Extinction Rebellion’s “implausible rebellion”

Andy Mayer

August 23, 2021

After failing to end free speech in June, the latest stunt from hard left campaign group Extinction Rebellion is a two week jamboree of narcissistic self-regard, petty vandalism, and obstruction they have entitled the Impossible Rebellion.

This will primarily target the City of London, (declaration of interest, where I am a Common Councillor), requesting that companies ‘stop all new fossil fuel investment’, replace democracy with ‘Citizen’s Assemblies’, and do so in ‘pantone 239 angry’ pink. When engaging in spontaneous expressions of the will of the people, it is important to be on brand. Even if the paints being used tend to contain products derived from fossil fuels.

The central message of the campaign is ‘stop the harm’. A sub-message is ‘act now because it’s too late’. The point of protesting to stop something the organisers of the protest believe it to be too late to stop, is not self-evident from their literature. It is instead full of similar contradictions. They attack the City for investing in the wrong things. Meanwhile the City is mobilising support and capital to invest in the right things, green finance is seen as good business.

They go on to claim “change isn’t going to come from world leaders, or industry… it’s going to come from ordinary people”. But if you believe that, then what’s the point of protesting Parliament, COP26 or the City?  The campaign then does look remarkably like yet another exercise in attention seeking without any clear purpose or rationale.

Green politicians have praised the campaign for ‘drawing attention to the issue of climate change’. But this is nonsense. The main issue arising from the protests is the multimillion pound cost of policing them. A cost that arises specifically from their willingness to engage in petty acts of criminality and obstruction, rather than peaceful protest. Meanwhile the climate gets a remarkably large amount of coverage, all of the time, and particularly in the build up to major publications by the IPCC or COP meetings.

Largely, extremist groups damage the causes they purport to serve by alienating moderates, and painting over shades of grey with monotone hues that irritate rather than inform.

Meanwhile those actually resolving climate change will not be on the protests. They’re in the labs, offices and factories inventing and making better stuff with a lower impact. Or on the dykes, ditches and beaches delivering better environmental stewardship and adaptation to the consequences of extreme weather events. They deserve the attention, not this clown car Armageddon cult making implausible claims and wasting time they themselves say we don’t have.


  • Andy Mayer

    Andy Mayer is Chief Operating Officer and environment, energy and infrastructure analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Written by Andy Mayer

Andy Mayer is Chief Operating Officer and environment, energy and infrastructure analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

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