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Enviro Eco Nature    H2'ed 11/10/22

Blocking roads isn't crazy - It's our last hope that sanity will prevail

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A lack of public concern in the West at dealing with the impending climate catastrophe isn't accidental. It's been engineered.

COP27, the United Nations' annual climate conference attended by world leaders, kicked off in Egypt at the weekend in the midst of a wave of civil disobedience actions in the UK.

The protests have been led by environmental groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, and come as oil giants have announced massive profits from surging energy prices caused by the Ukraine war, and new reports show catastrophic climate change is soon to reach a tipping point, becoming irreversible.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, warned on the eve of the summit that the world would be "doomed" if rich, heavily carbon-dependent economies could not reach an agreement with poorer countries. New figures show temperature rises across Europe have risen twice as fast as the global average, leading to increasingly unstable weather.

In recent direct actions, car showrooms, luxury department stores and oil lobbyists' headquarters have been splattered with orange paint. Waxworks of the royal family in Madame Tussauds have been caked. Famous works of art have been targeted with soup and mashed potatoes. Scientists have occupied a car plant. The lobby of the British parliament has been taken over by demonstrators. And activists have scaled suspension bridges and blocked roads.

There are signs too that the up swell of frustration and anger at the lack of urgency from western leaders and media in addressing the unfolding climate catastrophe is spreading. In the United States, protesters disrupted ABC's daytime television show The View, accusing the network of platforming climate deniers and dedicating only six hours to the climate crisis in the whole of 2021.

Most of these actions have been ignored by the media or dismissed as the antisocial posturings of individuals divorced from the concerns of ordinary people.

That was certainly how the most publicised act of civil disobedience was received: two activists threw tomato soup at one of Van Gogh's Sunflower paintings before glueing their hands to the wall next to the artwork.

The protesters were variously accused of vandalising a work of art (they hadn't, it was protected by glass); of choosing the wrong target (they noted that their protest was to highlight how society values representations of nature over nature itself); and of being white and privileged (their defenders pointed out that they were using their privilege precisely because others who also cared about the environment could not afford to do so).

Lip Service

But the criticism most widely hurled at these various forms of direct action is that they are counterproductive, that they antagonise ordinary people and make them stop listening.

There is an obvious rejoinder. No one appeared to be listening before the activists took to the streets. Endless scientific warnings have made little impact on public discourse. The establishment media have paid only lip service to the dangers, even as the effects on the climate have become harder to overlook. And governments have made placatory noises while doing nothing meaningful to reverse the collision course humanity is on with the planet.

That was underscored by the British government's recent decision to issue more than 100 new licences to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea. Officials are also drafting legislation to remove 570 European Union-derived protections on the environment.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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