Normally I don’t care much for climate change protestors. Their cause is one I broadly agree with, and sure there might be more effective ways to make change than gluing yourself to the floor, but I imagine they’ve done more for the cause than I have so far, so who am I to judge?
That being said, when I saw this Facebook post from my local hospital, it was enough to make my blood boil:
Source: Darrent Valley Hospital Facebook
On the 15th September, multiple protestors from the group Insulate Britain glued themselves to the M25, among other roads, causing a huge backlog of traffic. It meant that – as the post implies – access to the hospital was limited as the police dealt with the protestors.
This had serious repercussions. In a highly publicised example, a woman was left “paralysed” from a stroke after her son was stuck in traffic for a reported “six hours” whilst attempting to take her to the hospital. As MyLondon reports, doctors said “her recovery would have been minimal if she had arrived within 90 minutes”. The delay, however you look at it, is a direct result of the actions of those protestors.
Liam Norton, a spokesperson for Insulate Britain, was apologetic in an appearance on Good Morning Britain, but by that point the damage had been done. Norton’s TV moment left him with little dignity, as he stormed off the set à la Piers Morgan after he was repeatedly questioned as to why he himself had not insulated his own home.
The group’s principle demands, as stated on their website, are for the government to:
- Entirely fund the insulation of all social housing by 2025
- In four months or less, devise a “national plan to fully fund and take responsibility for the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit”, for all houses in the UK by 2030
The demands themselves aren’t unreasonable; they indicate a passion for insulation in homes and for holding the government to account. However, in the methods used by the organisation, and indeed Norton’s blatant hypocrisy, the importance of their message is lost.
One thing any observer can’t deny is that the actions of the protestors have got people talking about the group. The issue is that the conversation has been overwhelmingly negative.
There is the adage that all press is good press, even when its bad, but I feel that only goes so far. Looking at the reactions on that Darent Valley Hospital Facebook post, 121 of them were ‘angry reacts’ at the time of writing this exceeded the number of any other kind of Facebook ‘reaction’.
There are hundreds of comments, almost all of them negative towards the group. The story is the same for any BBC Facebook or Instagram post, and the narrative on Twitter, except for in the small echo chambers where the Insulate Britain supporters reside. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
In my eyes, this general response is entirely justifiable, and that’s coming from someone who is generally behind the cause that Insulate Britain are fighting for. I myself was rushed to that very hospital in the back of an ambulance just a few weeks ago due to a seizure. Whilst my condition was far less serious than a stroke, any delay to getting there would have been both infuriating and stressful.
As many observers have also pointed out, the actual blocking of motorways seems counterintuitive to the environmentalist cause. More traffic means longer journeys, longer journeys means a greater period of time in which cars have their engines on. Unfortunately, not everyone has an electric car, and therefore that’s just more greenhouse gases being chugged out into the atmosphere.
There are better ways to make change than disrupting other people’s lives in order to impose your viewpoint. Whilst people like Greta Thunberg have no doubt split opinion, there’s little arguing with the fact that she has inspired millions with her actions without hindering others in the process.
The only thing that Insulate Britain have inspired is a court injunction which, admittedly, they are ignoring. I’m a firm believer in the notion of being the change you want to see in the world. If that change constitutes gluing yourself to tarmac, putting both yourself and others in danger, then perhaps reconsider what on earth you are doing with yourself.