Today’s big question

Is Insulate Britain the wrong group to sell the right message?

Extinction Rebellion offshoot has blocked junctions of M25 to demand immediate action on home insulation

If you’ve been driving around London over the past fortnight, “chances are you’ve been witness to a very special form of stupidity”, said Noel Yaxley on Reaction.life.

On multiple occasions, protesters have blocked junctions of the M25, throwing paint, gluing themselves to the road, and creating hours of chaos for commuters. The group responsible, Insulate Britain–an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion – demands immediate action on home insulation.

Most of us want to do the right thing by the environment, but it’s hard to see how being inconvenienced by a group of “upper-middle-class activists” will advance the cause. Zealots should at least practise what they preach, said Zoe Strimpel in The Sunday Telegraph. So it rather undermined the group’s credibility when its spokesman, Liam Norton, was asked on TV whether his own home had been insulated–and first refused to answer, then stormed off.

“Infuriating and counterproductive” though these protests are, the underlying principle is quite right, said Janice Turner in The Times. We have some of the most energy-inefficient houses in Europe. And as gas prices soar, it’s “ridiculous” that our homes will leak heat all winter.

Sadly, Insulate Britain – a cranky “sect” with delusions of grandeur – is the wrong group to sell the message. I fully support their mission, said Pravina Rudra in the London Evening Standard, but their methods need finessing. “If your mother is partially paralysed by a stroke because she took six hours to get to A&E, as has reportedly occurred already – you are hardly won over to the cause.”

The thing is, “protest is supposed to be disruptive”, said David J. Bailey in The i Paper. The evidence shows that this kind of direct action is far more effective than non-disruptive tactics, such as petitions or normal demonstrations. “Many of our rights today have been won through disruptive protest: women’s rights, black rights and LGBTQ rights.” More recently, look at the gilets jaunes in France.

Of course there are reasonable limits, but a little irritation on the roads seems hardly disproportionate. “Business as usual” will, after all, lead to climate catastrophe. That would be “more than just an irritation”.

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