One of the biggest headlines of September 2021 described how a woman had been paralyzed after being forced to sit in traffic and endure a stroke for six hours. The cause of this traffic? A protest orchestrated by climate “activist” group Insulate Britain, an “offshoot” of the infamous Extinction Rebellion. Commuters were halted in traffic for hours as protestors sat on the M25 in opposition to the government’s decision to scrap the Green Homes Grant in March, thus leaving many houses without insulation.
This isolated incident would be distressing enough, but the group continues to sit on roads to get their message across, most notably on October 4th, when activists blocked off three roads in London during rush hour.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of Extinction Rebellion is their counterintuitive, and often redundant, methods. The 17th of October 2019 saw protestors sitting on the roofs of London Underground trains, thereby disrupting the movement of thousands of people across London and highlighting the confusing lengths the group goes to in order to be acknowledged. They disrupt public transport, yet they also disrupt the roads; how do they expect people to travel at all? Furthermore, these efforts only contribute more to climate change: road protests mean cars are on the road longer, thus leading to a higher volume of greenhouse gases, worsening the state of the climate. Studies have shown that these protests are not effective at gaining approval for their cause, instead leading to further public disapproval: a recent YouGov poll highlighted that 54% of Brits oppose the actions of Extinction Rebellion.
The demographics of Extinction Rebellion members make it abundantly clear that they are out-of-touch with the common person. A study from the University of Exeter, Keele University and Aston University found that most Extinction Rebellion protestors are of a high social class: of those who took part in protests in 2019, two thirds identified as middle class and around 85% had a degree.
It should be noted that the core cause of Extinction Rebellion is valid, regardless of how poorly they execute their protests. A scientific report published on the 12th of November 2020 detailed an Earth system model that showed even if all greenhouse gas emissions halted, there would be a self-sustained thawing of permafrost regardless. Natural disasters continue to ravage the planet. Notably, there have been over forty thousand wildfires in the United States in 2021, and at least 25 people have died as a result of heavy rain and flooding in several parts of India.
While it is quite evident that the continuous inaction of world leaders and the subsequent unchecked corporate greed are responsible for the climate crisis as we know it, this doesn’t absolve irresponsible activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion of their responsibility.
In order to bring about meaningful change, they should use more effective means of protest as opposed to disrupting the lives of innocent people, who play no larger part in the furthering of the climate crisis than they do. An example of this is the widespread Black Lives Matter protests that occurred following the murder of George Floyd. Millions of people took to the streets in protest of the police officer that murdered Floyd, eventually bringing about the officer’s conviction.
If two years of Extinction Rebellion’s activity has proven anything, it is that the current efforts of the group are being judged unhelpful by the British public with regard to the necessary effort required to reduce carbon emissions. I believe they should allocate their resources towards more constructive protests that will resonate with the public, thus bringing about a better tomorrow for the world.