22nd April 2023:
A spate of 4×4 direct actions occurred in Bristol recently (see e.g. Novara Media), with the words This Machine Kills Kids being spray painted on the side of the vehicles.
There have been a spate of such actions in Bristol in recent months, and in fact such actions take place regularly across the world (see e.g. here), with people inspired by anonymous groups such as Tyre Extinguishers. It’s long been a direct action tactic to take action against 4×4’s, and I can recall similar actions reported in the Earth First! newsletter fifteen years ago, with activists placing mung beans in the caps of 4×4 tyre valves and then screwing them back on so that the tyres slowly deflate.
As it stands, the law says that such activity is illegal, and protects the rights of industries to produce monster vehicles and also the rights of people to buy them and drive them, regardless of need or the cost to wider society and the environment. In Bristol, the driver whose vehicle is pictured above said of the activists:
Climate change is a serious issue, and dramatic actions need to happen within the next few years before the damage is irreversible, we need to get the entire population on board with this movement.
However by activists creeping around the streets at 2am, letting tyres down, and spray painting any vehicles that are not electric, is causing a negative connotation with climate change, and people are becoming very resentful towards the movement.
It’s hard to take someone seriously when they say that ‘climate change is a serious issue’ and yet drive a 4×4, or any vehicle for that matter that isn’t an essential need. Somehow, I think the seriousness of the issue has yet to sink in. There is a lack of the kind of maturity that brings with it a sense of responsibility to act for the greater good of the rest of society and the future well being of all. Instead of growing up, people instead learn to drive cars, and then they feel like adults, when in fact they are infantilised adults who have failed to mature and instead play with toys. Yes, toys, really dangerous toys, ones that no-one should even be making never mind playing with.
All around the world, principled and responsible actions to reduce car usage are again and again met by resistance from the wider population. And I’m not just talking about resistance to LTN’s or congestion charges or petrol price hikes. I’m talking about the every day resistance you come across everywhere to any notion that people should stop driving cars. Yes, STOP DRIVING CARS.
For example, I recall a friend telling me about a local homelessness charity who built a car park to cater for 40 cars for their offices, but who refused flat out to put up a bike rack in one of the car parking spaces. In another example, there is a local socialist group I used to attend for a few months. They would often talk about climate change, the need to act, the importance of not challenging people in their own polluting activities, how we need system change and not climate change, and so forth (blah blah blah in my view). Then one day I saw the leader of the socialist group park his vehicle, a 4×4, on the street near where I live and go off to join one of the local picket lines. I was appalled by the hypocrisy of someone who speaks out so much about the climate and spends so much time blaming the system or the rich or the tories for it all, and yet who drives around in a 4×4. A real climate champion huh?
The socialists sell a reassuring lie, that it’s okay to do what you want, act how you want, pollute as much as you want, because the problems are all caused by the capitalist elites. We’re nothing to do with it.
So there is massive resistance out there in the world to any notion that challenges the ‘right to drive’, and so as a long standing environmentalist I am deeply sympathetic to these kinds of tactics against vehicles such as 4×4’s. While I would, and do, stand up to defend human rights and human freedoms, I do not defend the right of people to behave irresponsibly, and neither do I defend the right of industries to cater to these kind of infantilised humans by manufacturing their toys with reckless abandon, and nor do I uphold the validity of a legal system that defends this, and many other, clearly illegal (by any sane definition of legality) practices.
So for these and many other reasons, I don’t consider these kinds of actions against 4×4’s to be somehow immoral or wrong, and neither do I think they should be criminalised. The criminals are those who buy these vehicles and drive them and legitimise them, along with the industries and governments who profit from this kind of illegitimate economic activity. And illegitimate economic activity is what it is. If we lived in any kind of decent or mature society such economics as is routinely practiced today would be blocked, blocked by the actions of large groups of citizens like these 4×4 graffiti stencillers, who take direct action to stop them. And make no mistake, that is what a real democratic and grassroots society looks like. And a real democratic and grassroots society is the best way you solve climate change, because in such a society you destroy the legitimacy of groups like the government, or the polluting and irresponsible industries, or the actions of people in your town who think they have the right to destroy the commons for their own personal benefit (yes, the climate is common land, it belongs to us all, as do our streets and roads and the air we breathe), and you do that by taking responsible direct action.
Responsible? Sneaking around at night and vandalising 4×4’s is responsible?
Yes, responsible. Firstly, when you’re behind enemy lines you have to sneak around at night, otherwise the enemy will get you. That’s just standard guerilla tactics. Secondly, vandalising machines that are being used to wage war on life is not irresponsible, it is bloody well courageous. COURAGEOUS. Heroic even. To be applauded. Well done. Somebody please give these people a medal, or free bread for life. Just some kind of recognition that says hey, you’re wonderful people, and if the world was full of people like you, then wow, that would be cool. For starters, there’d be lots more trees, and all our animals wouldn’t be extinct, but they’d still be around, animals like wolves and bears and lynx. Children would be laughing and playing in the street. No-one would be economically exploited, no-one would be homeless, and there wouldn’t be an arms industry, or any kind of industry from hell that exists to destroy life.
So yeh, all praise to these responsible people who have actually digested the seriousness of the situation we are in and are responding appropriately. And as for the idea that doing such actions is self defeating for the climate movement, because of the fact that we need to get the entire population on board with this movement. Well, it should be pretty clear to anyone that the entire population isn’t on board with the climate movement, and isn’t ever likely to be while they are under the spell of corporate advertising. That is an end game scenario, and for that reason, as far as I am concerned, the climate movement should go underground.
Why bother with traditional direct actions, where you wait around to get arrested, do a press release and get in the local paper, and try to convince everyone by your model action that the issue is for real and we all need to get on board? Why bother? I mean, it’s pretty clear that, in terms of stopping this insane system from destroying life on earth, that tactic simply doesn’t work. People have lost their minds. So how many more decades are movements going to carry on with that kind of charade?
A climate movement that consists of an army of guerilla activists on the other hand…. well, let’s just say that, although I would not want to encourage any individual(s) into criminal activity, in my view this would nonetheless, as an intellectual exercise only, be an interesting tactic to contemplate and discuss. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if the sheep and cows all rebelled, and didn’t just hang around in their fields waiting to be murdered? Wouldn’t it be great if they tore down the fences, and when they were put in new fields, carried on tearing down the fences, and didn’t bother with trying to appease anyone or convince anyone of their cause? I mean, why would they bother? It’s clear what the position of the rest of society is. Better in my view for the domesticated animals to break free of their societal restraints and wage guerilla war. And what is good for the animals, is good for us too, because in reality, we are in exactly the same boat.
And as for people who think climate change is a serious issue and yet still drive around in non-essential vehicles, never mind 4×4’s: well, I hope someone from Tyre Extinguishers visits you soon. I hope so, though for the record, and especially for the police who might be reading: I do not wish to encourage anyone into illegal activity. Don’t do anything illegal. Just send your love and support to those who do.