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Is Just Stop Oil Protests an Opportunity for Change?

Protesting has proven to be an effective way used by movements to shed light on issues when legal and political responses have been deemed inadequate. But despite the many causes that protesters have supported over the decades, lately, climate change protests have caused a lot of backlashes, and instead of uniting people toward a common goal, they have generated a mixed response from the public, with some standing by the cause, others call for the protests to banned, and governments struggling to contain the situation.


Just Stop Oil Protests:

The Just Stop Oil is an Environmental movement spreading across the UK, calling for more strict green policies and aiming to stop the government from providing new oil licenses to fossil fuel companies. The UK government's recent decision to offer new oil licenses to fossil fuel companies has enraged the climate movement, as the government is getting ready to offer around 898 new oil and gas exploitation licenses nationwide. Even though Britain has earned its title as one of the leading nations in fighting climate change since the Paris Agreement in 2016, setting up wind fans and solar plates and developing firm rules for businesses to follow. Still, the country had no choice but to offer a new oil license to cope with the recent oil crisis due to the Russian/ Ukrainian war. No matter where you go nowadays, you can't escape the Just Stop Oil signs from social media platforms to news programs and street sides, but, despite the nobility of the cause, activists have recently attracted a lot of attention and criticism, with their controversial methods in expressing their opinion, from throwing canned food that doesn't exceed 2 pounds in price on iconic, timeless pieces of art like the Van Gogh sunflower painting in London to erupting important sporting events like the recent indecent at Wimbledon.



Emma Brown, a spokesperson for the Just Stop Oil campaign, has stated that desperate times call for extreme measures justifying these radical actions as the only way to break through the media. However, these radical actions can slow the pace of change. As more protesters in the UK started leaving the peaceful pavement march and finding their way into streets, blocking roads and causing unbearable traffic jams, videos surfing the internet showed drivers and protesters negatively engaging. In some videos, drivers almost threatened to run them over to move out of the way as they were preventing them from going to work. The Metropolitan Police stated that the Just Stop Oil protests cost the Police 5.7 million pounds since April 2023, in addition to the 7.5 million from October to December 2022 from taxpayers' money to keep the peaceful atmosphere.


Protests Across Europe:

Police forces in Europe are struggling to balance the right of those who want to protest and those whose lives are affected by the protest. In Italy, activists dumped black paint on the iconic fountain (dei Quattro Fiumi). In Germany, the environmental group Last Generation caused a block in 12 main streets; In a recent poll by the German left wing, results showed that 72% disagreed with the movement's acts. In the Netherlands, the police force made about 1,500 arrests from the climate change activist group The Hague as they were locking a major road, disrupting people from practicing their daily activities. In France, the situation got far more complicated; the government had to shut down the climate group The Earth Uprisings as their recent protest in March turned violent quickly, leaving cars on fire and members of the police force and the climate activists with serious injuries. As the crisis got more chaotic, many speculated that not all climate activists were fighting for the true cause behind the protests. With social media platforms dominating our lives on a daily bias, some millennials see it as a chance to gain instant fame using popular platforms like TikTok and Instagram.


The Future of Demonstrations:


The right to peacefully express your opinion is granted to everyone. Still, we need to acknowledge that transitioning from oil to a more sustainable energy source is not a switch of a button. Oil has been our main source of energy for decades. Unfortunately, although climate protests are standing behind a good cause, any attention they are bringing to the case is buried underneath the controversy of the methodology. These protests are falling into the mistake of enraging people instead of winning them over. So, instead of ruining public property to draw people’s attention, the movement can now use its position as leverage and negotiate with the government to set up a strategy to maximize energy, economic, and climate security. The only way to reach this goal is to set up a coordinated plan between the oil industry leaders, climate change advocates, and government parties to secure a jointly harmonized transition plan that is credible, merged with disclosure, contains interim milestones, and can aid markets in tracking progress toward a net-zero economy.

 

Reference List:


Ataman, J. and Paddison, L. (2023) French government shuts down a climate group after protests turn violent, CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/21/europe/french-government-ban-climate-group-intl/index.html (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Al Jazeera (2023) Netherlands arrests more than 1,500 climate activists, Climate Crisis News | Al Jazeera. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/27/netherlands-arrests-over-1500-extinction-rebellion-activists (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Haigh, E. (2023) Furious bystander hurls milk over just stop oil protesters as they slow march in Hammersmith , Daily Mail Online. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12247697/Furious-bystander-hurls-milk-Just-Stop-Oil-protesters-slow-march-Hammersmith.html (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Just stop oil: What is it and what does it want? (2023) BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63543307 (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Just stop oil protests cost police £3.5m in month, says met (2023) BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-65697762 (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Lu, D. (2022) Throwing soup at the problem: Are radical climate protests helping or hurting the cause?, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/13/throwing-soup-at-the-problem-are-radical-climate-protests-helping-or-hurting-the-cause (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


McGuinness, D. (2023) German police raid climate activists who blocked traffic, BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-65693412 (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Nadeau, B.L., Braithwaite, S. and Chen, H. (2023) Climate activists dye iconic Italian fountain water black, CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/07/europe/italy-climate-protesters-dye-rome-fountain-black-intl-hnk/index.html (Accessed: 04 July 2023).


Twidale, S. (2023) Britain loses status as Global Climate Leader, advisers say., Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/britain-loses-status-global-climate-leader-advisers-say-2023-06-27/ (Accessed: 04 July 2023).

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