Without doubt, all of us with any hint of social conscience are totally supportive of the ultimate aims of Extinction Rebellion. We do understand that without drastic action the world in which we live is in dire danger of imploding through the human destruction of the environment we hold dear. Whether it be the saving of the essential rain forests of South America, the pollution corporate businesses pump into the atmosphere or the effects of mass farming, we all must make a stand or risk losing the planet for future generations.
But this morning’s antics in London, specifically on the London Underground system, I personally feel (and I reiterate the word personally – these views are entirely my own) are having the reverse effect to what is intended. You cannot afford to alienate those very people you are hoping to influence by disrupting their lives – even putting their lives in potential danger. It is misguided at best, sabotaging the cause at worst. And negative press coverage is the inevitable outcome. Note how the quote from one commuter – “I’m only trying to get to work to feed my family” – has already been widely highlighted by the media.
The population en masse, not the government, has the power to dictate what happens in this country. If you don’t like the efforts of the government of the day, then vote them out. It’s our ultimate weapon and one which, if used with intelligence, could potentially have a far greater influence on policy than any disruptive protest. Both government and protest organisers should be wary of under-estimating the electorate. For Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell to defend the Tube action, saying “the public, I don’t think, realise quite how serious this situation is” is not only demeaning the intelligence of the populate, but also patronising them to an unacceptable level. You cannot hope to change not only the perceptions of the public at large, or government, by causing mass disruption.. Time and time again it has proven not to work, and turns the public against whatever cause you are promoting.
We fully understand the danger our world is in. And more than anyone, the youth of the world understands. Let’s face it, it is future generations who will suffer the consequences of previous generations’ abuse of our planet. That is why activists like Greta Thunberg appear to have greater savvy when it comes to playing the media. Whether it be sailing across the Atlantic to attend a UN summit or peaceful protests by concerned children, these actions are way more likely to promote positive media reports than disrupting people’s lives as they travel to work – and the subsequent violence that ensued.
And I also question the target of the protests. Surely we are trying to promote public transport as a positive way forward in getting people out of their cars on their way to work? And isn’t the electric Tube one of the greenest forms of public transport? The train drivers’ union Aslef were correct in saying that the Tube and other public transport were “part of the solution to climate change, not the problem.”
Yes, we need to increase understanding of the effect climate change is having on our planet. But that is done through persuasion and education, not through making your target audience’s life hell. It quite simply does not work. And so it is not only governments that should take note of the concerns – and actions – of the world’s youth, it is also the supposedly more mature climate change activists.
We have to save our planet, that is undeniable. And to do so we must energise and motivate the population to force change in policy. Alienating that very population is not the way to go about it.