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Perhaps, for some, it started when they couldn’t get to work on time because a bunch of people in crazy costumes were blocking a street, or bridge, or access to a building. For others, the lightbulb may have appeared over their heads when one of the movement’s leaders appeared on BBC’s The Andrew Neil Show and didn’t quite seem to know what she was talking about. But the tide of public perception is finally turning in the case of Extinction Rebellion, the interventionist organization whose tactics include dressing up in handmaid’s outfits, performing an interpretive dance, and super-gluing themselves to the pavement.
Much of the media-driven world has been taken in by the alarmism that spreads from Extinction Rebellion. They have that “right side of history” vibe though half of what they say is wrong. Even the great Margaret Atwood, a woman who is not easily duped, managed to get caught up in the panic to the point where she wore their logo as fashion while accepting her recent Booker Prize.
The gestures of Extinction Rebellion are undoubtedly upper middle class— with elaborate costumes, the scintillating sparkle of youth, and ability to take time off from work or school without any apparent consequences. Probably some universities offer extra credits for protest attendance.
But there is one united group of people who seem to have had enough of the antics of alarmism from these well-funded upstart activists—people who actually work for a living. Workers throughout the world have made it plain that they are sick to the back teeth of being late or missing work entirely because a bunch of kids want to play on the train tracks.
What eco-radicals like Extinction Rebellion fail to realize is that the optics are all wrong. For a generation steeped in marketing and branding, they should know better than to make people’s lives materially worse while they keep telling them their lives are going to be materially worse if they don’t take precautions for the impending catastrophe. And the ask that Extinction Rebellion is making is huge.
It’s not the standard eco-warrior wail of “do the little things you can, pick up trash, recycle, take the stairs, turn off lights, shut the water when you’re brushing your teeth, ride your bike, reuse, repurpose, recycle.” No. It’s basically “Stop everything you’re doing or we’re all gonna die! Don’t fly on airplanes. No more commuting. Eat bugs. Also, We’re better than you.” That’s just not super helpful, and the more time goes by where, in fact, we don’t all succumb to the fumes of the burning Amazon, the more no one will believe them or have time for this life-disrupting nonsense.
Claims made by the Extinction Rebellion bely their underlying cause. It’s not just that they want human progress under power of fossil fuels to grind to a halt, they want us all to feel super badly about ourselves. When we fly in planes, whether to visit our grans out on the opposing coast or simply to vacation, Extinction Rebellion wants us to feel guilty for that. When we drive our cars, load up on gas? Same. Shame. Even babies, the procreation of the species, is something this extremist environmentalist group can’t get behind.
The cause of environmental action has a certain nobility about it, but it has to be balanced with the needs of the global population, and the push for further technological progress. Humanity is not going to move forward and find the next great new energy source if instead of pressing forward we sit on our hands and hope that if we just hold our breath for long enough the earth will get better all around us. Being alive just doesn’t work like that.
The more Extinction Rebellion gets in the way of regular people working hard and trying to live their lives, the more irrelevant they will become.
That’s why it’s so heartening to see London commuters take no guff off these protesters who are determined to make getting to work even worse. Now, if they would only try it in New York.