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  • February 8, 2022
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A Reasonable Man

62, retired. Member of XR Reading

As part of the recent Extinction Rebellion protests I was handing out leaflets at Oxford Circus when I met a reasonable man.  He glanced at my leaflet, which invited people to join the discussion on what to do about the looming environmental crisis, and told me that XR were going about things all wrong and, furthermore, their demands could lead only to tyranny.  Wanting to engage with everyone,  especially those with opposing views, I asked him to tell me more. 

 It was not that he did not believe in climate change, he said – though I would be surprised by the number of scientists who did not agree with the findings of the latest IPCC report.  I tried to ask him who he thought these scientists were, and if he thought there might be any link between them and the fossil fuel industry, but unfortunately he was a tall man and his gaze was firmly fixed above my head.  The changes that XR were asking for – namely the end of fossil fuel extraction – made no sense, he said.  Had I heard of carbon capture?  I had, I replied, but was concerned that such technologies do not really exist.  He looked down and smiled benevolently.  I would be surprised, he said, by how effective carbon capture would turn out to be.  I looked up at him, nonplussed. More effective than just not taking fossil fuels out of the ground? Fossil fuels that are, after all, nature’s own form of carbon capture? 

My questions, alas, went unheard for he had returned to the subject of tyranny.  Capitalism was the only thing that would save us, he assured me, for when changes to the way we live could be monetised then business would get on board with the green agenda.  When will that be,  I murmured, my voice now muted by his certainty.  And was there not a contradiction between the goal of endless growth and sustainability? Again there was no response.  These people,  the man  said, gesturing at the crowds, are anti-capitalists, are Marxists.  They seemed nice, he warned me, but it was just a veneer. I protested, meekly. Surely the Citizens Assemblies we are asking for would extend rather than suppress democracy? Window dressing, he said, then folded up my leaflet, tapped his head and assured me that all I – and the other protesters – needed to do was to use our brains and think about the subject sensibly.  I wanted to say so much: that surely a political and economic reality that posed an existential threat to the survival of the planet was the ultimate in irrationality?  In tyranny? But he had already thanked me for our interesting conversation and was sauntering away, a reasonable man.

Reported and edited by Grace Eakin

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