To set the latest stage of our ongoing drama, recently on “Good Morning Britain” a climate activist, Miranda Whelehan, who is part of the Just Stop Oil movement, was castigated by the show’s panel for her impertinent virtue signaling. The host Richard Madeley called her “childish.” A journalist mocked her by way of caricature, cosplaying an activist by saying, “How dare you question us? Because we know what’s right. I’m going to glue my hand to some tarmac and then I’m going to be a martyr and I’m going to be a good person.”
The regnant cause of their outrage was the inconvenience Ms. Whelehan and the Just Stop Oil movement were causing Easter Week motorists. People were being delayed by blocked traffic and inconvenienced by petrol shortages. It was a bloody imposition. Go ahead and save the world, they seemed to be saying, but must you inconvenience me on my way to my mother’s house for Easter dinner?
If the panel of Good Morning Britain thinks that’s inconvenient, wait till they have to endure higher electric bills, more blackouts, food riots, mass migration, cities underwater and category 5 hurricanes as weekly occurrences. Wait till they have to endure heat waves so brutal that people die in the streets. They don’t know the meaning of the word inconvenience.
The narrative the panel was trying to promote was that it’s all well and good, this planet-saving business, but must they be impolite about it? Must they interfere with their teatime? Wouldn’t they (the planet activists) win more converts if they approached the whole thing by being less obstructive and more instructive?
But they’re asking the wrong question. The correct question is, what is so wrong with human beings today that climate activists must take extreme action just to get our attention? The correct question is, at what point did we become so privileged and prickly that a slight delay in our daily routine turns us red with indignant outrage? At what point are we even reachable on the most important topic in human history?
The answer to those questions is that people don’t want to think about climate change, so they don’t. Besides, it’s someone else’s problem, right? The government will take care of us somehow. Or some latter-day Einstein will come along and solve the whole problem for us.
I understand the frustration of the climate activists. I write about the subject as often as I can get away with it, so I suppose that makes me a climate activist too, in my own small way. I am aware that my global warming articles are generally the least commented on and the least shared. People don’t want to think about it.
But we need to anyway. Today we are well on the road to climate catastrophe. We are on the road to three degrees centigrade of overall warming. Unless we do something about it now we are going to pay a terrible price for our indolence. We are literally living on the precipice of disaster, the eve of destruction, and we can still stop it if we take action now.
The really sad part is the solution is in our hands and no one else’s. If every ordinary person on earth took climate change seriously and changed their lives slightly the problem could be solved overnight. It’s a tantalising proposition. And it starts with you and no one else.
I shouldn’t need to state the obvious. One very important thing we can do to stop global warming from accelerating is by making sure that the Republican Party does not regain control in the 2022 midterms. Should such a thing happen the loss of American democracy will be only the second worst consequence. The worst of it is we will lose the earth. We simply don’t have time for Republicans any more. Our lives and the future of our species are at stake. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.