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How Extinction Rebellion is doing the work of Donald Trump

PUBLISHED: 05:30 17 October 2019

Protesters block the road in front of the Bank of England in the City of London, during an Extinction Rebellion (XR) climate change protest. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday October 14, 2019. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Protests. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Protesters block the road in front of the Bank of England in the City of London, during an Extinction Rebellion (XR) climate change protest. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday October 14, 2019. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Protests. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

When they first hit the headlines by protesting in London and other cities across the world a few months ago, I had considerable sympathy for the Extinction Rebellion protesters and their cause.

Extinction Rebellion protesters sit on top of a caravan outside MI5 Headquarters on Millbank in London. But are the protests bringing more support for climate-change deniers? Picture:  Aaron Chown/PA WireExtinction Rebellion protesters sit on top of a caravan outside MI5 Headquarters on Millbank in London. But are the protests bringing more support for climate-change deniers? Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

I still have concerns about what is happening to the planet and I don't take back a word of what I wrote in April - but the renewed protests of the last week are a total and utter waste of time and are counter-productive to the Green cause.

You almost get the feeling that we are living in a Hollywood world. There's been a good feature come out in April, making a real impression on everyone.

So the organisers rush forward plans for a sequel which is a pale re-hash of the original with nothing new about it and ends up looking like a self-indulgent waste of time.

That's precisely what the new round of action by Extinction Rebellion appears to be - and what worries me is that this action will actually turn people against their message as they try to re-make exactly the same point as they did in April.

In April the state of the planet wasn't really on the political agenda. It is now - and just repeating the "civil disobedience" isn't raising it any higher. What is now needed is some real facts to argue - those facts are out there and people are prepared to listen. But they're being lost in a cacophony of prostest.

Last week, a day or two after the action started, Extinction Rebellion spokesman Rupert Read appeared on the BBC's Question Time and claimed that the action had brought the Green message back on to the political agenda.

If he'd listened to the questions rather than spouting forth his own opinions, he'd have realised that the overwhelming majority of the debate was on the tactics used by the protesters - drawing police officers away from important work like cutting crime, blocking roads so ambulances couldn't reach hospital, and generally making life as miserable as possible for people wanting to go about their normal lives.

It was not about the state of the planet. In fact the most telling contribution was from a woman who said Sir David Attenborough's documentaries did far more for the Green cause than the protesters.

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What really worries me about the tactics involved is that they seem to have been employed to provoke a backlash by the climate change-deniers, the flat-earthers, and those who just want to kick back against anyone with progressive ideas.

As the protests started, I saw social media entries from people saying they had planned to walk to the local supermarket - but Extinction Rebellion had persuaded them to take their car!

And I saw the protesters being described as terrorists. I can think of lots of unflattering descriptions for the protesters - but that sounded rather hysterical and disrespectful to people who really have been the victims of terrorism.

I do have to question whether some of the protesters really are concerned about the environment - or whether they are really just anti-capitalist anarchists who want to destroy "the system" and latch on to whatever banner seems popular at the moment.

Frankly there's no other reason for people to invade Liverpool Street station (where all trains are powered by electricity, much of which is generated by renewable power) or indeed to cause any disruption to life in the City of London where the overwhelming majority of people travel around by public transport.

I do find the Green movement's attitude to public transport confusing. Electric trains have to be the most environmentally-friendly method of moving people quickly around the country, especially as more electricity is coming from renewable sources every year.

Yet many are using environmental arguments to oppose an expansion in the country's rail capacity in the form of HS2 (which will be all-electric). Why? Do they want to put more cars on the M1 or more planes in the skies above Britain?

I fully accept that there is a climate crisis facing the planet. We have to take action - and to be fair Britain has done much better than most countries in cutting the growth in emissions.

But we cannot allow the extreme Climate Extinction protesters to do the job of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and turn ordinary people away from concerns about the environment - that would be a tragedy of global proportions and really would be a betrayal of genuine Green campaigners.

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