Climate Protests: Are They Self-Indulgent?

The judge ruling on the case of four activists in Bristol certainly thought so.

No really – I mean, she technically said that “many in Bristol might feel” that this is the case, but I don’t think it’s a stab in the dark to assume that this is something that she had thought herself. Especially since she also asked if;

“The BBC have reported all life on earth will be extinct in 18 months?”.

The BBC have in fact reported that we have 18 months to save the planet, as the judge had been told prior to asking this question.

So, being that she seems to be either uneducated or deliberately ignorant on the topic of climate change, her ability to be impartial seems somewhat impaired in my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, by no means does the judge in a case on climate activism need to be gluing themselves to bathtubs. I just think that a little less bias towards the opposite side of things would most likely be crucial to getting a fair verdict.

“You were not acting proportionately. You increased pollution by causing more traffic to queue.”

Despite the fact that her disdain for climate activism has just been made crystal clear, the judge is now apparently well educated on how said activism should be carried out. One day of increasing pollution to raise awareness vs having a decade more of oblivious motorists… that makes sense…

So the next lane of criticism she chose to go down to try to justify the idea that this was all an act of self indulgence rather than an attempt to increase humanity’s awareness that they’re heading towards extinction was the age-old question of;

“what your great granddaughter would say if we don’t deliver climate justice? Well, I expect something like, ‘Why wouldn’t you do something constructive instead of standing with people banging drums and stuck to bathtubs on a Bristol highway?”

Because, Lynne, not all of us are in the position to stop the climate emergency with political power. We can buy all the wooden toothbrushes and metal straws we like, but that and protesting are just about the only ways those of us who aren’t politically powerful can be “constructive” in carrying out climate justice. It’s of course an amazing thing to make your own efforts to slow down climate change, but no real change will come until those in power impose measures so that all of us have to do our bit, whether we’re already zero waste or whether the idea of recycling is as foreign to us as empathy is to the Tories.

There were, of course, some more serious consequences of this climate protest discussed in the article;

District Judge Matthews asked Phelps if she was aware of reports a man was unable to say goodbye to his dying father because of the disruption[…] The district judge noted that Phelps was prepared to take the risk it would happen, which the defendant admitted she was.

Things like this are difficult to write about. Not being able to see a dying parent will affect someone’s life forever – no one should have that moment taken away from them. If anyone was in any way responsible for this, it would undoubtedly plague them with guilt. But as is mentioned later in the article, some cars and all emergency services were allowed to make their way through the blockade without being stopped. Attempts were made to try to stop this sort of consequence from happening. Whilst that makes it no less acceptable that it may have happened, it does perhaps show that the judge was not quite sufficiently understanding of the empathy that the protesters had for those affected by their action in this way.

“Everyone else in Bristol had the right to carry on with their normal business. You trampled over their rights that day.”

Huge numbers of human lives are undoubtedly going to be lost as a result of climate change. The number one human right is a right to life. So yes, these protesters may have trodden on the rights of people in their cars to go about their business that day.

But it wasn’t for nothing.

Who hasn’t heard of climate change protesters gluing themselves to bath tubs? Climate strikes? Climate protests? Extinction Rebellion? Raising the profile of the fight against climate change is a good thing in my eyes. Yes, it will get in everyone’s way. But so will climate change. So is climate change. We have to do something about it.

Maybe it is self-indulgent to want to live. But don’t you?




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