In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.
I have a win-fest this week. Without a shadow of a doubt, my winners are:
- Simon Bramwell
- Ian Bray
- Jane Augsburger
- Senan Clifford
- David Lambert
- James “Sid” Saunders
To understand why, we must revisit 15 April 2019. On that day, there was an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Shell’s headquarters was targeted, quite simply because the protesters believed that Shell is a major contributor to global warming.
Various damage was done, but it was small-scale. Windows were broken, graffiti was sprayed. Small fry. Shell claimed that the bill to clear up the damage came to £25k, which is very approximately the same in USD or EUR.
My six winners were the culprits. Their case came up last week.
However, despite admitting the damage, my winners pleaded Not Guilty. Their defence? That what they did had been a necessary and proportionate response to Shell’s polluting activities.
That’s not a legal defence, said the judge, and instructed the jury to find the six Guilty.
The jury, however, bought the six’s reasons and acquitted. Okay, you’re going to have to prove that you believed your actions were appropriate, but you’re not automatically guilty. And, the beauty of English law is that this case will serve as a template for other, similar cases.
For me, this was my winning story, there and then. That we are no longer automatically guilty if we harm companies as they harm us.
But I wanted to take this story one step further. The ages of my winners.
- Simon Bramwell is 49
- Ian Bray is 53
- Jane Augsburger is 55
- Senan Clifford is 60
- David Lambert is 62
- Sid Saunders is 41
None of these people is Greta Thunberg. None of these people is a fresh-faced teenager arguing that companies like Shell are stealing their future. This is a bunch of mature people who are saying “We have watched this cycle for decades. Have seen the indignance, the protests, the public’s appetite for change and the subsequent inaction by both companies and governments. And we have had enough.”. That is exactly how I feel – I’m not prepared to pussy-foot this.
I think long and hard about the validity of ER’s actions, how they directly affect people who might not themselves be contributing directly to climate change. But who, in many cases, are contributing indirectly. Shell made a profit of $16.5 bn in 2019, and that money must have come from somewhere.
We’re very good a dealing with protest here – protest as much as you like, as long as it doesn’t actually affect anyone. The whole point of protest is that it does affect people. To make them realise something. In this case, I can justify ER’s actions as proportional, every time.
I’m not sure how much there is left to win any more – I’m very pessimistic about climate change – but my generation (I’m 53) certainly has nothing left to lose.