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Danger ahead

by
18 September 2020

A SIGN beside the road is noticed by road users then usually ignored. A sign in the road gets their attention, although it has the potential to annoy. But if the sign is there to warn of a gaping hole in the road ahead, where else should the sign be? This is the rationale behind the Extinction Rebellion protests. Each round of XR protests has tended to include at least one instance in which the protest has attracted opprobrium rather than sympathy: disruptions to the Tube and the Docklands Light Railway, or the blockading of a newspaper printworks. Even these miscalcula­tions get the climate emergency talked about, but the newspaper blockade was a miscalculation. The Times, Telegraph, and Mail can be irritatingly hostile, focusing, for example, on the vandal who sprayed graffiti on the Churchill statue in Parliament Square rather than the mass of well-behaved, law-abiding protesters. But it was unwise to alienate them. This week, our television critic, arguing that Sir David Attenborough’s latest production, Extinc­tion: The facts, could have been harder-hitting, writes that the wholesale destruction of the planet deserves “savage denunci­ation” rather than “genial reasonableness”. In contrast, a piece in The Spectator judged it to be “hysterical”: “It is shocking that the BBC can have allowed such one-sided green propaganda onto our screens.” The Spectator is owned by the Barclay Brothers, publishers of the blockaded Telegraph. And, of course, the Prime Minister is a Telegraph journalist. . .

In the end, the seriousness of global warming ought to unite all shades of political opinion. Despite the existence of ideologues in and around Downing Street, and the unhealthy influence of big corporations, this is a more populist Government than many. If it perceives that the public wants action, then it will act. Without per­­sistent encouragement and pressure, however, it will repeat the mistakes of the past, assume that the hole in the road is in the far distance, and drive round the sign.

 

A puzzle

IT IS easy to point out the inconsistency between the anti-centralist line in the article by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London on Wednesday and the issuing of firm instructions — later admitted to be guidance — which led to the closure of Church of England churches in March. People who argued that the continuing of services could safely be left to the discretion of individual churches merely anticipated the situation that now prevails. The article appears to contain a tacit apology: “Where some have felt we have made too many decisions from the centre, we recommit to empowering clergy and parishes.” Times change, of course, and more is known now about how to prevent the spread of infection. But when the public is so con­fused about how best to avoid a second spike of coronavirus cases, this is an odd moment to choose to advocate greater democracy. It would have been helpful of the Archbishop and the Bishop to give more detail about their proposals rather than leave it to “a source” to translate.

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