Thank you for your recent Channel 4 TV programme ‘Is It Time to Break the Law?’ (Wednesday 21st September 2023).
It was an unusual programme, in that it presented yourself, and by implication your viewers, with an agonising dilemma about responding to the threat of human-induced climate change. And it was a fascinating programme, in that it recorded interviews with a climate change sceptic, Just Stop Oil protestors, and various other agitators for a much more determined and aggressive approach to preserving nature and preventing climate change. There was also footage of Just Stop Oil and other protestors engaging in direct action.
Lord Deben (recently retired chairman of the UK Climate Change Committee) told you, “We should be on a war footing, a 1° C rise in global temperatures is already causing mayhem, and we are headed for 2° or 3° C”.
You make the strong point that voting, science, politics, speeches, targets and reasoned debate haven’t worked – total world emissions last year were the highest ever.
The programme is well reviewed in The Guardian newspaper by Jack Seale.
At the end of your programme, you pose two questions:
- Should I pursue my campaigning to get the world to change course and stop climate change by breaking the law?
- How Can I Best Maximise or Optimise my Campaigning Efforts?
May I offer some suggested answers to those two questions?
Question 1. Is It Time to Break the Law?
No! It would be a very bad idea for you to get yourself arrested and possibly imprisoned, while attending some disruptive publicity stunt, for these reasons:
- Being imprisoned could seriously damage your mental health;
- It would set a bad example to young people;
- It would alienate some people, and it is important to persuade people rather than bully them;
- It might mean the loss of your job;
- The public would lose the programmes you could be making.
Question 2. How Can I Best Maximise or Optimise my Campaigning Efforts?
Chris, you are a widely known, respected, and high-profile figure in the world of environmentalism and nature conservancy, with a large following. This success is well merited by the passion, knowledge and skill you bring to your programmes, and the foresight of the BBC. This is very much appreciated by the public.
So very broadly, your most effective contribution to the campaign would be to build on and extend that success to other areas.
I’m sure you have many ideas of your own, but here are a few for you to consider:
- Seek a nomination as a President of Greenpeace. This would give you an institutional and worldwide platform. I would be happy to nominate you.
- Seek invitations to speak at respected and high-profile world institutions, such as the United Nations, COP28, G7, G20, EU Parliament, African Union.
- Seek invitations to speak at UK institutions, such as UK Parliament, Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, Labour Party Conference, Institute for Government, Royal Academy, British Museum, Science Museum, Oxford Union etc.
- Continue to make inspiring TV programmes. Something impactful, like a balloon flight somewhere, a visit to a climate-ravaged area, a meeting at sea on a wind-jammer with marine activists, a visit to a weather monitoring station, a tour of energy plants in India or China, a visit to Saudi Arabian oil wells, a visit to a low-lying Pacific island.
- Consider making a podcast series for BBC Sounds, possibly in conversation with respected figures such as Lord Deben, Caroline Lucas, Zac Goldsmith and others.
- Consider writing a weekly newspaper column.
- Continue with your efforts, in conjunction with others, to hold the Government to account through legal challenges.
To extend your campaigning efforts, and make them more effective, may I also suggest that you will need help. Someone to manage your diary, deal with mail, field telephone calls, help you write speeches, manage your travel itinerary, and help you manage the IT. You may need to increase your personal security, because people who make waves also make enemies, and there are some very nasty and well-funded enemies about. It may be that there is a wealthy philanthropist willing to help fund these things, or maybe Greenpeace could help with funding, paid staff or volunteers.
At the end of your Earth TV series, you summarised your conclusions as follows, and you repeated this verbatim at your recent Cheltenham Literary Festival talk:
“We are close to the day when we need to reach our zenith as a species because the time has come for all humanity to realise that to survive we have to put our earth first. That unique, fragile, beautiful earth that spent 4.6 billion years building our stage is now waiting for us to deliver the right performance. Because, if we don’t, there will be no encore for humanity.”
Thank you again for your wonderful programmes and your campaigning efforts, and I wish you the very best of future good campaigning.
(The views expressed are those of the author)