When greens see red

Is disruptive protest what we need to combat climate change?

It may well be that the worldwide Coronavirus crisis has prompted many of us to an increased awareness of climate change, the environment and the damage we humans have inflicted, and continue to inflict, upon our planet.

Whatever the motivation, there is no doubt that more and more of us now realise that much needs to be done urgently if the earth is to recover and thrive for future generations.

New, high profile environmental initiatives are being launched, including one by Prince William, which will award £50m over the next ten years to planet repairing projects. The Earthshot prize is billed as “the most prestigious environment prize in history,” and at its launch Prince William said he believed the next decade to be “crucial,” as the earth reaches tipping point.

In another new scheme, the “Count Us In,” campaign, backed by businesses such as Ikea, HSBC and Reckitt Benckiser, urges a billion people worldwide to make permanent a few small lifestyle changes and thereby significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The campaign offers 16 steps, some as simple as eating local food, forgoing meat at some meals and keeping clothes for longer. People are invited to sign in online to register the steps they want to take.

These, and other schemes, will make a difference. But some new environmental action is proving far less positive or popular.

Campaigners from the Oxford branch of Extinction Rebellion were among 21 people charged by police after a daylong protest against the high-speed rail line between London and the West Midlands.

Activists spent nearly ten-hours blocking the gates to the HS2 site at West Hyde in Hertfordshire. Other activists from Extinction Rebellion delayed distributions of national newspapers by blocking access to printing presses at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, Knowsley in Merseyside and near Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.

Among other demands, the group wants the government to do more to act on climate change. And at Smithfield Market, furious butchers fought with members of the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) group before chasing them out of the central London site.

The protesters claimed they were “simply standing up for animal rights,” and would not back down until the killings stop. Projects verses protests, all in the name of the planet, but which is the way to go?

What our surveys show

With 55% of those surveyed agreeing that the threat from climate change is very real and that we need to do more to combat it, and only 29% claiming it’s real but that we are already doing enough, it is at least clear now that climate change scepticism has become little more than a fringe opinion. Just 2% of those surveyed believe that climate change is not real, while a further 9% say there is nothing we can do about it.

So with a majority believing that action is needed, the initiative launched by Prince William, in collaboration with the world’s favourite environmentalist, Sir David Attenborough, met with massive support, with a huge 80% in favour of it and believing it is an effective way of bringing about the changes needed to combat climate change and other environmental issues such as species extinction.

In contrast, though, a majority (49%) felt that the sort of protests aimed at civil disturbance, such as those organised by Extinction Rebellion, are not effective as a means of bringing about environmental change, whilst only 26% believe they are effective.


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