The failure of the Environmental movement
The demand for environmental action intertwined with left-wing politics and bizarre protests without clear purpose leaves the general public questioning, what's the point?
The purpose of the environmental movement is to protect the welfare of the environment. Success in this campaign has brought the discussion into the agenda of governments but issues of people questioning its legitimacy such as US President Donald Trump and the failure of gaining public support has brought the movement to a standstill.
Protests in London are notorious for bringing movement to a halt. In 2019 Extinction Rebellion members campaigned across London tube stations by climbing upon roofs and glueing themselves to the sides of the trains. In Canning Town station hostility erupted as activists were attacked by commuters. The protest backfired as rather than conveying their opinions to the public they instead frustrated travellers trying to go to work. The message was lost through the targeting of public transport because it is environmentally-friendly and disrupting electric trains could lead to people using cars, on the day itself and in the future overall worsening carbon dioxide emissions.
The message of the protest was not only misplaced but conveyed another issue, one of class. This issue of middle-class activists disrupting working-class people during the protest is not uncommon. In a now deleted tweet from that Former director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, Tom Kibasi said it was good to see “working class Londoners… standing up” for themselves.
The issue of the class in the environmental movement is understanding. The sacrifices activists are willing to make in order to stop global warming are ones that will effect the poor the most. This impact on working class people is already visible. Falkirk in Scotland as part of a green initiative installed electric boilers in around nine-hundred council houses over the past ten years. This change caused energy bills to skyrocket to more than five-thousand pounds a year. This ill-planned protest pressured act has caused locals to choose between necessities. Mother of five, Lisa McGregor has had to rely on the food bank to feed her children.
Climate strike demonstrations diversely filled with white middle-class people connected by the environmental movement. Not all activists are middle-class but arriving at a climate strike with protesters sporting handmade Extinction rebellion pins, discussing other protests they attended in the poshest accent you have ever heard it is clear that the majority of activists are privileged. Extinction Rebellion and its strategy of courting arrest is only possible with the safety net of middle-class families. Working-class and minority groups cannot afford to be arrested.
Extinction Rebellion have stated on its website its issues of class saying "We are working to improve diversity in our movement." Protests like the digging up of the lawn outside Trinity College causing criminal damage whilst also obstructing a police officer is one of many ways protesters grab attention for their issue in the protest but the focus is often on the actions then the reasoning behind it.
The human impacts of the environmental movement
- London station protest: commuters prevented from getting to work by Extinction Rebellion activists
- Falkirk Council installed eco-friendly electric boilers in 900 council houses causing prices to rise dramatically forcing residents into further poverty
- Ambulance forced to change route to Addenbrooke hospital in
Cambridge during Extinction Rebellion roadblock
- Protest in London blocked direct routes to London hospital causing patients to walk for treatment
- Extinction Rebellion members destroyed the lawn at Trinity College, Cambridge university
When thinking of the environmental movement the association to left-wing politics is clear. left-wing political parties such as the Labour party have in-bedded climate change action into their policies stating it as a left-wing movement but this connection only pushes centrist and right-wing members of the public away from the cause as seen in the most recent UK elections.
The issue of extremism in the devotion to politicians and the hatred in questioning them or opposing them as seen with the former leader of the labour party, Jeremy Corbyn who was idolised by his supporters. Environmental polices were central to the last Labour Manifesto. Criticism of him often led to backfire by his followers especially online which included the questioning of his climate policies. Shutting down debate meant that when the public had the opportunity to vote, the majority rejected him.
Southamptons Extinction Rebellion group can often be seen gathering for climate strikes outside Southampton Civic Centre. The aims of the protest were mixed with many of the protesters attending not knowing the aim but instead boasting there own reasoning. Activists gathered singing "here is our anti-fracking song and we are anti-frackers too." Asking one attendee why they were protesting he said "Climate change is a serious issue and a issue that effects everybody and most everything, the working class will be the people most affected, if we don't do any serious action soon." Another activist was handing pamphlets out on a future protest against Prime minister, Boris Johnson.
The issue of associating a political viewpoint with the environmental movement is that many people do not share the same far-left views, often being more centrist and feeling overwhelmed by the intrusive behaviour of activists at protests, though activist group Extinction Rebellion has stated that gaining the support of the public isn't its goal but alienating people isn't either.
Aiming to not gain majority support by the nation may be one of the main faults of the environmental movement. The Green Party has only one MP in Parliament. Most movements asking for drastic changes in society are unpopular but the environmental movement has muddied itself with separate issues and politically aligned itself so that oppositions and the central majority are resistant against hearing the movements demands.
The environmental movement has successfully been pushed to the front of the political agenda with positive impacts on making the general public aware of the issues. These positives are only undermined by the action of some environmental activists pulling stunts like glueing themselves onto public transport which may bring attention to the cause but not good attention. The reaction shows a push of everyday working class people away from the movement. The movements point is to save the environment but this goal cannot be achieved without majority support and as the population heads into a twelve year ultimatum according to the IPCC it only shows that the methods of campaigners need to change.