I am doing this because when I have children I want to be able to tell them that I did everything I could to protect their futures’.

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Apr '19 - 2:27pm

    David Raw – unlike the current climate change protests, the People’s Vote rallies took place on Saturdays, lasted a few hours, didn’t damage anyone’s property or place someone’s home under siege, were organised in cooperation with the Police, and were in support of a distinct proposition. I agree that climate change is a vital issue for us all, but protests in this negative & counter-productive form will fail.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Apr '19 - 2:58pm

    @ Yeovil Yokel,

    2.

    Those who oppose immigration are certainly talking about population growth, especially when it is from areas where population growth is becoming a problem.

    A particular set of values tends to cause people to embrace a clutch of policies that reflect those values, those currently protesting don’t seem to have the clutch of values that one might associate with those climate change deniers/ anti -immigrant groups.

    For liberals like myself, Lord William Wallace’s Liberal Democrat Voice article, ‘Migration and the Liberal Dilemma’, was a thoughtful contribution to a debate that needs to be had amongst those who have liberal values and concerns about immigration and population growth is this country.

    Because of the aforementioned right wing, climate deniers/ anti immigration lot, it is a discussion where angels often fear to tread. Rather than pointing out the demographic time- bomb in some countries, my own experience has shaped my view that we need to deal with the root of why there is a population explosion there.

    I have some ideas, and forced sterilisation and the giving of transistor radios don’t feature. In the meantime I like many others I refuse to hand anything that can be translated as fuel to the fire of the advancing political Right.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Apr '19 - 3:12pm

    John Marriett,
    I have been party to discussions in India amongst some of the burgeoning middle class. I am more than willing to share with you the responses I heard.

    Indians want the economic benefits that the West has taken for granted for years. They ask what economic sacrifices were those in the rich countries of the west prepared to make to prevent climate change.

    I am no friend of the Indian government, tribal people, people with negligible carbon footprints , are suffering climate change now because of OUR inaction over the years, and now we have the temerity to give their, in my opinion appalling government, lessons.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Apr '19 - 3:13pm

    @ John Marriott,
    My apologies for spelling your surname incorrectly.

  • @ Nonconformistradical
    “new homes are built with access to decent public transport systems”

    As a liberal I think everyone should be able to have a car if they want one. The problem is the pollution a car causes and their environmental affects. I therefore think the government should do the things I set out to encourage people to get rid of their petrol cars and replaced them with electric ones.

    Also what is “decent public transport”? I expect my definition is a lot higher than yours. Could the developer be made to put aside funds to subsidise a “decent public transport” for the lifetime of the new homes? I expect not.

    Also in a new development it is often a matter of years from when the first home is built until a bus route is provided nearby.

  • Dilettante Eye 19th Apr '19 - 4:17pm

    I agree that humanity and particularly a Western lifestyle, is seriously polluting our environment and it must be tackled, but is the issue facing civilisation a problem, or a dilemma? It matters because a problem often has one or more solutions, whereas a dilemma, cannot be solved, instead merely managed or adapted to.

    Are we misguidedly asking politics to solve a problem, when in reality what civilisation faces, is an insoluble Tragedy of the commons dilemma?

    You can glue yourself to whatever suits your protest purposes, and I agree wholeheartedly that we’re all frustrated by the severe negative effects fossil fuel has had on our environment. But take the politics and political activism aside for one moment, I ask NOT a political question, but a question based on science and of what can or cannot be done within the laws of physics (excluding fossil fuel use by 2035)?

    Is it actually scientifically possible, to maintain a modicum of a Western lifestyle and not burn carbon?

    I suggest that it’s Not possible, and I’d love to hear someone walk me through how a typical fossil free day might look in the year 2035, (for 66 million people), on a cold November morning when there hasn’t been a breath of a breeze for three days, and it’s a second day of grey overcast sky?

    Remember I’m not making some obscure political statement here, and if your retort is based on carbon neutral offsetting or carbon capture techniques, please fill me in on the scale of the plan required, to achieve such a zero-carbon-fossil-free-goal in 12 years.

  • nvelope2003 19th Apr '19 - 4:49pm

    Dilettante Eye: Many people, myself included, managed to live through the 40s and 50s in largely unheated homes with just one fire and we survived. People will have to learn to adapt if they wish our civilization to survive. There is a Spring and Summer, exercise and warm clothing.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Apr '19 - 4:59pm

    Jonathan Pie. The extinction Rebellion. Youtube

    Some might find this video funny, but perhaps not.

  • Dilettante Eye 19th Apr '19 - 6:56pm

    “Many people, myself included, managed to live through the 40s and 50s in largely unheated homes with just one fire…..”

    And that would be a coal fire, a fossil fuel fire?

    Try it again from the beginning but this time with no coal, natural gas, petrol. diesel or aviation fuel?

    If you really sit down and think about it, there is nothing around you or what you eat, or occupy your time with, which doesn’t have an element of fossil fuel embedded in it.
    Even the electric car everyone thinks is a transport answer, needs large inputs of fossil fuel in its construction. Do you know how many gallons of fossil fuel it takes, to make that one replacement tyre on your electric car after a simple puncture?

    Are we all ready to give up our air miles flying to holiday destinations for the good of humanity. Like I said, we can’t continue with a Western lifestyle and give up fossil fuel.
    We are all expressing a political anger and frustration, whilst attempting the scientifically impossible I’m afraid.

  • Geoffrey Payne 19th Apr '19 - 7:37pm

    On the one hand I feel in a democracy people should obey the law and it could easily be counterproductive to disrupt people’s lives like this.
    On the other hand it is good to see both in these protests and the schoolchildren protests a sense of urgency on this issue that continuously gets ignored in general elections, the media and budget statements.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Apr '19 - 8:10pm

    @David Raw It’s like you really didn’t even read the article when I specifically mentioned the children’s protests which were much more compelling.

    To others, I think David Attenborough telling us we have a decade to sort our shit out will have much more of an effect.

  • John Marriott 19th Apr '19 - 8:23pm

    Of course I don’t expect us on these islands to do nothing, as ‘Glenn’ implies. That, of course, was not my point. If it makes you feel better to protest, that’s fine by me; but what good are you actually doing globally, other than salving your own conscience?

    Only when you get the Trump led USA, or the new regime in Brasil, not forgetting India and China, to give a few examples, to take environmental protection seriously will you make real progress.

  • @Dilettante Eye

    I venture to say that by say 2100 we in this country and indeed billions around the world will be living a “Western” lifestyle using virtually no carbon emissions.

    Technically it would be almost possible today with I guess aviation being the biggest challenge. But NO-ONE is saying that you have to reduce carbon emission totally – just by ENOUGH and quick enough to stop global warming rising by a dangerous amount.

    The question therefore is NOT one of physics but cost (and there are obviously a myriad of financial demands – public and private), what to spend how much on, quickness of adaptation, how far to go and what policies to implement and all those are a question of politics.

    Some advancement in technology – batteries and carbon capture would be useful but they are getting better very quickly and the wind still blows on an overcast day (in this country at least!)

  • Roland Postle 19th Apr '19 - 9:27pm

    @Dilettante Eye

    It’s an interesting question. I think the science (and general common sense) is clear that we’re not going to get carbon neutral in 12 years time never mind the 6 XR are calling for. The only way to have a future is to overshoot viable CO2 emissions a bit – but as little as possible – accept that we will lose a lot more species but *hope* that there’s no major ecological collapse and no Greenland-falling-into-the-sea type events. Then before the end of the century we have to deploy massive carbon capture technology to go significantly carbon negative. I don’t see any reason this isn’t technologically possible but it may require cold-war levels of superpower investment and the kind of international discipline reducing CFC emissions required. Of course we will need to keep burning fossil/bio fuels for many applications and that’ll be fine if we can actually bring CO2 levels down. Using oil to make the actual structure of tyres is even more fine because it can be recovered back to oil afterwards and never enters the atmosphere unless some idiot burns it.

    It should really scare us that we’re already at the point where we’re relying on future technological breakthroughs to save the planet as we know it, but it’s not a reason to not try, and we do need to be doing everything possible now to increase the chances of success.

  • @John Marriott

    There are many reasons for taking action here and protesting even if other countries are not doing enough:
    1. This argument can be applied ad infinitum in EVERY country in which case nothing gets done
    2. To put pressure on other countries and Governments – if we did nothing then their first rejoinder would be why aren’t you doing anything – and we have higher PER CAPITA carbon emissions than China
    3. You can influence only what you can influence and you should at least do that.
    4. Arguably NO country – or very, very few are doing enough – we ALL need to up our game.

    China is a mixed bag – it is both the biggest investor in solar and renewable energy and the biggest user of coal fired power stations. It is doing what it said it would do (by and large) under the Paris agreement but that is not enough and it will reduce carbon emission relative to GDP but GDP growth is large and of course it is a relatively rapidly growing economy with a big population.

    On the USA quite a lot is being done by individual states. California for example would have something like the sixth biggest economy if it was a country on it own and it is very tuned to climate change and as a result is likely to meet its Paris agreement commitments despite Trump withdrawing from it. Nevertheless climateactiontracker.org rates it as “highly insufficient”. It rates the EU, by the way (and I don’t think it does individual European countries) as “insufficient”

  • @Caron Lindsay 19th Apr ’19 – 8:10pm

    It is not and either/or choice but both Attenborough AND Extinction Rebellion. They both have an important if different role to play.

    Non-violent civil disobedience has a long and honourable tradition of being an important catalyst in bringing about political change – the Suffragettes, Ghandi, Martin Luther King etc.

    And it is somewhat sad and disappointing that we have articles on LDV denigrating it when as Liberals we should IMHO be welcoming and celebrating it. We should be encouraging people to rise up and not be cowed into submission by their so called masters and betters. They should not be passive and labelled, tagged and thrown into jail. What is an outrage is that three people should face a month in custody without bail or trial for non-violent civil disobedience. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/18/extinction-rebellion-trio-charged-train-protest-canary-wharf

    On the two aspects you mention, Corbyn doesn’t have young children, they are adults AFAIK and for what I saw it was a very quiet low key protest (if that) – just a handful of people sitting by his fence.

    On the train – it was on the Docklands Light Railway tube system – there are plenty of buses as an alternative in that part of London and it would not have affected the main tube network. But their spokesperson did acknowledge on Newsnight that it might have been a mistake and they were evaluating feedback.

    As has been said annoyance at being delayed is nothing compared to death and destruction due to global warming and freak weather.

    It has made climate change a topic of debate in the media and indeed here on LDV.

    It might not be “funny” as Climate Change is a serious topic but it is “clever” as important part of the on-going political processes and debate around climate change.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Apr '19 - 6:16am

    @ Andy Daer,

    Greta Thunberg is coming to London next week.

    As well as speaking to parliament and MPs, she is hoping to join in the Extinction Rebellion protest if it continues into next week.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Apr '19 - 6:33am

    @ Michael 1,

    Jeremy Corbyn has a wife who was, according to the protestors, visibly upset by their behaviour.

    The protestors outside his home were peaceful, but that doesn’t negate Caron’s important point. A sensitivity towards politicians and their families at a time when MPs are receiving death threats, which in some cases include threats to family members, would not go amiss.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Apr '19 - 7:13am

    @dilettante
    Electricity can travel long distances on HVDC lines, and can be made year round in, eg N Africa central Australia, the Arabian peninsula. How? Concentrated solar power using salt as a working fluid. Add in tidal, heat pumps… it’s perfectly feasible.
    IF CCS can be made to work – I have doubts about whether the liquefied CO2 can be contained in old oil reservoirs for sufficently long – then aviation, cement, steel can still function much as they do now. Or alternatives may need to be developed and more recycling of old materials.

    We have the technology now. What we don’t have is the political will to use it.

  • John Marriott 20th Apr '19 - 9:03am

    Thanks for mansplaining it to me. Do you always have to turn your responses into lectures, which invariably state the obvious? You weren’t ever a teacher, were you? The point I have now made a couple of times is that THEY PICKED THE WRONG COUNTRY. Mind you, I don’t envy their chances of getting away with it in places like Beijing, Delhi or Washington DC!

  • John Marriott 20th Apr '19 - 9:05am

    That last comment was, of course, addressed to our old friend ‘Michael 1’.

  • Dilettante Eye 20th Apr '19 - 9:35am

    “Electricity can travel long distances on HVDC lines, and can be made year round in, eg N Africa central Australia, the Arabian peninsula. How? Concentrated solar power using salt as a working fluid. Add in tidal, heat pumps… it’s perfectly feasible.”

    I think you’ve highlighted the real danger here with regards to our attempts at shedding fossil fuel for alternative sources of energy.
    It’s the belief that technologies which works in a laboratory, can be scaled up and solve the energy dilemma.

    Even if North Africa could be terra-formed, with millions of solar panels, and the HVDC lines run across the Mediterranean,

    a) Whose benefit is it for, and why should Africa agree
    b) North Africa is only two hours different in time zone. Africa stops facing the sun (and stops producing electricity) at exactly the same time when Europeans need the massive charging capacity to plug in their electric cars overnight.
    c) At what cost is security factored into the solar panel terra-forming plan, to stop the likes of Boko Haram holding us to energy ransom by threatening to destroy those solar farms and HVDC lines.
    d) Once you factor in all these extra side costs to the North Africa solar plan, would the resultant electricity be affordable to the average person in European countries.
    e) How do you mine the materials, manufacture, install, maintain, replace, and re-cycle millions of solar panels across Africa, without using fossil fuels.

    I’m not trying to be a downer on the dilemma we face; I’m simply asking people to be (scientifically clear-eyed) and realistic about the massive hurdles. There are lots of good ideas for energy alternatives sitting in laboratories, but scale, energy losses, and unexpected costs (social, political and money), often gets the better of their perceived success.
    Having faith that there are tech solutions just around the corner, is fine as long as those solutions actually turn up on time, and work as expected.

  • nvelope2003 20th Apr '19 - 9:49am

    Dilittante Eye: The point I was making is that there is tremendous waste of energy – heating and lighting left on day and night for no reason except laziness. How many of those children demonstrating in London ever bother to turn of lights or other power consuming appliances when they are not needed ? It always amuses me when I hear people complaining about energy bills when they could save more money by turning things off than switching but they cannot ber bothered because they can afford to waste things – food is another great area of waste because of over buying etc. Maybe Western civilization is all about wasting things ? Stopping waste would be the end of Civilization ? – at least for many people ?

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Apr '19 - 10:57am

    A point to add to the list of issues about large-scale solar farms in N Africa. It may seem attractive to park vast numbers of solar panels there but much of it is desert.
    https://www.mapsofworld.com/world-desert-map.htm

    Deserts are often windy places – that’s why there are lots of sand dunes in N Africa – the winds pile up the sand like that. I’m just wondering how long some of those solar panels might last in a particularly dry, windy and abrasive atmostphere…..

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Apr '19 - 11:00am

    nvelope2003 is making a good point about waste.

    We’re looking into exactly what we’re running and when, what doesn’t need to be switched on for so long etc. And working on improving the insulation.

  • Dilettante Eye 20th Apr '19 - 11:27am

    nvelope2003

    You are right about being aware of the small stuff, the almost so trivial that it seems not to matter, until you scale it up by the millions.

    Here’s one of my personal gripes,.. grrrr!

    Before we recycle our used bean cans and empty marmalade jars, we rinse them before we drop them into the re-cycle bin. If you use the water from a bowl of dish-washing water to rinse those items before re-cycling that would be ideal, but I’ve seen family members (who shall remain nameless!), rinse several cans and jars under the running tap of fresh, clean, drinkable water, before heading for the recycle bin.

    Ironically, we all reduced our ‘flush’, from about 9 litres to 6 litres to save fresh water. And yet, how many millions of us use more than the 3 litres of clean water saved from a flush, to rinse cans bottles and jars, before heading to the burgundy bin?

    You’re right. Whilst we endeavour to solve the big environmental stuff, we also need to be aware of the small trivial stuff that we do a million times a day without thinking about the adverse consequences.

  • Nick Collins 20th Apr '19 - 6:18pm

    @ Jenny Barnes I think your slogans at 8.14 yesterday were too demanding. A more representative formulation might be:

    What do we want?
    Not to be inconvenienced or out of pocket*
    When do we want it?
    Now and forever.

    *others must do something, and others must pay.

  • @John Marriott

    🙂 Lol !!!!

    Sorry if my post annoyed you. This is though a site where we put forward arguments, facts, statistics and prejudices! If you don’t want that then go to another site or I suspect best of all avoid the internet altogether. It’s not unreasonable to present discussion on um.. a site devoted to discussion.

    It is also a tad difficult if I can’t explain how I disagree with you – may be you would prefer the one word “disagree” in future 🙂 ?

    On the “wrong” country. We are better at reducing carbon emissions than some and worse than others. At least on 1 measure we’re worse than China because we emit more carbon dioxide PER HEAD than they do.

    I’d hazard that the independent Committee, on Climate Change (CCC) that advises, monitors and was set up by the Government and is chaired by the former Tory Environment Secretary, John Gummer would also disagree with you.

    It says some good progress has been made but we are NOT on track to meet our 2027 target & to meet our 2050 target “will require existing progress to be supplemented by more challenging measures.”

    As I said climate action tracker – “an independent scientific analysis produced by 3 research organisations” rates the EU action as “insufficient” to meet global warming targets and the UK is average for the EU. The ONLY positive thing that can be said is that is better than the “highly insufficient” rating for the USA.

    We laboured well if not perfectly during the coalition under a Tory PM who wanted to cut the “green cr*p” as did many of his backbenchers. But May is now certainly cutting the “green cr*p”. We need to do much of what @Michael BG outlines so well.

    I’d highlight:

    *Reverse ending of the feed in tariff and other measures to encourage domestic solar panels. The CCC say axing such initiatives is a “missed opportunity”

    • R&D and investment in Carbon Capture and Storage which the CCC says is needed to meet the longer term 2050 target

    *Greater energy efficiency for homes. The CCC is particularly critical of this and says that things have gone backwards under this Tory government.

    But tell me how you disagree with this – I welcome debate through whcih we understand things better. But let’s have it in a grown-up way without too much name-calling – well OK may be a bit 🙂 !

  • John Marriott 20th Apr '19 - 8:53pm

    ‘Michael’, old chap, you still don’t get it, do you? On a site ‘devoted to discussion’ one might expect to get a word in edgeways now and again! Lecturing is not discussing. So, how about answering the question I keep posing : Why choose the U.K. to make your protest? Hopefully your answer will not use more than twenty five words, when a dozen or so might suffice.

  • @John Marriott

    Lol 🙂 !

    And I cut my post in half as well 🙂 !!! I think I set out some very cogent arguments – I could as you seem to prefer throw brickbats.

    Two very good reasons, old chap, to protest here:
    1. They are UK citizens
    2. The UK is not doing nearly enough

    11 words!!!!!!

  • John Marriott 21st Apr '19 - 9:10am

    Michael, you’ve still missed my point! It’s not that they are protesting that I can’t understand is that THEY PICKED THE WRONG COUNTRY IN WHICH TO DO IT!

  • Caron, you are absolutely right. But it is not just ordinary members of the public being inconvenienced by the protest, but patients receiving treatment at St Thomas’ and Guy’s Hospitals. The organisers have been told the impact this is having on patient transport, most critically for those patients undergoing urgent cancer treatment at the Guy’s Cancer Centre. If their treatment is badly interrupted into next week, some of these patients will not survive to see the climate-change policy changes we all wish to see come about.

  • @John Marriott

    “Michael, you’ve still missed my point!…

    Well, with respect I don’t think so.

    “…THEY PICKED THE WRONG COUNTRY IN WHICH TO DO IT!”

    The two reasons you gave initially were:

    “that’s fine by me; but what good are you actually doing globally, other than salving your own conscience?”

    You can take a view on the effectiveness of the protest but as I outlined – the UK is not doing nearly enough.

    “Only when you get the Trump led USA, or the new regime in Brasil, not forgetting India and China, to give a few examples, to take environmental protection seriously will you make real progress.”

    No – you get progress if you implement change here. The point is that as a UK citizen the UK government is one that I can influence – through elections and through influencing electors as well as hopefully getting the Government to think again through direct non-violent action.

    In addition as I pointed out China and the USA have indeed instituted some quite considerable change -approximately implementing their Paris accord commitments – even if some would (rightly) like more.

    You can argue that you should ONLY protest in big countries with large absolute emissions. As I said in my initial counter-argument you can apply that ad infinitum and nothing gets done – reduction is needed EVERYWHERE. You can only influence what you can influence. And we are WORSE per capita than China. And the UK may be “good” but it needs to be better. And if we do more, it strengthens our hand to exert greater moral pressure on other countries to do more.

    THROUGHOUT I HAVE DIRECTLY ADDRESSED YOUR POINTS.

    You can assert I am wrong – which is different – but you have not put counterarguments other than some assertions but just thrown brickbats at me!

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Apr '19 - 4:26pm

    @John Marriott and Michael 1
    Would it be too much trouble for the two of you to stop shouting please!!!

  • @Nonconformistradical 21st Apr ’19 – 4:26pm

    Apologies – but I don’t think the occasional use of capitals for emphasis is not unreasonable. I think it is possible to incorporate some html code for bold, italic as a few do but it is not really in my skill set and it is difficult to indicate emphasis in essentially a text only environment.

  • John Marriott 21st Apr '19 - 5:13pm

    Sorry, Mr Radical. Trying to make a point with ‘Michael 1’ is rather like wrestling with treacle. It would help if he would read exactly what I actually said instead of putting words in my mouth. Did I really argue that you should only protest in ‘big countries with large emissions’? Come to think of it, most of the ‘large emissions’ appear to be coming from him! At least with me you know who you are talking to. No anonymity you see. You will be pleased to hear that this will be my last contribution to this particular thread.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '19 - 5:15pm

    As someone who is a ‘citizen of nowhere’, I see it as important that there are people in the UK who are role models when it come to demonstrating strength of feeling on an issue where politicians have cloth ears. If parliamentary democracy is not giving the issue the importance that it deserves, direct action is the only alternative.

    There are similar demonstrations in India, including Delhi. And protest and dissent against Environmental degradation is an issue in China, with environmental protestors and NGOs working to tackle the issue. (Very upsetting for those in the west who want cheap goods from China.

    In my opinion, just as we must form allegiances with those who fight for liberal values around the world, we must form alliances and allegiances with those who take environmental damage seriously and show that we mean business.

    If those in authoritarian countries have the courage to stand up to cloth eared politicians, by making the issues of the environment newsworthy and high profile, we in more liberal countries ought to show some of the similar courage.

    James Pugh in another thread spoke of those who are no longer Liberal Democrats who hang around like a bad smell.

    James, it is Patchouli oil, love

  • @John Marriott 21st Apr ’19 – 5:13pm

    “what I actually said instead of putting words in my mouth. Did I really argue that you should only protest in ‘big countries with large emissions’?”

    Oh really come off it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You said “They picked the wrong country.”

    And “Mind you, I don’t envy their chances of getting away with it in places like Beijing, Delhi or Washington DC!”

    I have outlined why they should be protesting in this country and indeed why in some regards we are worse than China and India and why protesting in this country may well help move things forward in China and India (which is a democracy) and America (which incidentally has lots of protests and demonstrations).

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '19 - 1:23am

    When you are in a crowded theatre, and someone spots flames and shouts “Fire!” – Do you stop to complain about the guy’s accent, or that his shout was so loud that it hurt your ears a bit – Or do you just run like hell, and profusely thank the guy if you meet him again?

    Let’s run like hell. Once we’ve started running, we can think about which direction might be best.

  • I think most of us are at least vaguely sympathetic to the protesters cause if not their methods because we know that something must be done. However the protesters (unless the media have forgotten to tell us) don’t seem to have a clear path from where we are to where we need to be. How do we make China and India come on board when we can’t even persuade my local council to allow wind turbines (cos the local Tory voters don’t want their view spoilt !). I’d like a hybrid car but have you seen the prices ? No simple answers here !

  • Roland Postle 22nd Apr '19 - 10:10pm

    The UK is estimated to have the 2nd or 3rd biggest net offshored CO2 footprint, a consequence of our low manufacturing service-based economy. That offshoring increased since 1990 which moderately but significantly offsets the -43% domestic emissions figure the government keeps repeating as supposed evidence we’re doing enough (note we were already offshoring considerable emissions in 1990 so our true consumed per-capita CO2 has always been a bit opaque).

    If we stay connected to the EU customs union in some way, with several other big importers of ’embedded’ carbon emissions, we surely could use the weight of EU trade and regulation to exert a lot of influence over countries like China and India, fossil fuel extractors in the Middle East and even potentially Russia.

    We did also, let’s not forget, lead the world in carbonising our economy to excessive levels. Maybe that doesn’t quite give us a responsibility to lead the way in de-carbonising but it certainly provides an excuse other countries use to avoid their own responsibilities. I’d suggest removing that excuse constitutes influence.

    Lastly and maybe most importantly, the XR movement is intended to be international. Numerous local groups have sprung up around the world (okay not China yet) and taken inspiration from the gimmicks/stunts first performed in the UK like the funeral for life on earth thing, and spilling red paint representing blood. I think it’s very clear the weeks long protest in London is intended to reach audiences outside the UK as much as inside. It’s inspiration for other groups. I suspect those protesting are much less fixated on national borders at all than anyone saying “but China..”. Climate change is a global problem, and we live in real-time connected world with a globalised economy.

    So that’s why they didn’t pick the wrong country, imho.

    Very pleasantly surprised to see Jo Swinson was at the protests yesterday! I’m not aware any other MPs have been down there but there may be some? Caroline Lucas voiced support. BoJo was ‘sympathetic’ then did the “but China..” excuse, and failed to mention that as foreign secretary he missed a prime opportunity to pressure China and instead cut back staff working on climate change diplomacy.

  • We live regrettably under a Capitalist economic system. This gives the government limited control over necessary changes. Any draconian changes made here will cripple the fragile distribution system leading to mass civil disobedience. Acceleration of Electric vehicle usage can be encouraged but in all honesty what is needed is population control, educating people to have values other than a meritocracy and a new constitution that dictates the common good rather than self interest. It probably is too late but let’s try.

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