In My View… by Simon Parker of South East Cornwall Labour Party
The contrast in response to the biggest threat facing humanity could not have been more stark. On the one hand The Cornish Times reported the thoughtful and informed views of Jemma Knowles and Ele Waters, two members of Extinction Rebellion who travelled from their homes in South East Cornwall to London for a 10-day campaign of direct action to highlight the effects of climate change. On the other was our local MP, who dismissed the concerns of climate change activists with this statement: ‘It would be better if they channelled their effort into litter picks and other things to make a positive impact.’
I don’t know if Mrs Murray was being deliberately obtuse or whether she simply doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation, but her comments were yet another example of her party’s inability to do what it was elected to do and paid to do: listen to the issues that concern constituents and act in their best interests.
Most people locally will have been impressed by those from across Cornwall who gave up days off, or took holiday leave, to make their point on behalf of the rest of us by creating a peaceful public nuisance in the capital – and in some cases being arrested as a result. Anyone who’s been arrested during a peaceful protest will know it’s not to be taken lightly and that being placed in a cell can be a frightening experience. So three cheers to those who stood up and were counted on behalf of us all.
What’s the point, you might ask, of these acts of nonviolent direct action? After all, politicians have been ignoring the threat of impending climate change for decades. Mrs Murray herself put it like this: ‘This is something the government is taking very seriously.’ Really? Does that include savage Tory cuts to renewable energy providers which the Environmental Audit Committee told MPs will threaten the UK’s climate change targets for the next decade? I’m not sure how that constitutes taking the issue ‘very seriously’. Or is it just another example of this failed government and its MPs ignoring the views of the majority by putting their fingers in their ears and saying: ‘La-la-la.’
Fortunately, the issues raised by climate change campaigners are being listened to by the general public. But our tiny personal actions and changes in behaviour are not enough on their own to make any significant difference to whether global temperatures rise, carbon emissions leap, or turtles are strangled by waste plastic.
We need governments to act and to act now – and the Labour Party’s commitment to forcing a vote in Parliament this week to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency is both timely and vital.
Jeremy Corbyn described the wave of protests orchestrated by Extinction Rebellion as ‘a massive and necessary wake-up call’ that demanded ‘rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver’. He said that if Parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would ‘trigger a wave of action from governments around the world’ – which certainly sounds a lot more like ‘taking it very seriously’ than a litter pick!
First published in the Cornish Times, 03/05/19