I tacitly support climate protestors, but not the police

Global warming is an expression of the carelessness of capitalism and requires radical solutions as advocated by climate protestors, but the police handling of protests was an embarrassment, writes Christopher Goff.

The climate protestors who brought parts of central London to a standstill over the Easter period certainly had a good point; at least two really good points in fact, and probably more besides. But the touchy-feely, ultra expensive handling of their actions by the Metropolitan Police was risible. A more direct strategy on the part of the police would have been much kinder on the public purse, having also the effect of saving police officers a huge amount of embarrassment.

I think probably the most important message that climate protestors were trying to get across was the need for radical solutions to deal with the problem of global warming. The claim of some that global warming is an issue that can be solved within the established framework of market-orientated capitalism is fast losing credibility against a background of rising temperatures, hence the change in thinking amongst many in favour of adopting a more radical approach to tackling the problem. Extinction Rebellion, the group organising the protests, lists as one of its aims 'reducing the UK's carbon emissions to zero by 2025'.

While nationalists tend not identify with capitalism – people with a strong social-ethic were never going to much like an economic system created by the self-interested – it has nevertheless become the dominant economic force of our age. However, and encouragingly, more and more people are beginning to question just how sustainable the capitalist economic model really is, only not in terms of how economically sustainable it might be, but instead of how environmentally sustainable the capitalist system of wealth creation actually is. Increasing numbers of people are beginning to question the ability of our planet to carry such a large and greedy system of wealth creation in this age of global warming and climate change. And increasing numbers of people are beginning to arrive at the conclusion that only by addressing the problems inherent with capitalism can we manage to get our planet off its fast-track to climate change.

Climate protestors had another really good point. They said their previous attempts at alerting people to the impending climate catastrophe, including people in important positions of responsibility, had been wasted efforts – all of their banner waving, writing to MPs and so forth had not achieved a thing, least of all some recognition of the urgency of the problem. With this in mind, protestors took to the capital's streets over a number of days and from time to time managed to block some of London's busiest thoroughfares, including Oxford Street and, more successfully, Waterloo Bridge.

Protestors managed to create a great deal of publicity where previous attempts in this regard had failed. In the eyes of the mainstream media, the story of empowered women taking to the streets in their purple dungarees was, and to borrow an MSM term, a 'poz' one. That there weren't more minority ethnics taking part in protests was doubtless a disappointment for the mandarins running the BBC, but the sight of middle-aged women chained to concrete blocks and getting arrested for their efforts were very 'poz' images indeed. Even better for the MSM were the images of female African police officers arresting aforesaid middle-aged women in purple dungarees. How 'poz' is that!?

Despite being a keen supporter of most of the protestors' aims, and also a strong advocate for measures in general aimed at environmental protection, I must confess to harbouring feelings of loathing for a great many of the protestors. And this because I dislike most things and most people that have a strong middle-class imprint on them.

Guess who I am going to mention now? The dungaree-wearing actress Emma Thompson, who joined in the protests, became a 'person of interest' for the centre-right media – I am reminded of how The Daily Telegraph once rather amusingly asked in one of its articles: "Emma Thompson: a national treasure or Britain's most annoying woman"?

Being cut from a certain type of right-on middle-class cloth, Oxbridge-educated Thompson had much in common with a lot of the protestors. The Daily Mail reported how the actress had flown 5,400 miles from her home in Los Angeles in order to take part in the protests. Talking to the BBC, Thompson said: "But I don't fly nearly as much as I did because of my carbon footprint. And I plant a lot of trees". I believe she also compared the Extinction Rebellion movement to the Suffragettes, saying the latter also 'disrupted an awful lot of people's lives in order to get something that we now take for granted'.

One assumes, however, that Thompson might have done more for the environment had she have stayed at home, but her self-interest obviously got the better of her – had she been staying at her London home, or even the one she's got in Scotland, well then that would have swung things in favour of her attending the protests on account of the much shorter distance she would have had to have travelled. But like many protestors, the notion of being part of some kind of social movement had, I think, greater appeal than the not-quite-so-revolutionary idea of taking steps to reduce one's own carbon footprint. You see, tackling climate change is also about personal responsibility. Noticeable was just how well most of the protestors fitted the 'well-travelled' profile; well-off types likely to have visited far-off places that most of us can only dream of.

But what of the policing of the protests? Emma Thompson was half-right when she said 'protestors should just be allowed to get on with what they are doing', and this because of the huge waste of police resources in making futile arrests. The process of arresting protestors for the crime of obstruction quickly turned into a ridiculous spectacle. Close to 1,000 arrests were made over a 10-day period. The feeding and watering alone of that many people in police lock-ups across the capital would have run into thousands of pounds. In the end, police resources were that stretched reinforcements from outside London, including from as far away as Manchester, had to be brought in, all at extra cost.

Can you imagine French or Italian law enforcement officers, for example, engaging in the same type of ridiculous public spectacle? Mindful of not wanting to put public finances hopelessly into debt, the Gendarmerie or Carabinieri would have been out with their pepper spray at the very first indications of the formation of road blockades, and then if they could not prevent the blockading of roads they might have deployed either water cannon or the odd CS-gas canister, assuming lower body blows with batons were not going to shift protestors. The police response was cringeworthy.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police's most senior officer, even gave an interview in which she said 'she had never seen anything like this in 36 years of policing' as if on one hand she was completely bamboozled by events, but on the other was secretly pleased to have in some way been part of such a large and at the same time highly 'pozzed' social movement.

International treaties aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions will only get us so far such is the lack of comprehension of the scale of the problem we face and the level of response needed to tackle it – a global catastrophe of man's making really does await. At this particular juncture in the history of humankind we are discovering that there does in fact exist a very perceptible limit to the type and scale of economic system that our planet has the capacity to carry, and as such we must understand that the problem of global warming is not one which is going to be solved solely through efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions within a framework of international treaties. Instead, it is imperative that the world looks to a more environmentally sustainable economic system than the full-on capitalist one that is in place at the moment.

Only when we are able to shape new economic futures different from the old can we hope to properly address the problem of global warming. And if Emma Thompson is the 'most annoying woman in Britain' as The Daily Telegraph once suggested, my vote for the 'most useless woman in Britain' goes to Cressida Dick. Her tenure as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police seems to have coincided exactly with an astonishing increase in the level of knife crime across London, to the point even that it has now become common for people to draw comparisons between England's capital city and places like Freetown, in Sierra Leone, or Mogadishu, in Somalia.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Climate Change
Uploaded: 25 April, 2019.