Did 2021’s Hot Summer Spark New Green Extremism?

Commentary, Culture Wars, Jack Buckby

There’s no doubt that summer 2021 was a scorcher. The United Kingdom’s Met Office revealed how temperatures exceeded 30°C in September for only the seventh time in history. 

In Vancouver, Canada, 2021 was the second hottest summer ever recorded, with daily average temperatures at Vancouver International Airport reaching 18.9°C in June, July and August. It was only 0.2°C under the 63-year-old record. And over in West Canada, June and July saw several days where temperatures exceeded 30°C. 

The United States saw similar scorching days, too. Almost every week, news outlets described how temperatures hit the highest levels for a hundred years or more, prompting many to warn of the impending threat of global warming—while at the same time, seemingly failing to consider the question, “what happened a hundred years ago?”.

And if the high temperatures weren’t inconvenient enough, particularly for those living in the cities, Extinction Rebellion (XR) was ready and willing to make life even more miserable for commuters who were once again hit by riots, protests, unrest and disruption. 

In Vancouver, five climate protesters including a 15-year-old boy were arrested after a five-hour occupation of a major intersection in the downtown region. XR Vancouver was behind the “peaceful” march, which caused major disruption to the city from 11 am on August 21. Holding their colourful signs and dancing in the street, the activists proclaimed that the summer weather was an indication of immediate doom and engaged in what I have previously described as “smiley face terrorism.”

That is, the kind of destruction one would see from a terror incident in the streets of a major city, but without the death and destruction orchestrated by extremists with a smile and a dance. In this instance, they did precisely that, and they even encouraged a child to join in with their criminality.

The United Kingdom suffered the worst of Extinction Rebellion’s smiley face terrorism this year, however, with more than 500 activists arrested since August 23, according to the Metropolitan Police. On the first day of the protests, the group shut down Trafalgar Square in a protest made in conjunction with a group called “Nature Rebellion.” 

Wearing bizarre costumes, protesters shut down huge sections of the city, forced out almost 2,000 police officers whose time would be better spent fighting regular crimes in the city and blocked traffic for hours. Quick and decisive action from those police officers, however, appears to be forcing the extremist group to rethink its tactics. 

Video footage showed how police officers quickly tackled XR protesters to the ground before setting up huge wooden roadblocks that they had pulled from the back of a truck, and how they smashed windows on buses containing activists to drag them out, put them in headlocks, and arrest them on the spot. 

The Guardian reported XR activists specifically organized their protests this year to cause maximum damage, executing their protests in two phases. The first, according to the newspaper, was to engage in “crisis talks” whereby protestors occupied the busiest areas of the city to talk to passersby about the climate crisis—another firm indication of the cult-like nature of this group.

The second phase involved moving those protests to the City of London, whereby activists would purposely attempt to disrupt financial institutions, who they say are the main instigators of global fossil fuel projects. 

The Guardian added that XR’s activists, since witnessing the crackdown, are aware that change is needed. Gail Bradbrook, a co-founder of XR, told the newspaper that there has been a “contraction” in the movement but that she sees it “stabilizing and getting stronger.” 

Bradbrook added that XR will now “pivot” from this year’s talk about an “emergency” to focusing on the “political economy” next year and beyond, adding that activists will “get out into the communities.” What that will entail, however, is anybody’s guess. 

To date, XR’s tactics have been both expected and predictable. British police have proven that stricter enforcement of the law can prevent the same numbers coming out every year—with this year seeing a notable decline in attendees over recent years—but the suggestion that XR tactics will change should scare all Western leaders. 

When motivated by what one considers to be a legitimate grievance, and in this instance, that grievance is the belief that the world is literally about to end, there is no telling what extremist activists will do next. 

Now is the time for true leadership, in the style of the Metropolitan Police, from American and Canadian political leaders. Fail to take action on these extremists now, and next year they may go beyond their usual smiley face terrorism into just plain terrorism. 

 

Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Photo by Lenstravelier on Unsplash.