Features Australia

Threatened with extinction

Climate change activists may only have a few years left

14 March 2020

9:00 AM

14 March 2020

9:00 AM

You’d think if you lived in Hong Kong just now you’d have more to worry about than fantasies about the climate. Not so, as far as Hong Kong members of Extinction Rebellion are concerned. They remain hypnotised by Greta’s glare and ready to make utter idiots of themselves for the sacred cause of saving the planet.

Witness the case of half a dozen of them sitting around a table in the water. ‘Activists from Extinction Rebellion Hong Kong staged a dinner party in the South China Sea on Sunday to raise awareness of the climate crisis,’ reported the Hong Kong Free Press, though the phrase ‘in the South China Sea’ was misleading, as it makes you think of somewhere out in the boundless ocean, whereas the photograph shows the table and chairs set up safely close to the beach, lest any of the ‘activists’ be swept away on the supposedly soaring tides.

As to raising awareness of the ‘climate crisis’, this protest, like so much of the silliness Extinction Rebellion goes on with, was more likely to raise a laugh. It might have been a scene from a pretentious university drama society production of the Theatre of the Absurd. On the ‘dinner’ menu were plateloads of rubbish and plastic (once numbered among mankind’s blessings and now, to the eco-anxious, the very substance of evil) ‘to highlight the issue of microplastics and trash in the sea.’ In Hong Kong, as in Australia, there is many an expensive restaurant where, if you must eat rubbish, you can do so without getting wet through, but that leaves out the feel-good factor. Sitting in the water in your clothes shows, you know, so much commitment, though some people might regard it as just another example of the general loopiness of Extinction Rebellion enthusiasts, like their fondness for gluing themselves to the road, or on one occasion, to the gates of Buckingham Palace.


Extinction Rebellion can be a nuisance, blocking streets and making people late for work, but we can always do with a good laugh in our grey old world and it’s best to see these ‘activists’ as clowns. Conservatives should neither worry about Extinction Rebellion nor take it at its own self-important estimate of being a mighty instrument for the destruction of capitalism. Can anyone seriously believe that the gaggle of spoilt millennials, hippy grandmothers and moth-eaten sociology lecturers in death’s-head masks who form the Extinction Rebellion membership are about to bring down our ‘planet-abusive’ democratic order and replace it with their ‘citizens’ assemblies’? (the very name, eerily reminiscent of the Terror, is pure black comedy).

These mad movements come and go. Who now recalls the Peace Pledge Union? The first of the mass anti-war organisations, it began in the 1930s in Britain, had a membership of 140,000 and attracted, as these movements still do, an array of celebrity supporters – people like Bertrand Russell and Aldous Huxley. The difficulty was that the principal threat to Britain was not then climate but Hitler, and that to oppose war with him you had to be in favour of appeasement. Once everyone saw that appeasement was only staving off the inevitable confrontation, Peace Pledgers had to choose between their principles and their survival. The PPU effectively collapsed, though it still lingers on in once-seedy, now trendifying north London, in a lane behind a shop called Bumblebee Whole Foods (as eloquent an indicator of social change as you could find).

We don’t have to go back to the second world war to get an idea of what lies in store for Extinction Rebellion. Just think Occupy. That was a movement that was never out of the news less than ten years ago. The ABC loved it; the then-Fairfax media cheered it on. Just like Extinction Rebellion, Occupy was going to bring down capitalism, its preferred technique being the occupation of commercial centres around the world to protest against poverty and ‘corporate greed’. Also like Extinction Rebellion, the Australian Occupy was a copycat version of overseas grievance-mongering – why is it that our local leftists never have the imagination to think up causes of their own? Every contentious social issue here is a direct pinch from somewhere else – the gay movement, the trans movement, the climate movement, even the Aboriginal movement, which is simply the politics of American and Canadian ‘first peoples’ lifted mutatis mutandis and given a re-run here.

Older supporters of Extinction Rebellion, the perpetual protest types, will have militated in Occupy and perhaps spent a night or two in one of its city-centre camps (a night or two would have been enough for most people, since Occupy tended not to attach the same importance to hygiene as it did to bringing on the revolution). Eventually even leftist state governments and councils got sick of the unsavoury shanty towns disfiguring streets and parks and police cleared the camps away, though Occupiers managed to clutter up Martin Place in Sydney for nearly two years. And today? Occupy is gone like a blast of halitosis in the fresh air.

Extinction Rebellion has inherited Occupy’s obsessions, with an added emphasis on climate, and in one sense it will be a pity if it doesn’t have more success, since quite a lot of social good might accidentally result. The end of militant feminism, for example, the most destructive social force of our age with its grim harvest of abortions and divorces. This poisoner of the natural harmony between women and men, which has transformed the sexes from co-operators into competitors, is a luxury made possible only by Western prosperity, which replaced women’s domestic drudgery with what used to be called, though this is probably now ‘racist’, ‘white goods’. Extinction Rebellion’s vision of ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2025 would close down the industry that created the prosperity and take us back, if not quite to the Stone Age, to the 1950s, by many accounts a happier age for family life than our own and one in which there were plenty of contented wives – my mother was one – but few feminists. How many women had the time or energy to be feminists once they’d washed five loads of laundry by hand and mangle, done the ironing, cleaned the house with a mop and carpet sweeper and walked to the shops each day (no cars or refrigerators)? How many would now if Extinction Rebellion got its way with energy production?

But history suggests that before that can happen the extinctioners themselves will have moved on. The only extinction that Extinction Rebellion really has to worry about is its own.

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