Before I begin, I want to make clear that I do support the aims of Insulate Britain protesters. I applaud their bravery in blocking motorways around the country, when the risk of violence against them is so high. But has it convinced anyone in the country who wasn’t convinced already? I would say probably not.
We live in a country which has learned nothing from the covid-19 pandemic (which is still very much ongoing, contrary to popular opinion). Our commitment to the capitalist cause is unwavering and the vast majority of the country don’t have a clue about the impending climate disaster. People are still unwilling to switch to EVs, let alone getting rid of their cars for climate change. Not only that, they panic buy petrol and get into fights at filling stations, such is the sheer terror of having to live in a small country without access to a private car.
Under these circumstances, it’s entirely unsurprising that Insulate Britain has been a complete disaster and doomed to fail from the very beginning. Even the leader couldn’t catch a break when he went on Good Morning Britain. The over simplistic media are always more interested in a juicy case of hypocrisy than the overall picture. Not that he was a hypocrite anyway since he didn’t own his home and couldn’t afford to insulate it even if he did. But the media never let an unfortunate detail like that get in the way of a great gotcha moment.
So what have Insulate Britain achieved so far?
- Made angry motorists even angrier
- Been called hypocrites
- Given the government an excuse to crack down even more on peaceful protest in a supposedly democratic country
- Not convinced a single person of their agenda
Probably the biggest thing they’ve achieved is to teach other organisations how not to do it, as well as giving them a PR boost. Extinction Rebellion are going to be seen in a far more positive light for blocking city centres following this disastrous campaign by Insulate Britain. XR warn people and authorities in advance where they’ll be and for how long (to avoid being accused of blocking emergency vehicles). They also either create a party atmosphere or provide some kind of interesting performance aspect that attracts the media to cover it. They think things through far more, and people will now start to recognise that after seeing IB’s approach.
Don’t get me wrong, XR made some bad choices in the beginning and did some things that had a similar effect to Insulate Britain. However, they’ve generally improved over time and become smarter about choosing what types of action to do and what not to do. IB don’t seem to have learned anything at all.
Imagine if XR had started by blocking motorways a few years ago when people were even less sympathetic to calls for climate action than they are now. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that someone would have been killed by a motorist. We’ve seen it close to home in Worthing a few years ago when a man was killed by a fellow motorist after he left his car to talk to talk about a road rage incident.
So, what I would say to Insulate Britain protesters now is please find another way for your own safety. Go to town centres instead for example. Blocking motorways, airports, train stations and things like that will not work in this country. You’re putting your lives on the line for no reason. Mainstream British culture still has its fingers firmly stuck in its collective ears and is singing the la la song as loudly as anywhere in the world (even Australia).
Edit: I just saw a clip of an interview with Roger Hallam (co-founder of XR) where he said he would do the same thing as Insulate Britain did (not let a woman through to visit her mother in hospital) and would block an ambulance if necessary. I find that a very odd thing to say when you have an opportunity to distance yourselves from IB as they have been doing recently.