If you have been reading the news, you may have heard of the recent climate scientist arrests. When you search it up, you will be able to see many articles involving the arrests of scientists like Rosa Abramoff driven from her own home, or maybe Peter Kalmus after chaining himself to a building. The correlation between these two scenarios is not hard to spot: both were arrested for voicing out their despair amidst the climate emergency. Many are crying, begging, protesting, but it has all resulted in handcuffs. Then again, what is the line between environmental activism and environmental extremism? “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres
In an article for The Guardian written by Peter Kalmus, we read about his perspective on his involvement in a protest held on Wednesday, 13th April 2022. Kalmus, along with a group of scientists called the ‘Scientist Rebellion’ - involving and comprised of more than 26 countries - had locked themselves to an entrance in the JP Morgan Chase building. In context, JP Morgan Chase is an investment bank and financial services company in New York City.
According to Kalmus, JP Morgan Chase was targeted due to the fact that it is funding the newest fossil fuel projects. The current plan for fossil fuels is already more than enough to increase the present 1.2 degrees celsius to over 1.5 degrees celsius. Giving support to these projects, allowing them to be initiated is nothing short of ignorant. Yet, this is exactly what President Joe Biden and many other world leaders are doing.
When nobody is listening, it may seem all hope is lost so the question is this: what is the point of going on?
“He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
In his article, Kalmus details on how he feels ‘morally compelled to sound the alarm’ despite wishing to stay with his family and continue his research. From 2012, he has tried many ways to invoke social change through writing a book, starting a website, speaking at rallies, co-founding an app, and so much more. Despite his efforts, it is being put to waste when large people - with more money and more power - ignore the pleas, prompting him to feel terrified for his children.
“But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse.”
Why aren’t we listening to scientists? After all, they are scientists for a reason. They find and prove facts - statements that are known and proved to be true. This may seem like a scene or probably the whole movie known as “Don’t Look Up” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. It tells the tale of two scientists trying to warn the whole world of an approaching comet that can kill the whole world. This results in the many types of reactions from the public, politicans, and scientists, but it’s not just the plot of the movie that shocks us all. It is the fact that what happens is believable.
In an Op-Ed from the LA Times written by Marcus Du Sautoy, it presents how science goes against intuition in the same way we may think the Earth is flat. The collection of the evidence may be difficult to both understand and accept and if the evidence is either too complicated or shocking, people may lose the willingness they had before.
“It’s not that they don’t believe the facts presented to them, exactly. It’s that they question whether those facts are relevant to their own situation.”
It may be fear; thoughts holding us back because there is a ‘risk’. Or the desire for certainty from the public. These are some of the biggest challenges faced by the scientific community however we need to understand that just because science is improving, it doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
There is a line between activism and extremism. In activism, you campaign to bring change. In extremism, you just hold really extreme views. In activism, you advocate. In extremism, you fight. It is essentially ‘the ideological foundation for political violence.” You may be surprised to hear of something known as ‘environmental extremism’ or ‘eco-terrorism.’
Take ‘Insulate Britain’ as an example. The campaign has recently been initiated in September 2021 where they are aiming for a national program that will ensure homes are insulated to be low energy by 2030. So, how have they been effecting change? The group has been notorious in blocking roads and causing massive traffic issues in the previous year. They have blocked tunnels and have provoked many unfortunate exchanges between protestor and drivers. Determined, protestors had glued themselves to the road but had to leave when drivers started to throw ink and drag them off. The protests are still ongoing. Boris Johnson labelled Insulate Britain "irresponsible crusties" who have been "doing considerable damage to the economy".
This is not action; this is civil disobedience.
The problem with these protests is that it dismisses the actual efforts of activists and scientists. Many people would associate environmental activism with events like these, only making it harder to convince the general public. Regarding the Insultate Britain initiative, the government has responded by preventing further actions through court injunctions, and have announced ‘new powers targeting such protests’.
That’s not even the main frustration. The fact that initiatives like ‘Insulate Britain’ can actually be prevented is the whole problem. According to members of the campaign, they have defended their tactics by stating that ‘they are the most successful route to achieve mass change.’ People like environmental extremists only want change and acknowledgement, so what is keeping the government waiting?
In my opinion, the government should prioritizing the goals of these initiatives and stop their attempts in suppressing what the people are trying to say. It’s just dangerous.