Climate radicals gave Washington, D.C. area residents received a double dose of protests last week.
On Wednesday morning, three climate protestors blocked traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway during rush hour. The group, “Declare Emergency” said they were acting “out of love for our fellow humans and our collective future” and demanded that President Biden declare a climate emergency. Commuters were far from inspired. As my 12-year-old correctly noted, forcing a long line of cars to idle isn’t good for emissions or air quality.
Then, on Thursday, protesters smeared black and red paint on a Plexiglas enclosure that holds Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.”
For Europeans these tactics – and antics – are familiar but on a much larger scale.
Two days before the GW Parkway protests, 200 climate activists were arrested in Berlin for gluing themselves to roadways. More than 500 police officers had to clear demonstrators from more than 30 separate protest sites. The roadway protests in Berlin were no doubt inspired by six climate activists who last fall shut down the Berlin airport after breaking through security and gluing themselves to a runway.
And, as we’ve covered before, attacking art to grab attention isn’t new in Europe. Climate activists made headlines in October 2022 when they threw tomato soup at a van Gogh painting in London and smeared mashed potatoes on a Monet in Germany.
As Americans, it’s tempting to dismiss these tactics as desperate attention-seeking gestures from a lunatic fringe. But if the European pattern is any indication, radical climate protests and rhetoric can move the Overton window regarding what constitutes normal and constructive climate policy.
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European politics is a cautionary tale. In Germany, politicians told their constituents they were “going green” and moving away from fossil fuels when they were merely outsourcing fossil fuel production to Russia, which responded to European weakness and energy security naivety by invading Ukraine.
Instead of placating, pacifying, or attempting to negotiate with degrowth climate terrorists, American policymakers should lean on history and reason to make the case that the best way to love humanity is to embrace innovation, freedom, and human creativity.
The story of energy innovation is long, but the moral of the story is clear. For at least 400,000 years hominins used wood as a source of energy to keep us warm and to cook food. Incidentally, evolutionary biologists note that cooking with fire (old school BBQ) helped us cross the cerebral rubicon and become modern humans because it conserved metabolic energy and redirected it from our guts to our brains. Then, as forests were being depleted, in the nick of time we discovered coal and fossil fuels. That’s right, fossil fuels saved the trees. We are now using fossil fuels to come up with newer, better, and cleaner forms of energy like renewables and nuclear fission and fusion.
Today’s degrowth protestors would be gluing themselves to trees in the 17th century to protest the depletion of the forests and the inevitable extinction of the species. If those voices existed, it’s a good thing they were ignored. We’re debating climate policy in 2023 because our ancestors did what they had to do to cook food for their families and not freeze to death.
The notion that President Biden could declare a climate emergency and immediately end fossil fuel use is deeply and comprehensively crazy. Even if he could persuade other countries to do the same (he can’t), it would lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people who depend on the energy and products from fossil fuels for basic survival. There is no chapter in human history in which we retreated into caves, except when escaping violence.
Americans should not underestimate the damage climate protestors can do however irrational and silly their tactics may seem. The surest way to help humanity develop cleaner energy is to protect the engine of innovation. That’s the very thing the degrowth movement wants to disrupt.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat turned Independent, is setting a good example by calling for a revival of critical thinking among the body politic. In a new profile in the Atlantic, McKay Coppins writes of Sinema:
Climate protestors can glue themselves to roads. The rest of us should glue ourselves to reason. If more chose Sinema’s “lifelong learner” path, the planet and its people will be much better off.