The day of the jacket 4

Ben Pile writes at Spiked – the website of Brendan O’Neill, a net-surfer’s island of political acuity – about a group that calls itself “Extinction Rebellion” (acronym, XR).

The extinction it is against is the one that man-made global warming is bringing (they passionately believe) to the human race and possibly all living things on earth.

Nothing says ‘take me seriously, I am here to save the planet’ quite like a fully grown man, with a full beard, dressed up as a Girl Guide.

(See the picture at the end of the post)

And –

And nothing better forges a sense of solidarity with ordinary people than obstructing London’s bridges and roads, causing traffic gridlock. Protests such as this took place in London over the past two weekends as part of a new movement called Extinction Rebellion (XR), which claims the human race is heading for extinction and calls for carbon emissions to be cut to net zero by 2025.

For decades, direct action of this kind has been environmental activists’ preferred mode of expression. Movements with a weight of numbers behind them only need to demonstrate their size to illustrate how much they resonate with the wider public. Environmental protests, having no such public support, instead use direct action or spectacle to draw attention to themselves. As well as blocking London’s roads, XR activists also glued their hands to government buildings and to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Such stunts get a great deal of attention, but they rarely arouse much public sympathy. …

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato claims that direct action is necessary because a conspiracy of ‘wealthy individuals and multinational corporations, backed by complicit politicians, has subverted the political process and blocked action’. But this conspiracy theory gets things completely the wrong way round. Climate change is almost exclusively a preoccupation of the wealthy. The global poor cannot afford to do without cheap fossil fuels like coal, while the working class in the West struggles to absorb the high cost of green taxes. Billionaires and corporations, on the other hand, fall over themselves to demonstrate their green credentials. And politicians from all parties, far from resisting environmentalist demands, compete to be the champions of environmentalism.

The UK’s Climate Change Act, passed in 2008 by the Labour government, was the first of its kind in the world. It bound the country to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 per cent. The current Conservative government is now considering plans that are even more extensive: reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. This will include the abolition of petrol and diesel engines, among other things. The only actual fetter on politicians’ green ambitions, so far, has been political reality. XR and its supporters demand regressive, authoritarian and controlling legislation to limit consumption and production. But in general, voters do not want to be poorer and less free.

For a glimpse of what the political reality has in store for green ambitions, take a peek at the protests on the other side of the channel. While last weekend’s Extinction Rebellion protests reportedly attracted 2,000 greens in London, the gilet jaunes movement, sparked by rising fuel taxes, has brought hundreds of thousands of people on to streets and motorways across the whole of France. Despite the inconvenience caused by the blockades and go-slows, the protests enjoy the support of around 70 per cent of the French public, reflecting the high level of opposition to President Macron’s green taxes.

France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) took to the streets last weekend for the second weekend in a row, with over 100,000 taking part in marches, blockades and go-slows. The previous weekend saw nearly 300,000 protesters all across the country, threatening to bring France to a standstill. The yellow vests take their name from the hi-vis jackets that all French drivers are required to own by law, which protesters have fashioned into their symbol of resistance. The movement is spontaneous, leaderless and not connected to any existing political party, union or organisation. Its ad-hoc demonstrations are organised on social media. What began as a protest against an environmentalist hike in fuel taxes has come to encapsulate a more general anger with the status quo. Many are particularly angry about the cost of living. [From Spiked]

Moreover, there is no other ‘rebellion’ in history that can match XR’s desperate, fawning obsequiousness. Protesting outside Buckingham Palace last Saturday, activist Gail Bradbrook read aloud a letter to the monarch: ‘With great humility, we now come to your majesty to implore you to act on our behalf: to fulfil your sacred duty to protect the realm.’ What kind of ‘rebellion’ appears ‘with great humility’? What kind of ‘rebellion’ begs the monarch to limit the material freedom of her subjects?

Sticking with the France comparison, this is akin to the starving peasants of the French Revolution demanding of the king and queen not only no cake, but also less bread.

The protesters themselves never tire of making historical comparisons. They flatter themselves with allusions to the Suffragettes, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But King had ‘a dream’ in which places ‘sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice’. XR and other environmentalists, on the other hand, can only offer a nightmare vision: a catastrophic climate collapse to which the only remedy is ecological austerity.

See our critical portrait of Gandhi here.

History is full of weird, religious zealots with apocalyptic prognostications. While the climate debate is often presented as being about ‘the science’, environmentalists like XR’s Molly Scott Cato emphasize not science, rationalism and debate, but spiritual feelings. ‘As a Quaker, I don’t believe that spiritual wisdom resides in books or rituals but in the still, small    voice that tells you when something must change’, she writes. The environmentalists’ belief in an impending apocalypse is a kind of religious conviction.

The Quakers’ still small voice of conscience doesn’t trouble them too much in North Korea, where they run collective farms worked by slave labor. [Note the second last paragraph of the article linked to, bearing in mind that in North Korean all farms are collective and use forced labor.]

Force is the method all these saviors of the earth favor.

Another XR campaigner and co-religionist of Scott Cato, Rupert Read, writes in the Conversation that, ‘As a Quaker, I cherish the opening words of the famous Shaker hymn: ‘Tis the gift to be simple’. Chillingly, he adds his own twist: ‘It isn’t enough to live a life of voluntary simplicity.’ Climate activism, ultimately, is about the authoritarian regulation of other people’s lives.

Doom-mongers have existed throughout history. But the question is, why have the likes of Extinction Rebellion become so prominent, causing such a splash in the media? It is a symptom of our times. The movement has emerged in an atmosphere where politicians struggle to offer a compelling vision of the future and are instead preoccupied with staving off a looming catastrophe. The self-styled rebels of XR, rather than standing against this pessimistic zeitgeist, epitomize it.

Such climate activists are in every country in the West, working to regulate all our lives, wherever we may be. They would have us live in enforced poverty.

The human race just might survive, they preach, if it limits its activities to the minimum necessary to gain bare subsistence.

It is an atavistic creed, yearning to return to primitive ways in which the human race could probably survive but individuals would  have very short lives.

They are extreme puritans, and their rule would be totalitarian. Criticism would not be tolerated. Some environmentalists already call for prison sentences and some think capital punishment would be just for dissenters.

Now is the time to put on figurative yellow jackets and do some serious rebelling against them.

 

     rebels against carbon dioxide

Posted under Britain, Climate, Environmentalism, France by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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