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Direct action justified by failure to act

The activities of direct action environmentalists Extinction Rebellion have caused something of a stir recently.

Efforts to block roads and obstruct the flow of traffic has raised temperatures. Recently, another group, Insulate Britain, took action to stop traffic flows on some major motorways. Their aim is to get more insulation of buildings to halt carbon emissions.

It is always amusing to hear or read mainstream media journalists tackling the environmental direct action activists. They earnestly question why they are disrupting daily activity in such a way.

The question rather misses, or makes the point, namely that it is the normal way of living that has landed us in this crisis in the first place. Going back to “normal” is no answer.

The protesters’ point is that conventional routes of seeking to get government at all levels to act to counter climate and biodiversity catastrophe does not work.

They have not brought the action required, often resulting only in vacuous rhetoric and promises that never seem to be fulfilled.

The direct action is born of total frustration.

Increasing numbers of people recognise the emergency that climate and biodiversity destruction represents. What is more, everyone has seen how world governments can act in an emergency, as evidenced by Covid.

The great irony of the journalists who question the actions of the activists is that quite often the same news bulletin will include another story on the latest devastation caused by climate destruction. The two items do not seem to be joined together.

What government needs to do is recognise the urgency and respond to the demands of the protesters. It is no response to simply seek to criminalise protest. That is not an answer – the protest will simply move elsewhere, taking up a different form.

What the protesters want is action now, not when it is too late with the world gone beyond the tipping point of climate and biodiversity destruction.

The world will be watching when leaders gather for the COP26 meeting in November. More meaningless rhetoric simply won’t do. Action is needed now.

Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See paulfdonovan.blogspot.com



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