Spare us the entitled tantrums of the eco movement’s posh young zealots
It must be terribly, terribly tough being Phoebe Plummer, Anna Holland or Indigo Rumbelow, just three of the posh young eco-fanatics who have been garnering headlines in recent weeks in the name of saving us all from environmental apocalypse.
Plummer and Holland chucked tomato soup on Van Gogh’s painting, Sunflowers, at the National Gallery in London last month, while last week Rumbelow, Just Stop Oil’s spokesperson, got into a near-shouting match with Sky’s Mark Austin over the group’s tactics, which caused four days of disruption on the M25 as activists hung from its gantries. Protesters also blockaded the entrance to the private Farnborough airport.
But back to the terribly tough world of the Phoebes, Annas and Indigos. While the rest of the world – those who didn’t grow up in sprawling £600,000 rural idylls like Ms Rumbelow or attend £15,000-a-term schools like Ms Plummer – fret about how they’re going to get through a winter of soaring inflation, energy costs and the first proper lurch of recession, these poor upper middle-class souls are, Cassandra-style, tortured by the curse of time and money to worry about existential doom. “We’re going to plummet to total destruction!” Rumbelow wailed on Sky. Oh dear.
The privileges of birth and education haven’t simply caused existential terror to flourish. It is also the sheer entitlement of that terror, the sense of freedom and liberty to worry spectacularly, flamboyantly, and in such a way as to force that worry violently on others – the woman with cancer whose journey to hospital for treatment was derailed because of the gantry-hanging, for instance, or by trashing precious works of art whose delicacy, curators have miserably pointed out, the posho protesters don’t seem to grasp.
More likely they don’t care. Why should they? For the Indigos and Phoebes, as for many a mischief-making upper-class person before them, there is something far worse than the prospect of long-term environmental damage, or disrupting ambulances rushing to A&E. That something is being boring – and bored. Vandalism is a thrill if it means having people look at you.
They may not realise that it is a luxury to be able to afford multiple arrests and a criminal record in the name of violent, moralistic high-jinx, and even more so to seek them out without so much as a quiver of concern for a professional future. But not caring about money or work is surely the last word in upper middle-class insouciance.
Eco-nuttery is a deluxe form of millenarianism that most people, quite simply, can’t afford, either in time or cost – to say nothing of the effort it takes to learn their mad theories.
I am sure that they actually believe much of the lunacy they preach about overthrowing racist capitalist society, and their paranoid conspiratorial canards about the lying media. But it’s also very convenient to cloak a desire for attention in an extravagant skein of virtue. After all, if you don’t immediately give in to Phoebe and Indigo’s demands, or fully agree with them, then you are automatically a Bad Person.
As Rumbelow demanded of Austin, with nonsensical fire and brimstone: “Do you love [your] children more than you love fossil fuels?” It’s enough to make one long for the days of punk and piercings. Perhaps the oldsters, such as Roger Hallam, the straggle-haired founder of Extinction Rebellion, are too far gone. But couldn’t their younger compadres, those presently gluing themselves to motorways, runways and ring roads, just get mohawks, some nose and lip rings, take up smoking and raving and have done with it?
The posh kids say that holding the government to ransom by making the lives of the proletariat a misery is justified by their conviction that the world is about to end. They, Christ-like, are giving themselves up on behalf of the little people – those labouring under the assumption that how far their next pay cheque will go is a more pressing concern than human extinction.
I don’t make light of human extinction, or climate change, but I do take serious scientists seriously. And they, including those on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, dismiss human extinction as a possibility. It is, in other words, pure manipulative histrionics.
All the same, Rumbelow and her cronies at the Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, Extinction Rebellion – presided over by chief martyr of vengeance Greta Thunberg – say “nothing has worked” and therefore illegal action and violent disorder is merited.
Lost in her own grandiosity, Rumbelow told Austin that the suffragettes – the militant arm of the votes-for-women campaign – are the reason she has the vote “and can own anything”. But as most historians agree, the suffragettes’ tactics, including arson, window-smashing and public suicide, held the movement back. Lawmakers don’t tend to change their minds when held at gunpoint. But the young vanguard of the eco movement are as ignorant of human psychology as they are of history.
It is funny, hearing the foot-stamping argument that “nothing’s worked”. I thought of all the other ongoing problems in society, such as cancer or anti-Semitism. Imagine if health activists began blowing up hospital generators, breaking lab windows, or chucking paint at GPs, because cancer hadn’t yet been cured. Or if Jews in Britain began gluing themselves to church or mosque doors, or chucking eggs at police stations, because other religious authorities and the police hadn’t done enough to stamp out anti-Jewish prejudice.
It’s unthinkable – at least for most of us who either need to get on with life or retain an ounce of respect for others. Luckily for them – and unluckily for everyone else – the screeching rich kids of the eco-fanatic movement are blissfully unburdened by either consideration.