Thursday, 2 February 2023

Why Extinction Rebellion have got their tactics wrong

 I doubt that too many reasonable people disagree with the sentiments that drive supporters of Extinction Rebellion (XR). You would have to be insane to want more pollution, which is what is driving global warming. The function of campaigning protest movements should be to deliver the goals of the protest. In the case of XR, you'd think this would be easy, given that sane people should agree with them. So why have they made so litte progress beyond their commited support base?

This is just a personal view, but I believe that they have got their tactics and strategy wrong. Over the last few montsh I've been discussing XR and the various other associated protest movements and I hear the same refrain "Do they really think that blocking roads will win them any supporters?". This is a question worthy of an answer. When a movement is new, staging eye catching stunts to raise awareness is a good way of putting yourself on the map. Fathers For Justice recognised this with people dressed as Batman and Robin on high buildings. But once you have people's attention, you then have to start making a real difference. 

So how should the tactics of XR et all have evolved? To my mind, the biggest problem is that their tactics have no real effect on the people who are the root cause of the problem. By this I mean the shareholders of companies that are the worst offenders. I googled the companies that were most responsible. 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the worlds emissions, according to this article in the Guardian.

Here are the top 20 and the percentage of global emissions that they contribute

1China (Coal)14.32%
2Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco)4.50%
3Gazprom OAO3.91%
4National Iranian Oil Co2.28%
5ExxonMobil Corp1.98%
6Coal India1.87%
7Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)1.87%
8Russia (Coal)1.86%
9Royal Dutch Shell PLC1.67%
10China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC)1.56%
11BP PLC1.53%
12Chevron Corp1.31%
13Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)1.23%
14Abu Dhabi National Oil Co1.20%
15Poland Coal1.16%
16Peabody Energy Corp1.15%
17Sonatrach SPA1.00%
18Kuwait Petroleum Corp1.00%
19Total SA0.95%
20BHP Billiton Ltd0.91%

Both Shell and BP are in this list. Both have garages in Mill Hill, less than a mile from my house. These companies have made more money than ever over the last few months, as a result of spiralling energy prices. Why would any self respecting CEO seek to change if they are raking it in, assuming they have no conscience? This is where groups like XR could, but are not making a difference. Ordinary people are paying a fortune for energy, but the current government does nothing. XR should be asking the question, where is the fairness in all of this? These global behmoths should be forced to develop clean energy solutions. If their profits were regulated and guaranteed to diminish year on year, then they would have an incentive to change their ways. 

XR should be targetting these companies. In the UK many make more money selling food in shops on forecourts than they do selling petrol. Boycotting the worst offenders, encouraging motorists to shop elsewhere and causing a dent in these companies dividend payouts will have far more practical impact than randomly blocking roads etc. The adage that is wheeled out that protestors are stopping Ambulances taking people to hospital would be neutralised and for non active sympathisers, there would be an easy to understand campaign. It is far harder for a Government to rail against a protest that specifically targets a polluting company than one that is percieved as affecting voters across the board. 

It seems to me that when polluters like British Gas are fitting pre payment meters to poor families, whilst the industry makes ever more money spewing fumes into the atmosphere, the likes of XR should be knocking on an open door. 

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