Why traditional Civil Disobedience is the wrong approach in the climate fight

When you think of direct action on the climate crisis, you would probably first think of Extinction Rebellion protestors blocking London bridges; or some other big disruptive protest in which people get dragged off by police, and the mainstream media talk about how terrible it is that people were slightly delayed in getting to work. I’m not against large, peaceful protest, but I don’t think traditional civil disobedience is the most effective way of putting pressure on governments. The tiny benefit isn’t worth getting arrested for.

The most effective method of pressurising governments and businesses in my opinion is the mass refusal to participate in the endless growth based economic system. This can take the form of working less hours or not at all, not buying things we don’t need, as well as more targeted boycotts of certain products or services. And you don’t have to get thrown in a police cell for your troubles either.

One of the easiest and most crucial things we can all do right now is moving our money out of financial institutions that support the fossil fuel status quo. This can be complicated when it comes to pensions. But for bank accounts, it’s easy to switch to a more ethical bank; and there are automated tools which transfer your scheduled payments across as well. You’ll still have to change any accounts that use your debit card manually, but it’s no different than when your card expires and you get a new one. It’s no great hardship, and very much worth the effort.

Another hugely important element of the strategy of deliberately tanking the economy is housing. In many cultures, it is normal to live in multi-generational households for your whole life. I’m not necessarily suggesting that; but certainly in the western world, people are often a bit too keen to move out of home very young, and parents have been told that this is a good idea over many decades. I think it’s unnatural to want to separate ourselves from our families so young, and we should take the opportunity to live together for as long as families enjoy it. Obviously it’s not going to suit everyone for various reasons. But if you get on well, it’s definitely a very effective method of doing the opposite of what the system wants you to do.

This is also one area where boomers can have an outsized influence in the climate fight. They tend to have the money to be able to support their kids and grandkids to be full-time activists. Everyone who is able to not work while also spending as little as possible is hugely important. Imagine if everyone who was able to do it did so. The economy would be in ruins (as far as the elites are concerned anyway), and the government would be forced to change tack (or just get annihilated in the next election).

Interestingly, the effect seems to be happening already thanks to our incompetent and uncaring government. The latest jobs data in the UK shows that there are more job vacancies than people actively looking for work. The suggestion by experts and the media is that this is entirely due to hundreds of thousands of Brits being (possibly) permanently incapacitated by Long Covid, which the government allowed to happen through their intentionally useless handling of the pandemic; from the beginning really, but particularly the last 10 months since “Freedom Day” in July 2021.

Clearly I don’t want to tank the economy by people being unable to work. I want it to be a choice, but it really demonstrates that we will get there by hook or by crook. This government is so cruel and at the same time so stupid that they can’t even do economic growth right. Having said that, I don’t think that it is entirely down to Long Covid. There must be quite a few people like me who refused to go back to work during covid and subsequently checked out of the economy; and those numbers will keep increasing. Especially now with the cost of living crisis that the government of course chooses not to solve. I can imagine young people renting flats giving up on that to return home, and possibly cutting back their work hours too, if not quitting entirely. Why work your arse off in a system when you never get rewarded for it anyway?

To sum up, I fully support all climate protests, but we need to get smart and use the establishment’s precious economy against them. And you can see that it’s going to work. Even just this “worrying” jobs report has the government and terrified, and that’s of their own making. It wouldn’t take much concerted action at all for them to feel more pressure than they’ve ever felt from every climate march or protest in history, combined. They don’t care if you go and protest, as long as you still drive a car and go flying off on holiday. If we refuse to work and stop spending money, they will be panicking almost immediately; along with the bankers, investors and economists. We all saw what a house of cards neoliberal capitalism is during the first covid lockdowns. It won’t take much for it to all come crashing down, to be replaced by something that actually works for all of us, and the rest of life on Earth.

Zero Covid works

Zero Covid works

A couple of days ago, the WHO called out China for their Zero Covid strategy that is causing such huge societal problems in Shanghai, and to some extent Beijing. But what is Zero Covid? The Zero Covid strategy is….. fighting the pandemic. That’s it. Remember at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK and around the world. We had full lockdowns, we had 30 minutes of outdoor exercise time per day, we wore masks everywhere, and it was wildly successful in reducing cases and deaths. Far more successful than anything we’ve done since the vaccines came along.

Zero Covid in Shanghai has not been as effective this time, but you have to imagine that frustration at being the only country still taking Covid seriously with these kinds of measures is playing a big role. Western governments have inflicted their stupidity on the Chinese people, and are trying to use the anger of the locked down citizens to pressure the Chinese government into dropping Zero Covid and letting the virus run free, with devastating consequences. And the western media are eating it up. Even the WHO have now been brainwashed into advocating for ending covid measures and putting endless economic growth above public health.

One of the big talking points in western news is that China isn’t vaccinated properly. Their own vaccine isn’t as effective as the western vaccines, and a lot of the population hasn’t been vaccinated at all. But, funnily enough, they tend not to mention that China has been more successful in suppressing the virus and protecting its citizens (and the economy) than the rest of the world has been with highly effective vaccines. Practically everywhere outside of China, countries have brought in vaccines and then given up on other measures, and it hasn’t worked. But rather than accepting their mistake, they’re hell bent on forcing China to go down the same path.

I really hope China continues to resist the pressure and stick with Zero Covid, because it’s clearly the best strategy for both public health and the economy (not that I care about protecting this economy). I think they will, but the western media will not give in either. In the west, we’re so stupid now that the only evidence that could maybe prove to people that Zero Covid works would be for them to drop it and then see the resulting massive wave of cases, long covid and deaths. It’s never enough to show what would or could happen based on what we know. People need to see the disaster before they believe it.

The only thing I would change would be to allow people who haven’t tested positive that crucial 30 minutes or so of outdoor exercise time per day no matter where they’re located. To not allow people to leave home at all is what’s really made this situation newsworthy, and given ammunition to the western governments who only care about the health of the destructive fossil fuelled economy.

When will people stop thinking I’m nuts?

I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.

The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.

I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?

The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.

But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.

It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.

I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.

It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.

When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.

I love cycling, so why am I not doing it?

The only time I’ve ridden one of my three bikes in the last year was going to get my booster jab in mid December. Why? What’s wrong with me? Why would I have 3 bikes and not ride any of them? It sounds odd, but really I think it comes down to a mix of reasons that have just worn me down to where I’m at now.

Before covid, I was doing a relatively long ride once a week or so on a Monday or Tuesday. At that point I was working part time, and having those two extra days off a week was crucial to my mental health. It made working a pretty miserable, low paid job a lot more tolerable. But over time I was becoming more and more frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of car-light route options. Knowing that there was one somewhat enjoyable route to a location; and that taking any wrong turn would lead to stressful, fast moving traffic and the general feeling of being a second class citizen sucked so much of the fun out of these longer rides.

This wasn’t the first time I was feeling like this. I’ve had a couple of long breaks from cycling over the years. The first one was from about age 18 to 23, and then from 27 to 30. The first time was due to generalised anxiety disorder, and then the second 3 year gap was when I started a new job and I felt that I couldn’t cycle the 5 miles there because it wasn’t cycle friendly. I got a scooter for two years and then a car after that. Which brings me back to where I started doing those longer rides.

Looking back now on when my anxiety was the most incapacitating, I wonder how much of that time was attributable to what I now know about our unsustainable economic system, as well as that trapped feeling I had as a cyclist. Maybe subconsciously that played a big role in me feeling the way I did, but I couldn’t articulate it at the time. Maybe I knew that this society wasn’t made for people like me. When it came to the decision to buy a scooter and later drive a car, I was definitely very aware by that point that people like me who wanted empty roads and everyone cycling weren’t welcome here. Electric cars made me feel as if I wasn’t succumbing to society’s demand to drive, and that I was doing it on my terms. But I really wasn’t. I think it’s pretty clear that had I been living in a more accepting society rather than a closed minded one, I probably would have kept cycling all the way from childhood to now with no breaks. And my anxiety would have most likely been a lot more manageable too.

When covid came along, I felt a kind of relief at being locked down for months from April to June 2020 and being restricted to 30 minutes of exercise per day. It meant that I only had time to go from home to the seafront and back again to stay within the time limit. There was one route that allowed me to make it down there almost car free. It also allowed me to avoid the majority of pedestrians and other cyclists in addition to the few cars that were still driving around.

I continued in that pattern for a few months, occasionally trying some other local routes while the traffic levels were so low. When the full lockdown was prematurely eased, I went back to just riding that one route to the seafront. It became gradually less fun. The couple of busy roads I had to cross filled up again and took ages to cross, the noise returned, but it was still by far the best route to ride. I decided I wouldn’t go back to doing any long rides again until after the pandemic.

Then, the temporary covid bike lanes appeared in August and officially opened at the beginning of September, months after the full lockdown had ended. I decided to ride on those instead and change up my route. At first it was a novelty to have a whole car lane to myself going into town, but it wore off when I thought about how polluted it was with so many cars right next to me. I stopped using it even before it was removed at the end of November (just three months after being installed).

By that point, I had stopped riding long distances, seen drivers become more and more dangerous and anti-bike, experienced a (albeit fleeting and poorly executed) glimpse of what being given permanent dedicated space for cycling might feel like; and seen us return to business as usual while covid was still far from over. I started riding at night instead, but I couldn’t keep that up very long. I retreated from society even further and stopped leaving the house entirely.

Covid got worse and worse. All restrictions ended. The government became more and more openly absurd and anti-science. Scandal after scandal and yet they remained untouchable. No one in the mainstream challenged the anti-science stance that had seeped into the public psyche. Scientists who were doing that (such as Dr Deepti Gurdasani and others) were increasingly ignored and no longer able to get on major TV or radio. And that pretty much leads us to today. I still don’t want to go anywhere. I still don’t feel safe anywhere in public covid wise. I still have no intention of taking public transport anywhere.

Every day I just have this ridiculous hope that maybe soon we will come to our senses as a society and force the end of car ownership, so we can have empty streets to ride again. In my mind, getting rid of cars has become the symbol of when our insanity stops as a species. But it doesn’t feel like anything is going to change any time soon. Only the climate crisis or another deadly Delta-like covid variant have the potential to interrupt business as usual and maybe lead to lasting change to the benefit of cycling (and everything / everyone else sane left in this world). It doesn’t seem as if the current cost of living crisis is going to be enough to force any real change. People will just put up with it quietly, like the obedient little pawns in the economic game they are.

So I guess if I have to sum up why I’m not cycling, it comes down to lack of quiet bike routes, cars, psycho drivers, endless covid mishandling / corruption / stupidity, lack of infrastructure and my depression at the endless stupidity of our broken economic system. I think that covers it.

The cases are going down gradually at the moment according to the ONS / Zoe Covid Study, but they’re still remaining stubbornly very high compared to previous waves of the pandemic. Universal masking is a distant memory at this point, and the booster must be wearing off significantly by now.

I’m hoping that by the summer, things will have shifted significantly in a positive direction, and I’ll hopefully head back out on the bike again. I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who feels this way. There must be others out there who just feel so beaten down by all this shit.