Ijustice is easily resisted after it returns to the past, and it costs nothing to imagine yourself as a hero after the event. Everyone celebrates the suffragettes now, but at the time they were derided as hateful spinsters and terrorists. McCarthyism is a pejorative political label on the right and left alike today, but at its height, more Americans approved of Senator Joseph McCarthy than resented his hunting. Most people would like to believe that they stood up against homophobia in 1980s Britain but, in 1987, only 11% of the British public believed that same-sex relationships were never wrong.
Which brings us to climate activism. This year has seen a global onslaught against people calling for more action to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis. Courts may issue harsh judgments, but so can history, and you have to wonder in its future judgment how the persecution and silencing of those who raise the alarm only worsened when scientific evidence was produced. of iron, and when extreme weather events damage the house. the imminent danger facing the human species. Here in Britain, a government that has reneged on climate commitments mainly by expanding oil and gas licenses has simultaneously introduced repressive legislation to silence those who hold them.
After sanctions were imposed to punish climate activists, the UN’s rapporteur for climate change and human rights suggested in November that the sanctions could violate international law. Indeed, earlier this month, 57-year-old climate activist Stephen Gingell was sentenced to six months in prison. His crime? Participating in a peaceful slow march in protest against new oil and gas licenses is something that is now prohibited by the Public Order Act 2023. Within a month, at least 470 peaceful protesters were arrested with the help of the raft of authoritarian measures driven. by Tory rule.
Like the climate emergency itself, the persecution of those fighting it is a global phenomenon. At the recent Cop28 summit in Dubai, protesters suffered restrictions on what they could say and their signs and where they could walk. The French government has banned the climate activist group Earth Uprising under the dubious pretext that it incites violence; it was rightly labeled by human rights activists as completely disproportionate to the violation of Frances obligations under international law.
In Australia, new laws impose longer prison sentences and fines against climate protesters: all this, as Human Rights Watch says, as the country faces a onslaught of record-breaking temperatures, floods, and wildfires in recent years. In New South Wales, meanwhile, laws punishing the crackdown on climate protesters were last week ruled unconstitutional because they undermined freedom of political communication.
Meanwhile, climate activists have suffered coordinated attempts to portray them as dangerous extremists. Take the Atlas Network, an influential global grouping of rightwing thinktanks: it has helped lead worldwide campaigns to denounce climate activists as dangerous extremists. A report by the climate platform DeSmog argues that this has real consequences: from describing the German climate movement Last Generation as de facto terrorists, which helped lay the groundwork for attacks on police against its activists, until the British thinktank Policy Exchange, reportedly part of Atlas, published a report denouncing Extinction Rebellion as an extremist organization seeking to destroy liberal democracy and the rule of law . Rishi Sunak later said that the Policy Exchanges work helped the government draft its legislation to crack down on those protesters.
Again, what will our descendants think, especially as they live in a world battered by the consequences of today’s failures to address an urgent emergency, knowing that we have full ownership the facts? Two months ago, an international group of scientists warned that the Earth’s vital signs are in a worse state than at any time in human history, endangering the future of life itself. From extreme weather events to drought, famine to forced population movements, a bleak future will be ignored unless the warnings of climate activists are heeded.
What happened was not so subtle. There is a calculated attempt to claim that the real extremists not those who risk the future of our world by fighting policies that limit carbon emissions, but those who seek to prevent future disasters. The truth is that these climate activists are being targeted not because they are protesting in the wrong way or because their methods are counterproductive, but because they have gained enough of a platform to make the climate emergency a reality. important and discussed issue. Understandably, vested interests profiting at the planet’s expense have every motive to shut them down.
There are politicians with loud voices who acknowledge that the climate emergency is indeed real, but there is no telling whether these climate activists are facing coordinated campaigns to silence them, or even to create in their own complicity. In hindsight, it seems too obvious to accept the righteousness of those who fought for women’s right to vote, or who stood up against McCarthyite intimidation, or who fought for gay rights. But these were often lonely wars, and those that history proves paid a heavy price at the time. If the climate activists warning of the gravest threat facing humanity are silenced until 2024, we may all find ourselves paying an unbearable price.
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