Environment Science

Extinction Rebellion: are they doing more harm than good?

Written by Callum Murison

We’ve all seen the headlines. Marches in major cities; protestors chained to railings and, more recently, on top of trains. I think it’s fair to say they certainly divide opinion! But how have they risen to prominence recently, and what lies ahead?

The Extinction Rebellion were founded on the 31st October 2018, with the purpose of using “non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse”. It indeed started with the sorts of events you ordinarily attribute to protestors – blocking bridges; protesting outside parliament – but also the more unusual: such as a mock sinking house being floated down the Thames. But some of the recent protests have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the public, leading some to question their nature.

Now, it first should be said that Extinction Rebellion’s leaders have publicly distanced themselves from the most divisive of these events: on the roof of a London Underground train just 3 weeks ago. And it’s easy to see why. The whole purpose of a public transport system is to allow the mass transportation of people at a much smaller cost to the environment. And all trains on the Underground have been electric for almost 60 years! For maximum impact, this happened during rush hour, in which two protestors unfurled a banner promoting Extinction Rebellion on the train’s roof.

During two weeks last month, there were a whopping 1832 arrests made. This had the effect of greatly irritating all of those who were ‘just trying to get on with their daily lives’. Extinction Rebellion argued that this was one of the main reasons why there has been so much inaction on climate change, but that didn’t stop protestors being dragged off the roof of that train and violently kicked. I would argue that, however stupid a protest, this was still a disproportionate response.

But let’s look at their motive. Is it true that the government are failing to act on climate change? They might argue not, but the general consensus would be that they are failing to do nearly enough. Is it fair to say that we have to try and force the government to act? Absolutely. Is it true that just ‘going about our daily lives’ is exacerbating the problem? Definitely.

So my conclusion would be this: their protest on the Tube train was daft – bearing birth to far more critics of their cause. But is it all for good intentions? Yes. Is it necessary? Yes. So are they causing more harm than good overall? I would say not.

About the author

Callum Murison

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