The recent window-smashing exploits of Extinction Rebellion activists in London has stirred up a wave of online criticism. The protests, which took place on April 22nd, were conducted as part of Earth Day and involved activists from the global climate change movement.
The glass breaking theatrics, spearheaded by nine female activists, used lump hammers bearing inscriptions ‘radical and love’ to drive chisels through nineteen HSBC Canary Wharf HQ windows. The perpetrators carried out the destruction to highlight the role of the financial sector in the climate and ecological crisis.
Unfortunately, while those involved might have hoped for hero status, the reality was very different as a wave of criticism engulfed the nine vandals once their actions filtered onto planetoid Twitter.
One such critique of their smashing escapades took issue that the repairing of the windows will damage the environment due to the sourcing, manufacturing and fitting, suggesting their action was unnecessary and counterproductive.
A trawl across other social media platforms confirmed large sways of public support for this particular Extinct Rebellion protest is something of an endangered species. Overall, one could argue that public support for Extinction Rebellion is, in fact, on the endangered list, partly due to what seems to be a broadening disconnect between environmental activism and the general public.
One consistent theme that surfaces amongst general pools of dissatisfaction regarding current environmental activism is the class divide, with numerous online accusations that Extinct Rebellion is a recreation of the middle class. Like it or not, the climate change movement continues to be fractured by a class divide.
We can discuss, argue or ignore the class structures of environmental activism until the cows come home, probably not the most appropriate turn of phrase, considering the environmental predicament cows find themselves in. Still, it’s starting to look like those with the least will as usual sacrifice the most in the vital fight against climate change.
One such example of this imbalance was the announcement last week by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that low-cost flights to sun holiday destinations to become a thing of the past. Someone, please tell me that stopping the less affluent of our population from flying isn’t the best Eamon and his fragmented party can muster.
Torsten Bell wrote in the Guardian back in October 2020 that “Green economists will never get the public on their side until they factor in the cost to lower-income households”, and unfortunately, the divide is growing just as fast as the planets environmental crisis.