Environmental activism is most noted for ‘direct action’ — behaviour that has two fundamental characteristics. 1. It is highly visible. 2. It is disruptive to the operations of some activity or other.

Direct action is necessary, I have argued, because the environmental movement isn’t a movement at all. If the environmental movement were able to mobilise large numbers of people, it would be able to assert itself without recourse to high profile, camera-friendly stunts.

Another tendency of direct activists is their claim to impunity. They say their actions are legitimised by the greater good they will serve.

Famously, Jim Hansen gave evidence at a trial of environmental protesters who had tried to shut down operations at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station. The judge at the trial agreed that the activists’ actions had the ‘highest possible motives‘, and spared them a jail sentence.

This appeal for immunity from the law has again been claimed by protesters in the ‘No Dash for Gas‘ (NDG) campaign. Their webpage explains their recent attempt to save the planet…

Early on Monday 29th October, sixteen people scaled the chimneys of West Burton gas-fired power station, shutting it down and halting further construction. West Burton is one of the first of up to 20 new gas-fired power stations the Government has planned.

The new ‘dash for gas’ will leave us dependent on a highly polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuel for decades to come. It would make even our modest carbon reduction targets impossible to hit, and cause household energy bills to soar even further. While energy companies profit, our chances of a secure and sustainable future are slipping away.

People who follow the debate will understand the problem here. Most households are facing higher and rising energy bills. Environmentalists have tried to argue that meeting carbon emissions and renewable energy targets will reduce bills, create employment and save the planet. None of these claims are true. The degree of risk faced by the planet is over-stated. And creating more labour-intensive energy through less efficient methods can only make energy more expensive. Green NGOs have, through their lobbying, created an environment which is hostile to the replacement of energy infrastructure — be it nuclear, gas, coal or oil. And governments and political parties who have been unable or unwilling to challenge them and have sought ‘green’ alternatives and heavy, top-down policies which have comprehensively failed. Thus, the UK’s energy infrastructure has atrophied, leading to the situation we now find ourselves in — political uncertainty has created a problem of uncertainty for investment, and energy companies have been able to demand more and more. Environmentalism has created an entirely new kind of ‘insecure and unsustainable’ situation and given higher and higher profits to energy companies. Most people recognise that the priorities that have driven the current and previous governments’ energy policies are responsible for the higher prices they now face.

Even if that’s too bold a claim, it is clearly the case that environmental activists have been unable to mobilise public opinion. Thus, the NDG was forced to campaign through direct action, reinventing its claim to be acting ‘in the greater good’ on the way:

This action is therefore in defence of the global commons, which are under sustained attack by polluting fossil fuel companies. We are here to challenge corporate power and the rush to further ingrain an energy system that puts short term profits of the few, above the collective needs of the many.

NDG presume to act in ‘the collective needs of the many’, but have no mandate from the many to act on their behalf. Anyone can claim to be acting on behalf of the many, for the greater good. But very few can demonstrate that they actually are. NDG act in spite of the many’s indifference to their campaign.

The operators of the site that was the target of NDGs action, EDF, are now persuing the group for £5 million in a civil action. Says the company:

The court case of 20 February was a criminal case and the protesters were brought to court to face charges following their arrest by police at the West Burton gas power station. It was not an action involving EDF Energy.

EDF Energy supports the right to lawful protest and respects differing points of view. However, the consequences of this illegal activity put lives at risk, caused considerable disruption to the site during its construction, and considerable financial losses. It also delayed the completion of the new power station – part of a massive investment in the UK’s energy supply which will provide enough electricity for 1.5m homes. It is important that those considering this kind of action understand that they may face consequences through civil action for the damage, cost and disruption they cause.

This has led to predictable howls of protest from protesters and their supporters. The unlikely sounding Zion Lights proclaims in the Huffington Post that ‘what EDF are attempting to hold to ransom is the British freedom to protest’. Monbiot, in full conspiracy-theory mode warned that ‘The energy giant is part of a global strategy by corporations to stifle democracy’. “When protest stops, politics sclerotises: it becomes a conversation between different factions of the elite”, he said. This blog has been arguing much the same thing for years now. Parents of one of the NDG protesters, Russ and Barbara Fauset have launched an online petition to persuade EDF to drop the action.

EDF are suing Claire and her fellow activists for £5 million. We feel this is totally unfair. The company says that they have to take the consequences for their actions. EDF’s business is to make money, not safeguard the planet for generations to come; theirs is a short term, expedient enterprise. It’s heartbreaking to think that Claire and her friends are being punished for putting themselves at risk for the good of humanity.

England celebrates its right to peaceful protest. The abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage are but two issues which have only come about through this means. We should be applauding and rewarding the group for their actions rather than allowing a multi-national organisation to put them in debt, possibly for the rest of their lives for a sum, which to EDF is a mere drop in the ocean, but well over a lifetime’s income for them.

But does the ‘right to protest’ really extend to criminal damage, and the unlawful closing down of essential infrastructure? Does democracy really depend on people being able to shut down power stations? And can the NDG campaign really be compared to campaigns to abolish slavery and establish universal suffrage?

Democracy surely doesn’t mean treating anyone with a half-baked claim to be acting ‘in the needs of the many’ as though they were above the law. (And NB, you don’t see climate sceptics closing down wind farms). The right to protest — or more accurately, acting out on narcissistic fantasies about saving the planet — is not endangered by EDF’s civil action any more than it was endangered by the criminal law applying to any action, be it part of a political campaign, or simply mindless vandalism.

But what about the comparison to other civil rights struggles?

The first problem for the NDG campaigners is that they have no real grievance of their own. They can’t claim to being treated like slaves, denied the vote, or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of their race. Their protest is about the way energy is produced and the effects they claim it will cause. If they were really worried about democracy, they would of course be complaining that the basis of the government’s energy policies — environmentalism — had not been tested by the democratic process, and that climate sceptics are routinely excluded from the public debate. It’s a debate that activists do all that they can to avoid. Democracy has been an impediment to environmentalism.

Lacking ground for a real claim to be a contemporary civil right struggle, and having only a flimsy argument about the greater good, a bigger problem for the NDG group is that individuals in the movements they compare themselves to didn’t plead for special treatment. When Suffragettes found themselves in prison, their complaint was that they were being treated as ordinary criminals rather than as political prisoners. When Nelson Mandela eschewed peaceful protest in favour of sabotage — of power stations amongst other things — he did not expect to be let off because his actions to bring about the end of apartheid were justified. Indeed, he is reported to have refused a deal offering him early release on the condition of his renouncing violence. Prison was itself a weapon against injustice. Mandela later reflected:

In a way I had never quite comprehended before, I realized the role I could play in court and the possibilities before me as a defendant. I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness and democracy in a society that dishonoured those virtues. I realized then and there that I could carry on the fight even in the fortress of the enemy.

None of the above is an argument that direct action — nor even sabotage or violence — is wrong or right. I don’t make that claim, because I can imagine situations where such things are a means to ending an insufferable situation of violence and oppression. The argument here is that the protesters flatter themselves with allusions to past struggles to achieve civil rights and political freedom, and their claim to be acting in the common interest right now. But anti-apartheid, anti-slavery campaigns, and campaigns for universal suffrage really do involve large numbers of people and their political freedoms, and freedom from oppression.

More importantly, Suffragettes and anti-apartheid campaigners took their decisions knowing that the likely consequence would be their imprisonment, or worse, torture and death.

The protesters want to claim immunity from criminal and civil prosecution on the basis that their actions serve a greater good. But this greater good does not exist, or at least has not been demonstrated. Even if it did, however — even if their actions could be compared to the civil rights movements of the past — it would still be no basis on which to let them off. In fact, if these protesters had the courage of their convictions, they would surely have to accept the decision of a court.

The point of disruptive protest is to say to the status quo that prison — or whatever — is worth suffering to end the injustice in question. Protest, in the form of demonstration, meanwhile, is a simple demonstration of weight of numbers. The expectation of impunity is a demonstration that the direct action was not executed in anticipation of prosecution. Thinking that you’re going to get away with it is not a defence, and it is not a demonstration of bravery, much less a demonstration of the belief that the status-quo is pitched against an oppressed section of society, as was the case with the suffragettes, black people, and slaves. Direct action means nothing if it does not mean accepting the possibility of punishment.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that activist organisations — even those who routinely trash crops, scale parliament and power stations and runways to achieve their aims by disruption — have more clout in the UK, EU and UN policy-making processes than the UK public. They are invited to negotiations by politicians. They are funded by governments. Their approval and advice is sought.

That’s not oppression.

61 Responses to The Twisted Ethics of Environmental Protest

  • Exactly right, Ben. Keep up the good work.

  • Bravo.

    Childish behaviors, childish analysis, and a childish belief that actions should have no consequences. That about sums it up.

  • Great piece Ben.

    I do think EDF are going about this all wrong, though. An appropriate punishment would be to give the protestors exactly what they want: no fossil fuel power whatsoever, with only a nearby turbine and photovoltaics for energy for a year.

  • I think the activists are getting worried..
    there is a second petition to try and get RenewableUK to pay or the activists costs! ;-) one if someones idea of a joke, or real..

    it’s really funny

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/renewableuk-pay-the-costs-of-the-edf-west-burton-activists

  • A petition exists to have the renewables industry pay the costs of the NDG protesters. After all, the renewables sector put out the propaganda which prompted this misguided action, so let them bear the cost.

    RenewableUK: Pay the costs of the EDF West Burton activists

  • Thanks for the mockery, Barry. No thanks.

    It is perfectly serious, and intended to make the real perpetrators -whose renewables propaganda led a group of naive young people to get themselves into big trouble- pay up for their actions.

  • Ben,
    Up there is this: “The operators of the site that was the target of NDGs action, EDF, are now perusing the group for £5 million in a civil action. Says the company:”

    “perusing” is an interesting term, but maybe not the one you had intended.

    i no longer have the book and accordingly cannot find the reference, but I remember being astonished that the participants in an unsuccessful military coup in 1920’s Japan went unpunished because it was established at their trial that their motives had been pure.

  • JF, thanks for pointing out the typo.

    On your comment about the failed coup attempt… I’m sure it’s possible for individual judges, jurors or whoever, to find defendant/s not guilty, or to commute sentences, for whatever reasons. But the activists seem to believe that the law as it stands doesn’t (or shouldn’t) apply to them. Their cause puts them above the law. So the point I was trying to make above is firstly to demonstrate the fact that environmental activism is little more than a series of narcissistic tantrums. Second, that this expectation of impunity is antithetical to the ‘ethic’ of direct action.

  • Ben,
    I could not agree more with the point you make above. I’m actually offended that any of these folks think they should be immune from punishment when they have committed a crime, whatever the righteousness of their beliefs might be.

    The motivating belief does seem to be a variable in assessing the magnitude of the crime, for instance; “I thought I was shooting a burglar. I believed my life was endangered. etc.”

  • I have a fifteen year old daughter, so I am aware that CAGW propaganda is being fed to schoolkids at publicly funded schools. Because she is in the top set in pretty much all of her subjects, her and most of her peers are pretty sceptical and cynical about this kind of stuff. I don’t have any data about what the less able students think. However, if we fill children’s heads with eco-nonsense at school, we can hardly be surprised that they grow up thinking that the sky is falling and it is up to them to save the Earth.

    Katabasis has made an interesting suggestion. I don’t think that any kind of compulsion is needed, it should be laid down as a challenge. If you think that you could survive without fossil fuels, here is an opportunity to try it out and see for yourself how wonderful your life could be.

    A few weeks ago, another climate blog (BH or WUWT I think) did a thought experiment about what would actually happen if fossil fuels suddenly became unavailable overnight. Pretty much the total collapse of western civilisation was the agreed conclusion. No heat, no light, no transportation, no running water, no communication, supermarkets with empty shelves, almost everyone unable to do their jobs so no wages etc. Of course, this is not what the wind and solar advocates are saying, they think that we can gradually wean ourselves off fossil fuels and onto renewables and avoid such catastrophes. Some basic data combined with some simple arithmetic is all that they require to put them right, or a stay in a renewable energy compound, whichever works best.

  • I wonder why hypocrisy never made it to the list of deadly sins. Maybe because it is a fundamental component of religious practice. Or maybe I have this confused like most everything else.

  • What would happen to the US today if the fossil fuel industry went on a strike of indefinite duration? What would happen if we gave the environmentalists what they want?

    Within 24 hours there would be long lines at service stations as people sought to purchase remaining stocks of gasoline. The same people who denounce oil companies would be desperately scrounging the last drops of available fuel for their SUVs. By the third day, all the gasoline would be gone.

    With no diesel fuel, the trucking industry would grind to a halt. Almost all retail goods in the US are delivered by trucks. Grocery shelves would begin to empty. Food production at the most basic levels would also stop.

    With no trains or trucks running there would be no way to deliver either raw materials or finished products. All industrial production and manufacturing would stop. Mass layoffs would ensue. At this point, it would hardly matter. With virtually all transportation systems out, the only people who could work would be those who owned horses or were capable of walking to their places of employment.

    Owners of electric cars might smirk at first, but would soon be forced to the unpleasant reality that the vehicle they thought was “emission free” runs on coal. Forty-two percent of electric power in the US is produced by burning coal.

  • I have a fifteen year old daughter, so I am aware that CAGW propaganda is being fed to schoolkids at publicly funded schools. Because she is in the top set in pretty much all of her subjects, her and most of her peers are pretty sceptical and cynical about this kind of stuff. I don’t have any data about what the less able students think. However, if we fill children’s heads with eco-nonsense at school, we can hardly be surprised that they grow up thinking that the sky is falling and it is up to them to save the Earth.

    The official line taught at schools is more or less worthless as a way of changing adult behaviours. This experiment has been done many times, with the same results.
    — the “abstinence” campaign in the US? Lasts about a day after meeting someone they fancy a lot.
    — the Soviet experiment in inculcating anti-religious beliefs has made Poland more Catholic than ever.
    — the Francoist experiment in inculcating religious beliefs hasn’t stopped the Spanish giving up religion.

    The young do not get their values from the official line. They get it from friends and family overwhelmingly (and what they do, incidentally, not what they say). The kids come home and tell Mummy and Daddy what they learnt, and with one roll of the eyes or retort, the official message is instantly devalued. I bet every parent has done it.

    I might add that in my experience for every teacher who pushes the official line, there is one quietly subverting it. They don’t make a big fuss about it, because they like their jobs, but their quiet messages are all the more effective because they clearly aren’t just spouting what they are told to believe.

    If the Greens think that pushing the enviro message will help them win in the end, they will be sadly mistaken. It will likely have the opposite effect, as people really object to being force-fed political tripe.

  • Scarily similar to the Eugenics movement in the early part of the last century. And veering only slightly farther afield we’ll note that the Nazi’s, Stalin and Mao all felt that individuals where disposable for the greater good.

  • I forgot to mark quote #13 with quotation marks, to indicate that it is a direct quote from WUWT.

    @Mooloo.
    Yes I think that you are probably right for the vast majority of kids. I have a sample of one that I am close to and she is a very independent thinker, I have a rough idea what her close circle of freinds think but I have no data at all on the rest.

  • Hello People

    Please Please do not fall for this Illusion That EDF Energy can take a Human Being to Court. A Corporation Is a LEGAL Fictional entity it does not exist. The Owners is hiding behind their Legal construct Their STAWMAN entity. IF the owners wish to take a human to court
    let them come out in their own Personal capacity with full Personal Liability and take the accused to a common law COURT. There is a difference between Legal and LAWFUL. Legal is a Licence to commit ALL the heinous CRIMES on the Planet unfolding before Us. LAWFUL applies to Human Beings not violating other Human beings rights. Its means do no harm to another. Did a Human being make the allegation? No. Don’t go to Their Fictional Legal CORPORATION COURT. IF you do go to their construct you are admitting that you are a Corporation, because (we) you are PRESUMED to be one. Our Presumed Government and all departments thereof are Private Corporations, Masquerading as PUBLIC Services and Public Servants.

    I will be challenging EDF Corporation shortly, but I will be challenging (the human) CEO of the Fiction Corporation call EDF in a common Law Court Jurisdiction and Let them prove That He or She who ever they may be suffered any loss personally because of the my actions.

    Love&Light

  • Well done kenrick, I think you’ve answered a few questions for us. Now would please make sure your cell lights are out by 7 pm. Make that 6 pm if the extra hour’s protest makes you feel good.

  • Kenrick … no light for you !

  • Mooloo, comment 14
    There’s more sense in those paragraphs than in a dozen textbooks on the sociology of education.
    The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is the latest body to decide to have a go at changing our minds on climate change. See
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/2/28/scitech-committee-looks-at-public-attitudes.html
    Their apparent naivety abourt the way public attitudes are formed is breathtaking. A lot of green activist social scientists will be offering their services as moulders of public opinion. Some evidence from straight talking teachers, journalists, etc. might just help to correct their fantasies.

  • I took part in a meeting last week of a health IT committee I used to chair. It was concerned with “telecare”: we had presentations about how disabled, chronically ill, elderly and otherwise disadvantaged people are getting extraordinary benefit from and are becoming increasingly reliant on access to internet-based services. For example, as part of a review of how people with learning difficulties are benefitting, we saw a video about how Shane (a boy with severe cognitive impairment) is, thanks to his family’s creative initiatives on Facebook, beginning to piece together a meaningful life – something that would barely have been possible only a few years ago. Shane’s delighted response to this was very moving.

    I wonder if the brave campaigners who are trying to stop the development of gas fired power stations have even considered how, without reliable power supply, many of these vulnerable people’s lives will be quite literally ruined. Shane, for example, would be hopelessly confused and desperately unhappy. But then I don’t suppose they even dimly appreciate how an increased dependence on renewable energy risks the power outages that could have tragic consequences throughout almost every aspect of a modern developed economy. Indeed, I don’t suppose much of the general public understands it either. It’s seriously worrying.

  • Ben

    you say “Finally, it’s also worth remembering that activist organisations — even those who routinely trash crops, scale parliament and power stations and runways to achieve their aims by disruption — have more clout in the UK, EU and UN policy-making processes than the UK public. They are invited to negotiations by politicians. They are funded by governments. Their approval and advice is sought.”

    This is one of the many ways in which democracy is by-passed by the activists. Pressure groups of one sort or another cost the country fortunes and all exercise more power than is appropriate. When you are master of the universe can you ban them all please.

  • Robin Guenier, I don’t know wher the final version of the plan for priority users is, but here are the consulation documents for rolling blackouts and how they plan to (or as it happens not) look after the vulnerable.

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/consultations/page40550.html

  • A comment from Joris van Dorp (Dutch energy efficiency consultant) about a conversation which he had with a more senior consultant which I found chilling:

    “I told him that adopting the German energy policy in the broader EU-27 would lead to much higher energy costs in combination with lower system stability, and that these costs would be born primarily by the lower classes who are dependent on the grid, and who pay the taxes to fund the subsidies. His reply was that this was no problem, since limits-to-growth would hurt the lower classes anyway. His vision of the future was that the people/businesses with enough money and need would have their own decentralised power, while the masses would have to learn to make do with electricity only when the sun shines or the wind blows. Having 24/7 power would become a matter of individual (investment) choice. Those who want 24/7 reliable power will invest in their own diesel or natgas backup generators. Those that don’t want it (or can’t afford it) will have to make to with whatever power is available from the grid. He said this situation was unavoidable, and therefore we should not care about trying to prevent it.”

    “Naturally, he was an opponent of nuclear energy and flatly refused to discuss this, on the grounds that nuclear power (in his mind) was already dead and finished and best forgotten.”

  • The use of the suffragettes’ situation by the parents of the EDF protester Charlotte Fauset is an often-used but inaccurate example. Some of those those women protested violently because they had no access to the democratic process and were willing to face the legal consequences of their actions, unlike the foollsh and misguided EDF protesters, who have a vote but are not prepared to face the legal consequences of their illegal protest..

  • TinyCO2: I’m unaware of any national arrangements to protect the vulnerable in the event of major power outages. In any case, I fear the increasing dependence of many people on internet-based services already far exceeds what was expected even as recently as 2007 – and is becoming increasingly widespread. It would, I suggest, be quite impracticable to somehow ensure such people were protected. Look at the responses to the consultation document you cited – for example, proposals for developing a database of the vulnerable. There are many reasons why that would be virtually impossible to achieve. In any case, I rather doubt that, in the event of major power outages, much could be done anyway to protect even well defined classes of people.

    I mentioned this issue as a specific illustration of the fragility of a modern developed society – and how easily it would be undermined by lack of electric power. The consequence would be widespread and tragic.

  • Exactly Robin, the plans for the elderly are – do nothing.

    As the child of two seriously frail parents the number of essential electrical items is daunting. Keeping them at home is only possible with all the powered help we can install. The internet is only a tiny part of it.

    Care homes are almost as vulnerable as domestic homes. Some of them are rabbit warrens of windowless corridors and stair lifts. Think call buttons, nebulisers, fixed hoists, powered chairs. Even the tv is an essential item for a very old person. Younger people don’t realise how much colder a person on blood thinning drugs feels. They can’t just wrap up in more clothing. It inhibits mobility, circulation and comfort. For people who already struggle to keep weight on, cold food and cold rooms would be the final straw. Washing clothes and bedding, catering, bathing residents, etc. The list is endless.

    I am partway to writing to my MP on this subject, just not sure how much grim detail to include.

  • New Left Project

    Ben / Geoff / and others who commented on NLP a few weeks ago: Dave Cullen (an experienced Climate Camp protester) has an article, “No Dash for Gas, EDF and the Game of Risk”, on NLP about the West Burton trespass. Link:

    http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/no_dash_for_gas_edf_and_the_game_of_risk

    It’s a long, impassioned and carefully argued article. And it’s vehemently anti-EDS. “Like the bankers [he says], EDF are masters of managing risk.” But only to its advantage: it wins, we pay. And the advent of renewables, a massive threat to its traditional business, is another risk to be managed. Hence its determination to “denigrate renewables and maintain that we need supply-matching power plants as ‘backup’”. It’s a position, he argues, supported by George Osborne – “a man of such unlimited incompetence and malignant arrogance that, not satisfied with having wrecked the economy … he also appears to be actively trying to destroy the climate as some kind of demented hobby”. And EDS, determined to pursue its “short-sighted and catastrophic ” gas-based business model, is adopting a new “insidious” strategy of scaring people from taking direct action by an “outrageous attempt to restrict our right to protest” by suing and potentially ruining legitimate activists.

    As I hope I’ve indicated, it raises some complex and interesting issues. I plan to comment. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m allowed to do so: my previous attempt was censored.

  • Robin
    The first part of Cullen’s article, about the unintended results of privatising energy utilities, is good. EDF is effectively a part of the French state. It’s madness to put your energy supply in the hands of a foreign government. If energy price rises become a hot political subjet here in France, you can bet EDF will find a way of passing the cost on to British consumers.
    None of that affects Bens argument here, of course, which would be the same whatever the status of EDF.
    However, the law on damages for political protest is a mess. Back in the eighties some Labour councillors were bankrupted for life for the crime of failing to put up council house rents. On the other hand, protesters who caused a million pounds worth of damage trashing a jet plane that was to be exported to Indonesia got off because the jury accepted the moral argument about Indonesia’s genocidal policies in East Timor.
    The No Dash for Gas protesters are effectively claiming that emitting CO2 is on the same moral plane as genocide. It’s a daft argument. The more often its aired, the more damage it will do to their cause, I should think. Still, fines of a milllion pounds are a bit stiff for the crime of climbing a chimney…

  • Geoff:

    I daresay some of Cullen’s criticisms of the politics and motivations associated with EDF are valid. And, to be fair to him, he’s not saying that it’s these that justify NDfG trying to stop the development of this power station – although I suppose that painting EDF as evil helps to gain sympathy for the cause. The NDfG justification, as you say, is that emitting CO2 is itself evil. That may be daft, but I’m not so sure I agree that it damages their cause: I suspect a lot of people have a vague idea that it may well be true. After all, politicians, scientists and the MSM keep saying it is.

    And that vague sympathy for the cause is, I fear, likely to exacerbated by EDF taking a civil action to recover massive damages (not fines) from the protesters.

  • There is almost no point in replying to the article at the NLP, since they refuse to publish critical responses to their articles. It must be that the ‘New Left’ is the direction you move in when you put your fingers in your ears and scream ‘LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU’.

    It’s an interesting article, however, for it shows how the ossified left has sought to frame itself in the terms of the environmental movement. ‘Democratic mandates’ and corporate power are only problems when they appear to stand in the way of environmentalism’s ambitions.

    I don’t think the article is at all good. It is at best a confused and angry argument, which at the same time as it bemoans the privatisation of the UK energy sector and its consequences, also complains about the actions of a wholly state-owned enterprise, EDF in both France and the UK. The rights and wrongs of privatisation in the UK aside, the UK’s problems since then have been caused by the EU/UK government’s attempts to intervene in the energy market — ‘sending signals’, in the language of Chris Huhne’ — with the blessing of environmental organisations. The leverage that Cullen complains that the energy companies have achieved is the consequence of a crisis produced by incautious policy-makers, prodded by uncompromising environmental organisations and straightforward lies about the potential of green energy. The consequence of all of which has been anticipated by those people excluded from the debate, such as it was.

    Cullen, like many environmentalists, is forced to see a conspiracy theory when environmentalism’s ambitions meet material or political reality. This is combined with the environmentalists other tendency: their unmitigated sense of entitlement. He believes that the law should not apply to them, and that ‘democracy’ is whatever he wants.

    All the power that Cullen sees in the hands of EDF — he wants it. What he doesn’t understand is that, that leverage was created by environmentalists’ own attempts to create it.

  • Well, Ben, I’ve just posted a comment on that NLP article. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets past moderation.

  • Re NLP: my comment on the Cullen piece was published this morning – after a long delay and a reminder. (Two links I had included didn’t work, but they weren’t essential.) Also they’ve published a comment by Mooloo – rather more aggressive than mine.

    It’ll now be interesting to see if either elicits a response.

    Link: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/no_dash_for_gas_edf_and_the_game_of_risk

  • And Dave has responded – to me and to Mooloo. So game on. Perhaps.

  • Interesting claims from David.

    At the same time he cites evidence to the CCC about the viability of wind energy, he continues with this absurd idea that the government’s policies didn’t prefer wind, and that there is a dash for gas.

    The dash for gas claim is easily debunked. Centrica, for instance have said recently that there is no possibility of them delivering electricity from new gas-fired plant for at least four years: two years for the EMR bill to be finalised and receive assent such that the company can then make a business plan based on those parameters; and then a further two years between cutting the turf and the new plants being operational.

    Moreover, since 2004, wind energy developers have accumulated twice as many planning consents as they have built — i.e. they have been building wind farms at half the rate that they have been allowed to. Renewable energy lobbyists claim that sceptics and nimbies have beset the progress of wind farm development, but the facts on the ground do not support the claim. One explanation for this is that wind farm developers are not, in spite of the incentives (i.e. guaranteed profits) confident in an increased scale of wind energy being integrated with the grid. The linear rate of development of wind furthermore demonstrates that there has been little investment in plant machinery.

    Nothing has stopped the wind sector putting up twice the capacity it has already installed. And yet there is — and has been since at least 2009 — a growing threat of an energy gap.

    In other words, a mixture of environmental activism, establishment environmentalism, and a curious mix of political inertia and political ambition has produced a material risk of power cuts, and a very real problem of rising prices.

    Environmentalists were successful in mobilising public opinion through radiophobia in the 1980s and 1990s, depriving the UK of new plant. In the 90s and 00s, the emphasis switched to climate alarmism. Although this campaigning didn’t bring the public with it, it did bring the political establishment with it. Especially so, given the proximity of NGOs and national and supranational government in the post-cold-war era.

    With coal, oil, and nuclear off the table, the UK’s energy policy has been paralysed. Gas, though, has the virtues of being relatively quick to set up, and being relatively low-carbon. It ticks the boxes, and it was the green movement who drafted the boxes in the first place. David doesn’t realise any of this, and so has to invent a conspiracy theory to understand why green energy hasn’t been delivered. He sees the government’s attempts to respond to the energy crisis with gas (though it too is failing) as a carefully-engineered strategy.

    If only the UK’s energy policies were the result of carefully engineered strategies!

    Making sense of nonsense is hard enough. Making sense of his own nonsense must be even harder for David, because it also means realising how he and his colleagues have created this mess. His final complaint is that the criminal law is sufficient to deal with protests, and that EDF will not be able to recover the money, because the protesters don’t have it, therefore it must be vindictive, and designed to prevent protest.

    It would seem to be self-evidently the case, however, that the criminal law hasn’t prevented the illegal actions of narcissistic environmental campaigners. Meanwhile, the only protesters who need worry about protesting are those who are planning to cause criminal damage to power stations. Nobody is going to get sued for dressing up as a polar bear, and waving a sign.

    Direct action has elevated vandals to the status of public intellectuals and defacto policy-makers. I’m thinking here of people like George Monbiot and Mark Lynas, and the actions of NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Their profiles are raised by the newsworthiness of the nuisances they cause, then they get financed by, and invited to the table at all levels of government. Some of them are even made peers. Then the protesters complain about the lack of democracy, and that politicians aren’t demonstrating ‘leadership’. David’s complaints are groundless, and his conspiracy theory is miles out of whack with reality.

  • I think his reply was rather poorly thought out though. Firstly it didn’t deal with my actual complaint (that taking very correct legal actions is not “fighting dirty”). Then he compounded that by being witless and going down an avenue that is rather obviously one the New Left should not go down.

    My reply, in case they don’t put it up:

    Mooloo – As I say in the article, if the issue is they broke the law, then that should be dealt with by the criminal system.

    You should be very careful with this line of thinking. That’s the Statist view, entirely in line with the actions of previous very famous leftist governments that any sensible New Left would be wise to avoid like the plague. 

    The problem is, of course, that governments are political. They frequently refuse to prosecute offences that would lose them votes, on the basis solely that it will lose them votes. 

    The main defence against that is democracy, so we can vote the b*gg*rs out. That’s not much good for people hurt in the short term. So we have another line of defence, that we can take civil actions.

    NGOs like Greenpeace take actions to force the state and/or companies to do something that the state is not active enough about (in their opinion). Are you seriously suggesting that they should lose that right? If taking a civil action is “fighting dirty” then the environmental movement is the dirtiest of the lot. 

    So, I don’t think for a moment you actually want to remove the power of legal persons (EDF, but also WWF) to initiate such actions. You just don’t like the fact that EDF may well win against the No Dash people by entirely legal actions.

  • Ben:
    “since 2004, wind energy developers have accumulated twice as many planning consents as they have built — i.e. they have been building wind farms at half the rate that they have been allowed to”.
    Could this because they make four times as many demands as they intend to fulfill, then choose the most profitable?
    David’s complaints are groundless, and his conspiracy theory is miles out of whack with reality.
    Agreed; but why not engage him on his own ground? It won’t hurt us, and it might embarrass them. Often, the disgreement here about engagement with greens seem to me to mirror the feuds that tore apart the Second Socialist International about whether or not to participate in bourgeois parliamentary activity. It made the reputation of the likes of Rosa Luxembourg, but much good that did her when the first world war came along…

  • but why not engage him on his own ground?

    Wait days for more comments not to be published, and at best to be ignored?

    Environmentalists don’t engage. They can’t. Their ignorance is a mixture: half strategy, half mediocrity.

    The closest they get to ‘engaging’ is on twitter, where they hide behind 140 character limits and the pretence of being busy.

    Posting at NLR is a waste of time. They’re welcome to reply here.

  • Posting at NLR is a waste of time.

    I disagree. These people live in their own little echo chamber where they talk only to each other, characterising opponents as know-nothing, ignorant right wingers. They may not seem to engage – but, as Geoff says, we might embarrass them. Not least by showing that we’re serious people and not remotely like that image. We may well be making a small dent in their convictions – albeit unacknowledged. And we don’t know who else is reading their stuff.

    This is seriously important – not just an interesting debate. Protesters were successful at Kingsnorth. If they have any success in halting or even impeding the build of new CCGT plant, they could greatly increase the already-high risk of power outages over the next few years. The consequences could be tragic. Few understand that. We do. Surely we have a duty to do something about it?

  • Agree fervently with Robin. Visiting far left and green sites is like bringing succour to the needy, an act of charity. They have no-one. Think how it must feel – all chiefs and no indians, and then suddenly the cowboys arrive and want to fraternise.
    Seriously, some of these sites must attract a certain amount of attention. I think of the New Statesman, where a Christmas editorial by Brian Cox was torn to shreds by some of us. Cox doesn’t do it for the money. He must have popped back to see how his Christmas sermon had been received by the flock. And maybe he asked himself some searching questions.
    New Statesman and Prospect have science editors. New Left Project has just appointed Alice Bell as environment editor. OpenDemocracy is about to do the same (though I wonder about the viability of a leftwing website that needs a quarter of a million to keep going. Beppe Grillo manages on less, and so do I)
    Robin says:
    “The consequences could be tragic. Few understand that. We do. Surely we have a duty to do something about it?”
    The simple possibility of being able to say “we told you so” could be important. Let’s say it where it might be heard by those outside our tiny circle.

  • Robin,

    This is my experience of all environmentalists. They have no desire to discuss anything across the skeptic-environmentalist axis. None. Not even amongst a group of people assembled under the ‘New Left’ moniker, whose namesake did have an intellectual tradition. The ideas of the authors of NLR — to flatter them as ‘ideas’ in the first place — are not negotiable. NGO hacks didn’t get where they are by thinking.

    As for the readers, even assuming that our comments get through, they are published after the articles are no longer current. Given the NLP team’s own public musing about not publishing dissenting opinion, it’s not hard to work out what’s going on: they’re not going to publish below the line until the only people reading the article are those people checking to see if their comments have been printed yet. And it’s not even a high traffic blog in the first place.

    This strategy of ignorance is well established within environmentalism. Only this week, we’ve had the Mother Jones, ‘how to argue with a sceptic flowchart’, Al Gore and SKS’s, spambot campaign, and Bob Ward’s harassment of A-J journalists for daring to hold a debate with a sceptical scientist. The NLP authors are no different.

    Environmentalists don’t want a dialogue. The left no longer has a place for ideas. They want ‘sceptics’ to be eccentric lords, Tory bigots and secret think tanks: tokens, to deploy symbolically, in lieu of intellectual substance. ‘We’re nice, they’re nasty’.

    There are better audiences. For a start, places where comments are not automatically premoderated.

    NLP is less worthwhile even than CiF. When I ever bother to read the comments there nowadays, I see that the same people I argued with, five years ago, still dominating the discussions there, zealously guarding the honour of the author above the line with the same pointless copy. They must spend every working hour on that site. It’s inconceivable that they have jobs. At least CiF has i) volume, and ii) the possibility of someone reading it before sceptical opinion is deleted, though. But then again, why the hell would anyone hoping to inform their position on the environment trawl through comment sections on sites like that?

  • Geoff — I think some realism is called for here.

    Environmentalists don’t ‘engage’ because they don’t have to. There’s no need for them to try to persuade a movement to form behind them, because the policies they want are already the object of a mainstream political consensus.

  • Ben
    Environmentalists don’t ‘engage’ because they don’t have to. There’s no need for them to try to persuade a movement to form behind them, because the policies they want are already the object of a mainstream political consensus.
    And now I’m agreeing with you.
    So what do we do? It’s a really strange situation, where an ideology has seized the reins of power, and then tried to form a mass movement, or the semblance of a mass movement, to justify its authority.
    You’ve done more than most to bring this strange state of affairs into the open. Why not take the message wherever we can?
    A concrete example:
    It was via an article here that Adam Corner got in touch with me and we agreed to discuss the psychology of climate sceptics. I asked you if we could discuss it here, but you weren’t interested in giving space to Corner’s views. I arranged to put it up at Tony Newbery’s Harmless Sky blog, but Tony was otherwise occupied, and due to a misunderstanding, the post didn’t go up for several days. Meanwhile, Judith Curry got hold of the story and put it up, attracting 800+ comments, which I never saw.
    Blogs are propaganda vehicles, or they’re nothing. We don’t have to agree wholeheartedly on all the details of our positions in order to act together. The silence of an interlocutor has its meaning. You have a certain reputation in the relevant corner of the blogosphere. Why not use it?

  • Ben
    Just seen yourcomment #43 to Robin:
    “The left no longer has a place for ideas. They want ‘sceptics’ to be eccentric lords, Tory bigots and secret think tanks: tokens, to deploy symbolically, in lieu of intellectual substance”.
    Well, exactly. So let’s show them that we’re not like that. At least it will force them to have worried discussions amongst themselves about how to respond, and maybe even make them change their minds about the nature of the debate.

  • Ben:

    I agree in particular with two of Geoff’s points. (1) The simple possibility of being able to say “we told you so” could be important. and (2) At least it will force them to have worried discussions amongst themselves about how to respond, and maybe even make them change their minds about the nature of the debate. The concept of “worried discussions” is amusing.

    But I agree with you on two points: (1)They have no desire to discuss anything across the skeptic-environmentalist axis. and (2) … the policies they want are already the object of a mainstream political consensus.

    It’s because of these four points that, in my comments on NLP, I have avoided discussion about AGW. I deliberately confine myself to the practical: their aims may be well-intentioned but they likely to be subject to the law of unintended consequences – consequences that are already damaging to the most vulnerable (fuel costs) and are likely to be especially damaging in the event of power outages. It helps that I truly believe this.

  • Geoff — I asked you if we could discuss it here, but you weren’t interested in giving space to Corner’s views.

    That’s not quite what I said. I was happy to let a discussion take place, but I didn’t believe Corner was interested in dialogue. It was clear that what he had in mind was some kind of condescending Q&A, rather than taking your criticisms seriously. I didn’t see why I should make special room for him, then, when he could just comment under the blog posts.

    I believe my concerns have proven justified since. He knows where we are. He knows we are able to explain our criticisms of his work. He’s had all the opportunity he needs to ‘engage’ with sceptics, largely at least through you. Yet his argument and research, and the research he promotes, which is putatively about understanding the phenomenon of scepticism, owes nothing whatsoever to your conversations with him, or to what we have pointed out to him. His work has not improved. To call Corner ‘intellectually dishonest’, then, would be to understate things.

    Adam did venture another comment recently, at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2013/02/blognitive-dissonance.html

    There we see that his claim is that our criticism of environmentalism is not like mainstream scepticism, and not the subject of his/Lewandowsky’s work, in spite of the fact that Lewandowsky refers directly to your argument. Moreover, it is as if we had said nothing about the putative sides, in the debate, and the character of that debate and what gives it and them their structures. We’re talking about the debate, he’s trying to talk only about half of it.

    And he’s not alone, of course, in being incapable of understanding the arguments he seemingly works so hard to understand. Like Paul Nurse’s recent comments on Lawson, and John Gummer’s comments on Matt Ridley, Corner sets about constructing so many straw men.

    When presidents of the most elite organisations can so shamelessly make stuff up, in public, we must swallow the fact that confronting these liars cuts no ice. They ain’t gonna listen.

    Yesterday’s Oxford debate between Lindzen, Allen, Lynas and Rose, as discussed at Bishop Hill — http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2013/3/9/lindzen-at-the-oxford-union.html produced this classic response from an environmentalist at http://tarascienceblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/adding-fuel-to-out-of-date-scepticism/

    It was at this moment where I began to agree with Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE. Ward expressed his anger, via Twitter, that we were giving air time to a person who is now completely irrelevant to science and research in climate change: “Yet another example of the media hosting a falsely balanced debate about climate science instead of covering the real issues.” Ward did not attend this debate and I very soon saw his point. Not only would this be reaching media in the UK, but globally and with such power to control what people take away from this issue. I am sorry I was there, I felt like I was a contributor to this horse and pony show. The aim was to shame the sceptic, but we just gave him a stage.

    On the green view, even to permit to debate the tenets of the green view is to concede to critics of environmentalism. This bad faith extends into what passes for environmentalism’s metaphysics: as Josh’s cartoons demonstrate far less verbosely, ‘we’re right, you’re wrong, and you’re bad’ is taken a priori. Debate is not possible. Even to discuss environmentalism’s concepts critically is to open up a danger that somebody might be persuaded. At the heart of the environmentalist’s perspective is the view that people do not deserve to, and are not capable of debate about the ideas that should organise their lives.

    Meanwhile, I absolutely see the sense in telling everyone else about it. And I think we should highlight their inability to bring themselves to debate. And of course, we should leave an open invitation to debate. I just question the wisdom of banging our fists on the doors of their silly castles — be it talking climate, or NLP, neither of which anyone reads, and which are so carefully moderated.

    They hate merely the fact that we blog, no matter what we say, and no matter what influence these blogs have. And they really hate those blogs being popular.

    For E.g. Hickman’s attack on the blog awards this week was even more absurd than his attack on me — again, ably demonstrated by Josh’s cartoon. (Like Adam, of the 1.5 million words I’ve written about the climate debate, only four letters interested him: UKIP). So they are not remotely fazed by criticism. It bounces off them. It doesn’t matter what is said, they’re not interested in reason.

    When I started this blog, I think I gave to much credit to the idea that the debate could be overcome with a battle of ideas — that environmentalism was ‘an’ idea in the first place, and that these misconceptions could be challenged. I think that view was naive, and that far more decisive are the forces at work. For instance, if the NLP post in question shows us nothing else, it is that environmentalists chase their own tails. They lobbied hard for expensive energy, and for the abolition of certain techniques. Now they have to work so hard to explain away the fruits of that policy in the terms of their own mythology. Behind this picture is the political establishment’s embrace of environmentalism. At first it was expedient, now we see the avenue taken by politicians to escape one set of political crises only leads them to a deeper set of problems. A dearth of ideas better explains this cascade of crises. And the problem with a dearth of ideas is that it’s had to reason with. But the beautiful thing is, for all their ranting about us bloggers, environmentalists are their own worst enemy.

    We just need to be there when the question gets asked about each multiplication of domestic energy bills. Savvy environmentalists have worked out that there is a problem, and have mobilised their PR resources to demand an ‘Energy Bill Revolution’, to say that what is needed to bring bills down is more carbon tax, more renewable energy, more subsidies for green tech, and more interventions such as the Green Deal. I’ve tried ‘engaging’ with the authors of that campaign: a coalition of dozens of NGOs, companies and government agencies, to little response. But people see it. They re-tweet it. And as you point out, the silence is visible as the strategy. It’s not them we need to convince. So let’s just keep blogging.

  • I agree with Robin and Geoff.. not everyone on shall we say the ‘left’ for convenience is wedded to climate change.. We just need to help them see the real discussion,and many will just drift away.

    that said Geoff being deleted at Climate Psychological alliance was just funny, and lots of potential for anlysis/blogging on their eco groupthink.

  • There does seem to be a debate developing re Dave Cullen’s NLP article – 11 comments so far. And Mooloo’s post has been published. A few more comments may be interesting and worthwhile.

  • I don’t see much debate there, Robin. At best, someone has turned up to defend renewable energy on principle.

    Ditto, but conversely, it sounds as if the planned confrontational Al Jazeera ‘Head to Head’ debate descended to agreement between sceptics and environmentalists, to the annoyance of the less sober environmental movement.

    I’m reluctant to use the term ‘middle ground’ here, because I think that misses the point; there does seem to be a growing camp who are prepared to allow their perspectives to be challenged, and recognise that the uncompromising nature of the environmental movement (and policy makers) has done harm to itself.

    If a space for debate is opening up, it seems to me this is where our energies are best invested, leaving the debate-deniers to their own devices, and to embarrassing themselves.

    We can ask people who take the debate seriously: do you want to be like the Lewandowskys, Bob Wards, Hickman and Monbiots, NGO hacks and so on, or do you want to win the debate by having it?

    Having the debate means eschewing the innuendo, myths and conspiracy theories, and reflecting critically on them. Notice how the ‘New Environmentalists’ are, invariably, called ‘deniers’ by a shrinking number of alarmists.

  • Environmentalists gain some extra, added resistance to criticism due to their bedrock assumption that Nature, a wholly abstract quality, has some sort of real existence, an essence to which they alone possess the key to full understanding. But how do you justify this using purely rational arguments? In particular, where can you find a logical system that will allow you to define a set of stuff and then deduce the superiority of your definition from first principles? You must ultimately echo Plato’s assertion that you simply “know” the location of the boundary between “Nature” stuff and non-Nature stuff — an argument based on “intuition”. When I criticize your “intuition” I am, at bottom, criticizing your validity as a boffin or a prophet (which a Platonist will inevitably describe as an “authority”.) When I say that your intuition is worthless or delusional, I am calling you either stupid or a fraud.

    So, let’s say you go to an environmentalist blog and state, “I not only do not accept your understanding of Nature, I deny that Nature has real existence; all you are doing is drawing an arbitrary line around a bunch of stuff and creating metaphysics about it. You cannot justify your actions by saying they help things inside your arbitrary line and only hurt things outside it. I demand you make an argument for hurting things outside the line (like poor people) in order to help things inside the line (like bugs). And do not refer to the location of the line; I reject the line itself.”

    How is the environmentalist blog site supposed to react to challenges such as this? Most will react the way a religious blog site reacts to the myriad atheist attacks they receive; just delete them as so many trolls.

    And this is my basic point: Environmentalism, as a Platonic metaphysics whose core beliefs are based on “intuition”, cannot afford to address criticisms that reach these arbitrary and irrational core beliefs. Inevitably, such attacks are taken as personal attacks on the holders’ intelligence and honesty. Not without reason.

  • Ben
    I agree entirely with your analysis. If I’m generally in favour of engagement, it’s partly from having worked in advertising, which makes me think pragmatically about people’s likely reactions, as much as about the pursuit of truth. From the fact that Adam has retreated from Guardian Environment to Business Green suggests to me that he is thinking along similar lines. A nice little Green PR consultancy would pay better than a university junior lectureship. And advising businessmen howto make money from government policy doesn’t raise the same ethical questions as psychological research into changing people’s beliefs.
    You say: “We just need to be there when the question gets asked about each multiplication of domestic energy bills”. That would be nice, but I don’t see it happening. Warmists and sceptics are just two bald men fighting over a comb to the 90% (or is it 97%?) of voters who find graphs and statistics really boring.
    I’m interested in the idea of a split that you see developing. I haven’t seen much sign of it, apart from the accounts of the Oxford Lindzen / Myles Allen debate. It would be good to hear more about that. So, as you say, keep on blogging.

  • Ben/Geoff:

    I too am in favour of engagement. Or at least in trying to engage, if only to insert into greenie minds a small flavour of reality: see for example my current exchange with Brownedoff’s on “Unthreaded” at Bishop Hill. But I try to avoid the bald men fighting over comb syndrome by eschewing all aspects of the AGW controversy and by addressing matters in the Left’s own terms, e.g. by focusing on the need to protect the vulnerable. In other words, I try to avoid a direct challenge to their core beliefs.

    To that end, I have another comment in moderation at the Dave Cullen thread (I think I can just about dignify it with that term) and at “People and Nature”. Once again, it’ll be interesting to see if either gets published.

  • Well, one of my comments has been published: https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/no-dash-for-gas-we-climbed-those-chimneys-to-kick-start-protest-and-debate/comment-page-1/#comment-1840

    I note incidentally that Ewa Jasiewicz, to whom I address my remarks, would appear to be a professional activist – described in “Red Pepper” as a “Palestine solidarity activist, union organiser and part of the editorial collective of Le Monde Diplomatique Polish Edition“. Not, I think, one of “the best of the younger generation [who] get syphoned off into campaigning for some completely illusory cause” as described by Geoff in a current “Discussion” thread on BH.

  • I would like to note the irony of switching one of Britain’s large power plants to “biofuel” ie wood. Back in the 1600s, one of the reasons people were being sent as colonists (as commercial ventures) to North America was that Britain’s forests had all been cut. Trees were needed for ship masts and it was thought the limitless forests would supply industries with power (e.g., to make glass). By the time there were enough colonists to do anything, the Brits had got coal mining going with pumps to get the water out of the mines. Now they are back to getting wood chips from the US South for a power plant. If the wood had to come from Britain there would be howls of protests. Someone noted they are careful never to call the fuel “wood”, hahahahaha. the green irony at work again. Not that we mind selling you wood…

  • There’s what might be described as a debate going on at NLP (the Dave Cullen article): I posted a comment this morning and it was published within a hour.

  • There’s no debate Robin. They’ve published our comments and are studiously ignoring them.

  • Mooloo: you’re right. There was a half-hearted debate a few days ago. Then comments were blocked – and restarted only after I sent them an email that included this:

    It seems to me that NLP may have one of three possible views on what’s being said here about the NDfG issue: (1) that there’s no merit in the fears expressed as it’s perfectly possible to provide adequate power within the next few years without new gas-fired plant; (2) that the fears may be valid, but the risk is worthwhile because of the overriding need to limit CO2 emissions; or (3) that the fears may be valid, but the matter hadn’t really been thought through.

    Views (1) or (2) (or some combination of them) should be the basis for a healthy and worthwhile debate: I would expect you to publish any comments that were, as you have it, “respectful of other voices in the discussion” and to publish also clear rebuttals. That I suggest would be the type of lively discussion “appealing both to those who already consider themselves to be of the left, and to any others who have an interest in its ideas and priorities” that NLP claims it wishes to foster. View (3) could be very understandable (energy provision is a complex and not widely understood issue) – and it would be admirable you were brave enough to accept this publicly and agree that a rethink is probably necessary. However I suspect (at present no more than that) that the reality may be that you fear that I and others may be right but that to admit it would be so painful that it’s best to say nothing and do nothing – hence further comment is blocked. That would be a disgrace.

    So the comments were published. And ignored.

  • Regarding the twisted ethics of No Dash For Gas:

    claire (the ndfg member whose parents started their online petition) was, until recently, named as my ‘next of kin’, as I am no longer in touch with my family and do not want them to have any say in my healthcare should i become ill. she was also my housemate for around a year, and one of my best friends. she is fully aware of my medical/health history, my personal history, and would have been responsible for having a say in my care if i were incapacitated etc.

    she knows about issues that strongly trigger my ptsd, and of my self harm and suicide attempts.

    i returned to work after 18 months of not being able to cope with my condition, back in september. the same time, i moved into a flat on my own, which is the first safe space i’ve ever lived in, that someone hasn’t threatened my safety in. (after a few false starts, which have been safe places which have ended up extremely unsafe)

    within a few weeks of my moving, claire asked if she and some of her friends could use my space for a meeting where they weren’t going to be at risk of undercovers being around. i know what kennedy did to her/others, so that was fine. as far as i was made aware, they were having a meeting here and that was it – they needed to stay overnight cos there were a few of them from outside the area.

    i figured later that week that it was about the chimney occupation. still fine.
    over the last few years, i’ve had long and involved converstations with claire about what to do if my health gets worse, and how to try and prevent it happening.

    three weeks ago, No Dash For Gas released their ‘how to occupy a power station’ video via the guardian.they included identifiable footage of my home. i wasn’t told they had filmed anything, and certainly wasn’t warned that my home (which i consider to be an extension of my life) was going to be put in public view and associated with their campaign. it was recognisable to anyone who’s ever been in here, or who i’ve shared photos of my life with.

    assumed consent is a huge trigger for me. as is misrepresentating intentions, let alone exploiting vulnerable people (which includes me, and they were aware of that).

    i couldn’t care less about whether their putting my home on the internet means i’m open to legal charges.

    People who i had no reason not to trust violating my life has affected me really badly, both in the past and in this instance.

    When i asked NDFG to take it down, i was told that they would. i then received a letter from Claire telling me to only speak to other people involved in “the group” about certain issues, and that the charges were being dropped anyway so it didn’t really matter. i also received texts from others in the group suggesting that I should get in touch and talk over issues with ‘people who understood what was going on’. I am disgusted that it was suggested that I shouldn’t talk to anyone ‘outside’ the campaign.
    I am also disgusted by NDFG’s continued ‘GET EDF TO DROP THE CHARGES’ campaign, even when they knew that they were being dropped – the eventual announcement was delayed because ndfg’s lawyer hadn’t realised they all had to sign the settlement). They claim that the charges were dropped due to ‘people power’ – no. they were dropped because NDFG signed a settlement with EDF, and this took weeks to fiunalise.

    NDFG’s refusal to acknowldge they’ve fucked up is.. i was going to say surprising, but it isn’t.
    they have triggered my ptsd quite severely, to the extent that i was in hospital last week. i am currently signed off work – my job is now at risk due to this, which also puts my home at risk.There has been no acknowlegement by NDFG of the absolute chaos they’ve raked up in my life.

    Considering their group contains members who have been very vocal speaking out about activists’ human rights and privacy being violated by undercovers, their hypocrisy is incredible.

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