British Upper-Class Twits Saving the Planet

A new breed of environmental activist is on the warpath in Britain — and “breeding” is the operative word. With names like Lily, Tilly, and Joss they sound like characters in a BBC costume drama, or the guest list for a society ball. They are the scions of the great and the good, and they have nothing better to do than save the planet.


The class-obsessed British media has got itself into quite a lather over last week’s protest at Stansted, London’s third airport. The protest itself was little more than a stunt, although it raised troubling questions about security at the airport when around 50 protesters cut through the perimeter fence, causing hundreds of flights to be canceled or delayed.

What got the media so excited was the fact that these weren’t your average extremists. They were variously labeled as “middle-class militants”  (middle-class in the British vernacular being shorthand for educated and well-off), “designer demonstrators,” and “the bolshie Barbour brigade” (Barbour is a brand of outdoor clothing favored by the country set).

Joss Garman, 23, who founded Plane Stupid, the group that staged the protest, claimed the protesters were “not the sort of people who usually go in for activist stuff,” and were “educated, scientifically literate, passionate and eloquent.” His point is clear: we are supposed to take these activists seriously because they are “clever” and “well-brought-up.” How could they be wrong?

They’ve certainly had as good an education as money can buy, and they’re clearly passionate. Tilly, 21, explained: “If we fail, it will be the people on this runway, and our children, who’ll live with the consequences.” Lily, also 21, said: “Being arrested is a terrifying prospect, but not nearly as terrifying as the threat of climate change.”


But “scientifically literate”? Are any of them remotely aware that there remains not a shred of evidence to suggest that the modest warming of the last hundred years or so is outside the natural range of variation in the earth’s temperature, or is man-made? Or that we’re entering a second decade without any increase in warming, and that recent trends don’t come close to matching the predictions of the alarmists?

(You’ll find comparisons between actual temperature records and the various predictions made by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change here. Doubtless this will provoke the usual excitement in the comments, so if you know different be sure to post the relevant links there. While you’re at it you might want to email the IPCC, Al Gore, and the world’s major scientific organizations, who between them have failed to produce evidence to support their theories despite having combined budgets running to hundreds of millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of staff.)

You can be passionate about science, but the passion Garman is talking about is passion in place of science. Like most extremists, climate change activists are driven in part by a fear of genuine science that borders on superstition, and by a susceptibility to group-think that’s little short of mass hysteria. The “posh kids” of Plane Stupid suffer from special pathologies of their own: guilt over the worthlessness of their privileged lives, the urge to do something “important,” and the thrill of casting off the shackles of polite society by breaking the law, just a little bit. (“Mummy! I spent the night in a cell! With real criminals!”)

At least protester Lily does have a passing acquaintance with science, albeit of the social variety. She is, ironically, an anthropology student — so while she likely knows nothing about ice core data, upper tropospheric warming, or sun spots, she probably knows quite a bit about herd mentality and the mechanisms that can cause entire societies to fall prey to stupid but seductive ideas.


Hypocrisy being a key plank of the environmentalist movement, many of those who protested at Stansted will think nothing of hopping on a plane themselves. Of course, they won’t be flying to the cheap European destinations served by the low-cost airlines that operate out of the airport; they’ll be visiting the family villa in Tuscany, or jetting off to Africa to spend a year hanging out with “authentic” native types.

And when they do fly, they’ll salve their consciences by “offsetting” their personal carbon emissions. This entails paying money to an internet-based company which promises to plant a tree for them in Rwanda, or some such gesture, in return — a process so open to abuse and devoid of regulation that it makes the selling of the Brooklyn Bridge to Japanese tourists look like a noble enterprise.

The contempt in which these well-off eco-fascists hold the “ordinary” people whose holidays and lives they disrupt is chilling. The Stansted protest left thousands of families, many with small children, stranded. One woman told how the disruption caused her to miss her father’s funeral in Ireland. Presumably Lily, Tilly, and Joss would tell her “It’s too late for your father, but it’s not too late to save the planet.” (Brendan O’Neill has an excellent piece on the class warfare aspect of the protest at Spiked.)

What’s remarkable about the media coverage of stunts such as the Stansted caper is that reporters never question the protesters’ claims. They report the details of the event, but never discuss whether or not the phenomenon that’s the subject of the protest actually exists. Activists are allowed to make wild claims such as “our planet is burning up” without being challenged to back them up with facts. Can you imagine the press reporting on protests against an oppressive regime such as Burma’s or China’s without any mention of what that regime is accused of — or indeed any information about the country at all?


And it’s that lack of scrutiny that the alarmists depend on. They’re whistling past the graveyard, hoping that they’ve planted the fear of climate change in the public consciousness deeply enough that no one will actually take the trouble to check the facts. But the signs aren’t good. A paltry few thousand took part in a march in London the other day, while in the face of a global recession world leaders have been meeting in Poznan, Poland for the latest round of fruitless climate talks — agreeing as usual to modest targets that won’t be met, and pledging more talks about more talks.

Back in the real world, both winter and the credit crunch are settling in, and millions of people are finding it increasingly hard to pay fuel bills driven sky-high in large part by the costs of “tackling” a non-existent problem. Of course, Lily, Tilly, Joss, and their well-heeled friends don’t have to worry about where to find the money for soaring bills or about losing their jobs.

They don’t have to worry about very much at all, which is why they’ve seized on the “threat” of climate change with such fervor. The activists of Plane Stupid like to compare themselves to the Suffragette movement, but they have more in common with Monty Python’s Upper-Class Twits of the Year.


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