Editor’s comment: Why I back the climate campaign

An Extinction Rebellion's climate change protest in central London. Photo: ANNA MUNRO

An Extinction Rebellion's climate change protest in central London. Photo: ANNA MUNRO - Credit: Archant

As I write this, Extinction Rebellion’s protests in central London have entered their second week. More than 1,000 people have been arrested and a few dozen have been charged with low-level crimes.

I can’t remember the last time there was so much national debate about climate change, which for me pretty conclusively vindicates their actions in the face of any criticism they might face for inconveniencing commuters or absorbing large amounts of police resource: remember they aren’t just trying to get the attention of politicians, but of the millions of voters to whom they are accountable.

It’s understandable that so much energy has been poured into lobbying against a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks and months.

But the risks of climate change are incomparably greater – and yet it seems like this threat to trump all others is all but ignored, if not by the public then certainly by our leaders, who have barely even debated it in years.

If politicians took it seriously – if Britain set more ambitious targets to avert or lessen its impact, and laid the groundwork for those targets to succeed – there’d have been no need for the protests that have won this cause international attention in recent days.

I admit it is hard to see the government changing gear because of the actions of a few thousand or even a few million peaceful campaigners – after all, we invaded Iraq, tuition fees went up, tax avoidance is still an enormous problem for the economy and we haven’t had that second referendum yet.

But if we think of large-scale protest movements less in terms of their immediate demands and more in terms of their ability to grab people’s attention, to change narratives around what the public does and does not care about, to push topics higher up politicians’ agendas in months and years to come, then suddenly they don’t seem quite so fruitless.

Most Read

Extinction Rebellion are fighting for all of us. They have my support.