Environmental protesting – does it work?

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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but the recent rise of climate change protesting has given me a much-needed reminder to come back.

Extinction Rebellion. Is it good or bad for environmentalism? There are certainly arguments for both sides.

On one hand, what a stupid idea. We’ve had decades of ‘looking out for the environment’ as being an ‘out-there’, hippyish fantasy; what we desperately need to do is make it mainstream, relatable to the everyday person, ‘normal’. And so what do we do? Practice yoga on bridges and tell stories in parks. Really?! Talk about alienation.

And yet, it has ‘worked’ in bringing more attention to the issue. Media coverage has been huge, it seems to be more on politicians’ radars, even public concern has risen according to a YouGove poll.

XR admit in their ‘FAQs’ section on their website that people may find them alienating, but that their aim is to make the issue of climate change ‘unignorable’ to decision-makers. However they also admit that lack of public understanding/support for the issue is ‘the very heart of the problem’.

It seems to me that there are two routes to change here, and maybe yes we do need a combination of both.

  1. Straight to the top. I feel like this is mainly what XR are doing. Make your point heard loud and clear. Shout. Scream. Get into politicians’ heads by getting into their commute to work. Pros: fast way to get an issue on agendas, unignorable. Cons: may further alienate the public in the process, may be fleeting.
  2. Bottom-up. Begin with the people who put politicians there. Change society’s collective psyche. Get into ordinary people’s minds by getting into their lives. Pros: more permanent, deeper change. Potentially more effective change therefore. Cons: slow, very difficult.

Which is best? Can we have both? Can they even co-exist? To be continued after I have done more research…!

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