I'm A Staunch Environmentalist But I Won't Be Joining Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion’s aims are laudable, but promoting them by seriously disrupting average people as they try to get on with enjoying their daily lives is unlikely to get many folk on their side.
Toby Melville / Reuters

Come summer or winter, sun or rain, flat road or steep hill, I cycle everywhere. And when I can’t get on my bike, I opt for the next most eco-friendly form of transport I can find. Why someone still hasn’t brought out a ridesharing horse and carriage alternative to Uber (Hoofed, maybe) is beyond me.

It goes without saying that I don’t own a car and if, in later life, I’m desperate for a motorised vehicle, my mobility scooter will definitely be rechargeable.

Where groceries are concerned, I shop locally, refuse to buy pre-packed fruit and veg and always use my own bag. Subsequently, I recycle all tins, bottles, paper and plastic.

Meanwhile, on the subject of grooming and hygiene, I don’t constantly run the tap when washing my hands and face or brushing my teeth. Nor do I allow wasted water to spout forth whilst I’m lathering up in the shower. Known as the Navy Shower (not because there’s a sailor alongside me offering to scrub my back), switching off the flow for several minutes uses 11 litres compared to a normal and staggering 230. To further conserve earth’s most precious resource – feel free to politely sidle away from me if we ever meet in public – I restrict my ablutions to a couple of times a week. This is probably the single thing I have in common with Leonardo DiCaprio, who I once read showers equally infrequently for the same reason. Whether, like me, he doesn’t flush the toilet after each time he pees, I have no idea.

Naturally, I only clean the house with plant based products, use the kitchen sink in preference to the dishwasher and whenever I load my dirty clothes into the washing machine, it’s at the lowest temperature possible, even if the stains frequently don’t disappear as the adverts promise. What’s more, I never leave an empty room with the lights turned on and habitually unplug all appliances before going to bed.

Everything considered, I therefore think of myself as a good little environmentalist, who when he ascends to heaven will deserve a Godly pat on the back from the man (or woman) upstairs for making the planet they created last a tad longer.

Yet despite my best intentions, I have no desire to join the current protests, which appear destined to continue unabated. Extinction Rebellion’s aims are laudable, but promoting them by seriously disrupting average people as they try to get on with enjoying their daily lives is unlikely to get many folk on their side. Sympathy and support for the noblest of causes vanish pretty fast when we’re repeatedly inconvenienced. Middle age, middle class do-gooders (among whose number I usually count myself) hell bent on getting arrested and limelight-stealing actors proudly boasting that they plant a few trees to make amends for the frequent flyer miles they accumulate, aren’t exactly helping get the core message across either.

The sad fact is that the majority of our population don’t particularly seem that bothered about the environment. According to an Ipsos MORI poll from last year, it wasn’t even one of the 10 major issues facing us, being outranked by everything from the NHS and crime to defence and poverty. Instead of concerning themselves with their carbon footprint, could it be that families are more worried about how they’re going to afford to put food on the table?

It’s also worth noting that the climatic problems the world’s experiencing aren’t exactly down to the UK alone. Yes, we could be doing better, but at Number 15 in the 20 most carbon dioxide emitting nations (according to International Energy Agency), we could be doing a lot worse.

Hardly surprisingly, the top three offending countries are China, the USA and India. However, don’t expect Donald Trump to turn his back on blue collar workers and bring in draconian green laws, especially when he’s reinvigorating coal and steel production so that they earn more and re-elect him in 2020. Similarly, with Indian and Chinese manufacturing wages increasing year on year, factory workers there are hardly going to want to see the introduction of pollution reducing measures that may in turn reduce their pay cheques.

Rightly or wrongly, economic realities are always going to win out over environmental prophecies of doom.

None of which means I’m about to abandon my principles and put my pushbike into mothballs, start bathing daily or begin washing my clothes at a stain-free 60 degrees.

Neither should it mean that protestors stop taking to the streets to express their anger and frustration. It’s just that those streets might actually want to be in a different country and on a different continent.

After all, in the immediate future, we’re going to need every bit of energy we’ve got to finally sort out Brexit.


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