Protest – from the barricades or from your armchair

Small steps…


Photo by by Mika Baumeister

Is aversion to confrontation and an instinctive dislike for exhibitionism a particularly British trait? Or a middle-class thing? Whatever the reason, I tend to be one of the keep-your-head-down-and-don’t-get-involved masses. Because I like a quiet life. I like calm congeniality. I have to rouse myself and dig deep to complain to the waiter that my chips are cold.

But recently I’ve been haunted by that famous line of Edmund Burke’s, that could just as easily apply to today’s climate crisis:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

We’re all trying to be good. But it’s just not enough to continue as we always have, or to expect others to change the world on our behalf. The change has to start at home, and spread rapidly throughout almost every aspect of our lives.

It’s a challenge for every one of us. So that, in future years, we’ve got an answer when our children and grandchildren turn to us and say, ‘They all told you what would happen. You knew we would pay the price. So what did you do?’

As a rule, governments and businesses have failed to meet that challenge. So given the urgency and what’s at stake, I’m in support of almost anything that forces attention – and hopefully action – on the issue. Unfortunately, and to my shame, the excuses are somehow just too abundant for me to man the barricades myself. For starters, my wife would kill me if I got arrested. Besides, I’ve a job to do, kids to get to school, and that lawn won’t mow itself.

But there are other ways of being vocal in protest. It could be a meeting with your MP, MSP or local councillor to voice your concerns – few things show them you’re prioritising an issue more than taking the time to meet in person. It could be through joining environmental charities, fighting the big polluters with the power of the law. It could be through switching your electricity to a green provider, ensuring your pension and any other investments are divested from fossil fuels, or switching your bank account away from those funding fossil fuel extraction. It might just be an email of complaint to a company selling a product wrapped in an over-abundance of plastic.

Use the power of your vote and of your wallet. And with every step make it clear why you’re taking that action, so that the message will spread. And then sit back with a nice cup of tea, knowing that you’re a good person, who’s not doing nothing.

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