I am not a climate change sceptic. I think it is the biggest threat facing humanity and the political left and right need to come together and think of ways to reshape our economies to mitigate climate harm.
For reasons that I do not understand the issue of climate change seems to be polarising along identitarian lines. Those who are sceptical of identity group politics are more likely to extend that scepticism to all areas including the science of climate change. There is no logical reason for this, but it can be a slightly lonely place on the Venn diagram doubting concepts such as the patriarchy and other invisible power structures while holding the establishment view on climate change. Claire Lehman, editor of Quillette has talked eloquently on this subject in a conversation with Coleman Hughes called Quillette the IDW and Conspiracy. A conversation between these two figures is almost bound to be good and this doesn’t disappoint.
The identitarian left has done its bit to contribute to this problem, however. For example, attributing climate change to that stand-in for all of society’s ills – toxic masculinity. For some examples of this simplistic thinking see the work of Stephen Burrell at Durham University. Similarly, it is claimed that women are on the front-line of the climate change emergency. For this to be true men, on average, would have to live higher above sea level which is, to the best of my knowledge, not true. Following the recent floods in Pakistan in which more men drowned exactly this women on the front-line claim was still made. It is not hard to see why this might have a polarising effect on the discourse. It was households and farms that supported men, women and children that flooded. The rising waters did not selectively avoid men. Perhaps the biggest tragedy was that one-third of the victims were children.
Climate change activism is gathering pace in the UK and other European Counties and they are using some extreme means to get media attention. Just Stop Oil has disrupted commuters in the UK by obstructing the M25 and has publicised its cause by defacing artworks such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers -see below.
Many people, myself included, worry that their tactics may be counterproductive. Far from getting the public onside with necessary reforms to our transport infrastructure and housebuilding standards their actions may be polarising and make reforms even harder.
An often-heard counterargument is to compare Just-Stop-Oil protestors to the Suffragettes whose vociferous campaigning is supposed to have brought about Universal Suffrage. Sadly, the Suffragettes did not achieve that and they were, if anything, a road-block to achieving universal suffrage.
It is important to remember that the Suffragettes were only interested in votes for respectable women and prior to WW1 both working-class men and women did not have the vote – though their experience has been erased from the narrative by feminists. The suffragettes were opposed to universal suffrage and even by the standards of the time this was backward or regressive position. The Labour movement was growing in importance and advocated Universal Suffrage as did the National Union of Mineworkers. Meanwhile, the Suffragettes were completely blind to the class issues around enfranchisement. They argued that working class men owed it to women to join up and fight in WW1 while denying them the right to vote on the Government that sent them there.
The principal catalyst for the 1918 Representation of the People Act was World War One. The Government could no longer deny the vote to men who had sacrificed themselves in the trenches and women who worked in arduous and dangerous conditions of the munitions factories. I suspect their minds were also influenced by events in 1917 in Russia where a people’s uprising had overthrown an antidemocratic Tsarist regime.
In short, it took a catastrophe in which 744,000 men died to bring about universal enfranchisement not suffragette Mary Richardson slashing Velasquez’s Rokeby Venus. I hope it doesn’t take a similar catastrophe to make us see sense on global emissions. I fear that Phoebe Plummer with plum coloured hair and a plummy accent will achieve about as much as Mary Richardson did.