If any satirists wanted to mock the green movement, they could not have come up with anything more absurd than this week’s infantile protests in London.
As the demonstrators continue to bring gridlock to the capital, their laughable middle-class preciousness has been on full display. The disruption, organised by the Extinction Rebellion campaign, might be a severe aggravation for workers who actually have to earn their living, but it has been one long street party for an army of well-heeled social parasites.
At one point, in a scene that could have come straight from the comic mind of Harry Enfield, some of them held a mass yoga session. At another, a theatrical stage was erected on Waterloo Bridge, while further north a pink sailboat was parked at Oxford Circus.
The authentic voice of privilege could be heard on the BBC from academic Dr Gail Bradbrook, often described as “the Godmother” of Extinction Rebellion, who urged people “to take time off work and join us.” As Nick Robinson of the Today programme responded, “They may not frankly have the privilege that you do to choose when you can go to work.”
But no one encapsulated the greens’ bullying sense of entitlement better than leading activist Robin Boardman-Pattison, who has used the media this week to give us the benefit of his precocious wisdom. With his hectoring certainty, his authoritarian impulse and his affluent background, the 21-year-old Bristol University languages students is almost like a parody of a fashionable eco warrior.
He has lived much of his life in suburban Beckenham, where his parents have a £1 million house, and, before going to university, he attended the £17,500-a-year private Trinity School in Croydon. Like so many of his breed, he is an ocean-going hypocrite. Having claimed that “aircraft should be used only in emergencies,” he is reportedly happy to post on social media photos of his skiing holidays abroad.
Boardman-Pattison no doubt believes that his personal hypocrisy is outweighed by the passion of his concern for the planet. “I care so deeply,” he wailed on Sky News this week. Yet the Extinction Rebellion’s pose as the earth’s saviour is wrong on so-many levels.
For a start, their decision to target many of their protests at public transport, as reflected in the move by some idiots to glue themselves to the carriages of the Docklands Light Railway, is counter-productive, given that trains and buses are far more environmentally friendly than cars.
Moreover, there is nothing democratic about their posturing. They self-importantly issue their “demands” for change, but who elected them to decide how we should conduct their lives? They talk grandly about the need for a “Citizen’s Assembly” but we already have such a body. It is called Parliament, and the Greens have just one MP.
If their fundamentalist agenda of de-industrialisation were implemented, it would be a disaster for ordinary British citizens, especially the least well-off. The trustafarian eco bloggers, and landowning organic farmers would be insulated by their wealth, but people on low incomes would struggle to cope with soaring energy bills, tax hikes, job losses, and fuel price increases.
What really seems to motivate the greens is a quasi-religious hatred of capitalism, driven by a belief that we should all be punished for the sins of technological progress. But this outlook ignores the reality that it is technology, not a return to the stone age, that offers the real form of environmental protection in the future, through the discovery of new, cleaner forms of energy.
Indeed, in their extremism, the eco agitators wilfully refuse to recognise the remarkable progress that Britain has already made on this front, as demonstrated by the recent creation of a huge off-shore wind industry, and dramatic falls in carbon emissions. The greens wail about pollution, yet in the Great Smog of 1952 in London, it is estimated that 12,000 people to have died and more than 150,000 hospitalised. That would be unthinkable today.
This week’s eco protestors are frequently described as “self-indulgent” but in truth they have been endlessly indulged by the politicians and the authorities, who are meant to keep the capital running. That enfeebled official approach was epitomised today by the emergence of footage showing police officers dancing with demonstrators to cheers from the crowd.