Why is Extinction Rebellion being given such an easy ride? It isn’t hard to imagine the outrage which would rightly follow if, say, Brexiteers were to smash windows, block roads and bridges in the cause of trying to force the government into a no-deal Brexit. We would never hear the last of the Guardian condemning them for ‘fascist’ methods and attempting to bypass democracy. Yet Extinction Rebellion has been allowed to get away with all this for the past three days with hardly a murmur of protest from government ministers, MPs, commentators or anyone else.
The whole things seems to have been treated a great big joke. While police have made almost 300 arrests, many have been released straight away and allowed to go back to their protests – one such protester even popped up for a soft interview on the Today programme this morning. Only when the group threatened to close down the tube did Mayor of London Sadiq Khan raise an objection. As Khan feebly pointed out, it is a pretty bizarre way of going about an environmental protest, to stop people using public transport.
This morning’s interview on the Today programme with Extinction Rebellion activist Farhana Yamin was a case in point of the softness with which this group is being treated. Yamin, it turns out, has also been an IPCC lead author. An obvious line of questioning would have been: is it really appropriate for a lead author of IPCC reports – which are supposed to be an independent body giving dispassionate advice to world governments – to be involving herself in street protests? But no, she was allowed a free run to ramble on without anyone challenging her. She was allowed to assert that 'we are expecting droughts and floods later this year which are going to affect the British economy and British agriculture and food production' without being asked what evidence she had for this.
I have not heard a single interview in which anyone from Extinction Rebellion has been asked to justify its demand that the world achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, nor be challenged on what that would mean for the global economy. Huge efforts and investments are being made to switch to renewable energy, but you can’t simply take away fossil fuels and expect the world to switch to more expensive and less reliable forms of energy without severe repercussions for living standards – especially hitting the world’s poor. Why has that point not been put to the middle-class Marxists who seem to make up Extinction Rebellion?
Extinction Rebellion is a continuum of the anti-globalisation movement, which has leapt upon climate change as a vehicle with which to further its battle against capitalism. It behaves as if it owns the issue of climate change – that no-one thought of trying to cut carbon emissions until they did – and is being allowed to get away with this pretence. Actually, it was Thatcher who first committed Britain to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 years ago – at a time the Left was supporting mass coal-burning, and leapt up in anger whenever a mine was proposed for closure.
Extinction Rebellion is no group of visionaries – just a left-wing mob determined to disrupt the lives of the rest of us. They need to be treated as such.