It’s tempting to laugh at Extinction Rebellion. I do it myself frequently. Those yoga sessions on Westminster Bridge. The amateur dramatics of wandering around in naff crimson-red outfits to symbolise ‘the common blood we share with all species’. That lame rave-style dancing they do as some bloke in an overlong beard plays the drums while his parents in the Home Counties wonder when he’s going to come to his senses and join his dad’s law firm.
It’s all so ridiculous. They fancy themselves as revolutionaries but really this is just Hampstead and Homerton, the posh and the hip, descending on Westminster for a few days to wail about how howwible modern society is. It’s primal therapy for crusties. It’s an emotional release for the modernity-sceptic middle classes. The temptation is to chortle at them, or shout ‘Get a job!’, as I did a couple of times in central London yesterday.
And yet that isn’t enough. Because there is actually something quite chilling about Extinction Rebellion. Let’s be frank: they’re nuts. These people are crazy. If society were to cave in to their demented demands, humankind would be propelled into the most devastating form of austerity imaginable.
If they got their way, the poor would stay poor, the Third World would never develop, meat would be banned, flying would be unaffordable to all but the wealthiest people, and you would be shamed for having children. These people want to inflict misery and penury and barrenness on humankind and it’s about time more of us said so.
Extinction Rebellion protests increasingly resemble cult-like gatherings. I’ve seen these people forming circles and swaying back and forth as they warn of the hellfire that will shortly consume mankind. ‘What will you do when the world gets hot, what, what?’, they chant.
Like all end-of-world sects they warn of floods and fire and pestilence. ‘Sea levels are rising’, their leaflets pronounce. They also tell us that ‘Africa is on fire’, which of course isn’t true. I can’t be the only person who finds it pretty obnoxious that these mostly white, well-off, time-rich protesters reduce the complex continent of Africa to a mere symbol, to a tragic victim of ‘fire’, and then use it as a warning sign to the rest of us. Gross.
They demand the reduction of carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. That’s less than six years away. Such an extremist measure would involve the shutting-down of industry and the reining-in of progress on a scale that we have never witnessed since the Industrial Revolution mercifully dragged us off the land 200 years ago and gave us something approaching a decent life.
Factories would close, jobs would be lost, driving would no longer be an option for many people. It might even be difficult to switch on the lights. As one Extinction Rebellion activist said on Sky News on Sunday:
‘I look around me at all this electricity...and yet we are facing a catastrophe.’
So we should we get rid of electricity? These people want you in a yurt cooking locally-sourced veg over a naked flame with no TV or iPads or travel or fun. Their vision is genuinely backward and depressing.
They want to ban meat. That was the demand of the Animal Rebellion — FFS — that occupied Smithfield meat market in London yesterday. They want to close down all coal mines, going even further than Thatcher, who only wanted to close down certain coal mines.
As for China and India and Africa and those other parts of the world that long to achieve the same levels of industrialisation and modernity as we Westerners enjoy — they’re horrified by all of that. Whenever I raise the economic and material aspirations of people in the Third World in debates with Extinction Rebellion activists, they say things like:
‘Those people should learn from our mistakes. The world can’t sustain any more fossil-fuel activity.’
That is, stay as you are, in your condition of poverty, because otherwise your societies will get more polluted. What a nasty, arrogant sentiment.
Extinction Rebellion is a menace to reason and progress. It is reliant on the politics of fear. It uses exaggeration and hyperbole and emotion to try to convince us that End Times are around the corner. It demonises as a ‘denier’ anyone who questions this depressing, anti-human script. And it campaigns, tirelessly, for less — less production, less consumption, less meat, less travel, less joy.
As George Monbiot honestly put it in his 2006 book Heat, the most important thing about environmentalism is that it is a campaign ‘not for abundance but for austerity’. Exactly. And Extinction Rebellion confirms this beyond all doubt.
XR is a movement of privileged, comfortable people who lecture the plebs and foreigners about our allegedly destructive habits and who want to create a more austere and punishing society. Every sensible person will reject such misanthropy and continue supporting the genuinely progressive project of liberating all of mankind from poverty.