From 30 July till 2 August this year there was a Green Gathering Festival somewhere in Wales. Provided the weather was good, it looks as if they probably had a wonderful time. I was too young and impecunious to visit San Francisco before 1976, and therefore missed their Summer of Love hippie fest of 1967. On the other hand I and my guitar spent the whole summer of 1965 being irresponsible in a (then) minuscule and almost unknown Algarve fishing village called Albufeira. I can vividly recall the intoxicating sense of freedom, so I begrudge no one the urge to return to what feels like nature.
But there was a difference. A great deal of our intoxication came from an overwhelming sense of optimism (and, let’s not deny it, sangria, sun and sex). Yes, there was The Bomb; yes, there was Vietnam; yes, we young people rebelled (all young people do), but still we felt that the future of the world was wonderful and out there to be seized. Today’s message is that there is no future; and the message is a dangerous lie.
On 2 August, the Green Gathering was addressed by Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam.
It is overwhelmingly tempting to give this speech a good kicking: it is such an easy target. It makes a long series of assertions, that claim to be scientifically proved but which are easily exploded via reference to authoritative data in the public domain, and does so with a desperate lack of coherence.
It is also tempting to mock it. I was genuinely startled to hear him repeatedly predicting universal ‘claps’. I understood that woke orthodoxy had outlawed the practice of normal applause in favour of ‘glad hands’. It was a second or two before I realised he foresees collapse.
Also is that a stain on the front of his trousers? If so, do I even want to know what it is? No. Quite a long way into the speech someone in the audience comes and tidies some fabric wrapped around a lead,
He tells us that he has been, for five years, at King’s College doing PhD research into how to cause trouble effectively. Though surprised that there should even be such a course, I believe him. This autumn has witnessed an astounding amount of trouble caused, and he has been largely to blame.
Nevertheless, looked at as a whole, this could easily be quite a good speech. His delivery, constantly on a falling cadence, is tedious; but though incoherent he manages to get his message across.
The question I ask myself, as he spews out this hate-filled stream of disinformation, is whether he is a fool or a knave. He makes it clear very early that he dislikes people, so wholesale merchants of disinformation would have found him a vessel eager to be filled. His organisation, Extinction Rebellion, is a misnomer twice over. There is no acceleration of extinctions, and when teachers take children out of school to join demonstrations there is no rebellion.
Problems are always upstream of the symptoms, and Hallam is merely a symptom – a puppet sideshow. There are very rich and powerful forces upstream, and legions of puppets – of varying degrees of influence – downstream. The climate industry is unimaginably big. The disinformation is parroted by the high, the mighty, and the rapidly getting richer on the back of it.
It is the disinformation that is stealing the children’s childhood.
The world is a wonderful place full of mainly wonderful people, and the environment is overall getting better all the time: the data make that very clear. If ever there was a moment in the whole story of homo sapiens for bright-eyed, smiling optimism and love and hope this is it. But there are forces who prefer – for reasons that no doubt make sense to them – to sow discord.