Why Just Stop Oil make me want to go out and buy a car

After Just Stop Oil activists throw paint over Stonehenge, Euan McColm contemplates buying the biggest, dirtiest gas guzzler he can find

The signs were there, long before their downright destructive boycott of the UK’s major book festivals or their exhausting decision to vandalise Stonehenge with orange paint. Back in 2019, we witnessed the extraordinary sight of climate protestors disrupting a rush-hour train and being surprised when tired and frustrated commuters didn’t rally behind them.

In fact, several members of the public dragged the Extinction Rebellion activists from the roof of the train as it sat in Canning Town station and… well, the important thing is that if the kids ask, violence is never the answer. No matter how amusing it might seem at a distance.

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The inability of the current generation of climate activists to do anything that might encourage public support for their aims seems almost pathological. If there’s a wrong way to protest, then there’s a blue-haired radical already painting the banners. If I was at all conspiracy-minded, I’d be tempted to believe leading climate protestors were MI5 plants or agent provocateurs hired by the oil companies.

In the latest of several similar stunts, Just Stop Oil protesters sprayed an orange substance on Stonehenge (Picture: Just Stop Oil/PA Wire)In the latest of several similar stunts, Just Stop Oil protesters sprayed an orange substance on Stonehenge (Picture: Just Stop Oil/PA Wire)
In the latest of several similar stunts, Just Stop Oil protesters sprayed an orange substance on Stonehenge (Picture: Just Stop Oil/PA Wire)
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Why the Druids?

Symbolism is crucial to successful activism. Climate activists know this, yet they continue to target the wrong symbols. Commuter trains aren’t symbols of “Big Fossil Fuel Greed”, they’re exactly what we need if we’re to cut down on traffic pollution.

The paintings defaced by activists aren’t the symbols of the hedge funds that sponsor art galleries, they’re symbols of the possibilities of human creation. Stonehenge is not a symbol of oil slicks and melting ice caps, it’s a symbol of the power of human endeavour.

The Druids – the Druids, for Christ’s sake – bear no responsibility for the current climate crisis. Perhaps so, the righteous activist might reply, but the Druids were into nature and all that, too, so, you know, it’s cool. One hears the voice of the Archdruid echoing down through the centuries, “Do you know how long it took us to f***ing make that, Ollie?”

Utterly perverse

The people who climate activists need to get onside are the sort of intelligent, engaged people – just like you – who take seriously their responsibility to vote. It is utterly perverse, then, that those at the frontline consistently stage stunts that can only irritate this target demographic.

What next for the dimwits currently leading the charge against all the wrong targets? Burning the Haywain? Kidnapping Richard Osman? Pushing David Attenborough over outside the Richmond Waitrose?

The climate activists’ central message is fundamentally sound. Humans have caused terrible damage to the planet and, unless serious changes are made, things are going to continue to get worse. It is not hyperbole to say that we are now in a major environmental crisis.

But with each new stunt, we talk less about this issue and more about the fact some perfectly nice, young, middle-class people have done something incredibly annoying. A cynic might wonder whether the cause is the most important thing. Perhaps the real thrill is the buzz – and the attention one receives – from marching up to a national treasure and hurling a tin of spaghetti hoops over it.

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Whatever the thinking behind climate activists’ stunts, it’s time for a new strategy. Vandalising stuff people like isn’t helping the cause. With each new stunt they pull, I daydream more of buying the biggest, dirtiest gas guzzler Auto Trader has to offer.



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