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Comment: Let's let some air out of protest theatre

We need to care about climate change, but letting the air out of SUV tires isn’t helping
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The Tyre Extinguishers Twitter account stated the Victoria action was the first of its west-coast chapter and was set to spread to other major cities. THE TYRE EXTINGUISHERS VIA TWITTER

Many years ago, I read a column in Forbes magazine that described an environmentalist as “someone who likes to tell other people what to do.”

It was a harsh description in a business magazine, a lazy leap to judgment that fit an agenda, and it was far from accurate when it came to the environmentalists I knew at the time, or the vast majority of those I have known since.

But it is a perfect way to describe the creatures of the night who hide behind the Tyre Extinguishers banner as they vandalize property and hurt people they don’t know.

They claim that they let the air out of the tires on 34 SUVs in Victoria and Oak Bay the other night. They left behind a handout urging their victims to “not take it personally.”

The handout mixes provable facts with dubious claims about SUVs and SUV drivers. “You will have no difficulty getting around without your gas guzzler, with walking, cycling or public transport,” the handout says. Again, a lazy leap to judgment that fit an agenda.

I have never owned an SUV and have no plans to buy one, but some basic truths are evident.

SUVs are not necessarily gas guzzlers. Some get better gas mileage than regular passenger cars.

Some people have SUVs because it is easier to get in and out of them, which matters more as people age.

Some people need an SUV to haul things — and I guess that is why, when the Extinction Rebellion folks did their climate protest in front of our office a few years ago, they brought their supplies in an SUV.

When the vandals say their victims would have no difficulty without their SUVs, what do they base that on? Do they know if the vehicles will be needed to get to work, schools, medical appointments or anything else? Do they know the mobility needs of the people they are hurting? Just reinflating the tires could be a challenge for some.

Do the vandals honestly believe that their actions will have any impact on climate change, or on the attitude of the public?

If so, they don’t understand the concept of cause and effect — the effect in this case being to marginalize the most serious challenge we face, climate change. This stunt — vandalism, masquerading as theatre — served only to trivialize what we desperately need to take seriously.

We all need to do our part to combat climate change, to work together, but that won’t happen if those who claim the cause as their own simply hammer wedges between people. Actions such as blocking highways or harassing individuals at random will drive us further apart.

We have become far too polarized these days. We can’t fight a common enemy when we are busy fighting each other. That’s Management 101.

A common thread of belief in some circles these days starts with “bikes are good, cars are bad,” moves on to “quit fossil fuels now,” and closes with “capitalism is the root of all evil.”

What is their answer? Communism? I visited the Soviet Union in 1985, back when the hammer-and-sickle flag was still waving proudly, and it was quite evident, in Moscow and in the Caucasus, that the environment there was far less healthy than it was in Canada or the United States. It took years for the air and water in Eastern Europe to recover.

An immediate end to fossil fuel use? That’s fantasy, or at least a long-term goal. We need to reduce emissions, as quickly as we can, and in some cases that means choosing the lesser of two evils, namely the cleaner fuel source, as an interim measure.

But I am treading on dangerous ground here. That is the same message that Gwyn Morgan has given in some of his columns for us, and every time he says that type of thing, we get complaints that he is a denier. He’s not. There’s a difference between being a denier and proposing responses with which others disagree.

If anyone is in denial, it’s the Tyre Extinguishers, who are using climate change as an excuse to commit vandalism. They are not helping anyone but themselves.

We all need to care about climate change. Ultimately we all need to act, but meaningful action is more than just telling other people how to live their lives.

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