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What green activists can learn from the right

The aftermath of heat-related wildfires in east London yesterday. Leon Neal/Getty

Never has a silence been “so loud or so resonant”, says George Monbiot in The Guardian, as the hush surrounding the one issue that truly matters: the survival of life on earth. All the other rubbish filling up the front pages is “dust” in comparison. And yet Tory leadership hopefuls awkwardly skirt around the subject, while Times editors somehow still publish articles doubting climate science. This isn’t a “passive silence”, but a fierce commitment by politicians and billionaire media barons to ignore the threat roaring around us. We shouldn’t be surprised. The demand to decarbonise isn’t just a threat to the fossil fuel industry; it challenges “the world order that permits powerful men to dominate us”. To give ground to climate campaigners would be to surrender that power.

But we green activists must shoulder our share of the blame. Desperate not to scare and alienate the public, we long ago decided the only realistic approach is “incrementalism”: settling for tiny, gradual improvements. But while we persuaded ourselves it was impossible to change the system, a radical right insurgency “proved us wrong by changing everything”. Right-wing movements have crushed the administrative state, captured the infrastructure of government and shut down our right to protest – all while environmentalists asked people to “recycle their bottle tops and change their drinking straws”. The mistaken belief that the public could only stomach “micro-consumerist bollocks” has been “a morass in which ambition sinks”. As the right has proved, comprehensive system change is possible. In fact, it’s “the only fast and effective means of transformation”.