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Just Stop Oil in action

Just Stop Oil – meet the people

Have you heard about Just Stop Oil? Who are they? What do they want? And why are so many of their members prepared to be arrested in support of their goals? Robert Ralph explains what they are all about.

I caught up with some of the people from Hastings, St Leonards and the surrounding area who have been involved in Just Stop Oil actions to ask what they’re doing and why. What makes 85-year-old grandmother La glue herself to a road at 6am in freezing conditions outside an oil refinery, and then suffer the indignity of arrest? What inspires Trevor, a mild-mannered retired biology teacher to forego a pleasant retirement and risk multiple arrests and prosecutions?

Just Stop Oil make the following demand on their website – “That the UK government makes a statement that it will immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”

This is based on the fact that the UK already has enough oil and gas reserves for the next eight years. They also cite the chilling words of Sir David King (former chief scientific advisor to the UK government) as the motivation for their action, who said in February 2021, “What we do over the next three–four years is going to determine the future of humanity”.

Felix told me: “I joined Just Stop Oil because what they’re asking is easy for the government to do – stop new exploration and subsidies. It’s what all the scientists and governments have agreed is necessary [to avoid catastrophic climate change]”. The UK government is about to announce 42 new licences for oil and gas exploration which the UN and the International Energy Association have described as “moral and economic madness”.

Since the Paris Agreement in 2015 the UK government has subsidised the already hugely profitable oil and gas companies to the tune of £13.6bn. Just Stop Oil want the UK government to cancel these licences, cease the subsidies and instead invest this money into renewable energy, insulating houses and improving public transport. Which in itself will provide quicker and cheaper relief to the cost of living crisis, provide energy security for the UK and stop funding Putin’s war machine. It seems like a no-brainer?

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, responding to the 2022 IPCC report on climate change, stated that current economic and energy policies put the world on course for warming of more than double the 1.5C agreed in Paris. He went on to state that “governments and business leaders are saying one thing and doing another – simply put they are lying.” Looking at what the Government are suggesting compared to their statements at COP26 -is that what is going on here? And what might be motivating them to do this?

All of the Just Stop Oil members I spoke with cited these issues – they all told me they had tried petitions, marches and pressure groups and these have not worked and we are now out of time. As they have become increasingly fearful of the situation facing us, and the impact on those they love, as well as millions of people around the world who don’t have a voice, they feel like the only action left is to take part in non-violent civil disobedience.

Kitty told me she joined Just Stop Oil because “Time is running out and all the other options have been tried and have failed to work. All that’s left [to us] is civil disobedience, non-conformity with a government that is going to kill its own citizens and countless people around the world. I feel it’s like being German in WW2 – we have a moral duty to stand against a government that’s so wrong”

Similarly Felix told me he sees “no urgency by this government and everything else has been tried for years, we are forced into civil disobedience.”

Trevor explained to me he has written numerous letters and e-mails, which are often not replied to or the points raised ignored. He feels he must take action, quoting the words of Antonio Guterres: “Climate activists are often depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in more fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness”.

A sense of urgency pervaded those I spoke with; they all explained that the science shows far-reaching action needs to happen without delay. All are frustrated by the media’s seeming reluctance to constructively engage with campaigners, or even report fully on the situation and actions taken by organisations such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

National media have reported sparingly on the recent actions of Just Stop Oil, who have been blockading oil refineries around the country for several weeks now. If you have seen the media coverage you may have noticed a focus on inconvenience and a paucity of information on even the most basic message – Just Stop Oil’s central demand that no new fossil fuel licences be granted. And for those of you who have seen the film Don’t Look Up it has felt like life mirroring art.

Antonio Guterres has explained that “To keep within the Paris agreement we need to reduce emissions by 45% by the end of this decade, but current climate policy will see a 14% increase in this time”.

La, the gentle but ferociously determined 85-year-old grandmother I mentioned earlier, locked eyes with me and stated simply: “Like most good people I want to do something to stop our carbon emissions rising. Where we are heading would mean food shortages for my grandchildren and the global south. I joined Just Stop Oil because I believe it is the right thing to do, and to demand the government stops issuing new licences to drill for oil”.

Felix told me “I have to justify myself to the youngest in my family and action is the best therapy for fear”.

I was left a little humbled by those I met.

You can find out more about Just Stop Oil through the website above, or there is information about Hastings and St. Leonards Extinction Rebellion on the XRHSL website – they explained to me that there are many ways to get involved without being arrested!

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Posted 10:23 Friday, Apr 22, 2022 In: Campaigns

15 Comments

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  1. Remus

    These comments are hilarious! Self-congratulatory bubble-formulation in action.

    A few points, if I may present an alternative perspective on the oh-so-reasonable posturing of the local commentariat.

    First, if you obstruct people going about their lawful business, you are being violent. People are mostly nice and tolerant and law-abiding, but you should not be surprised to encounter violence in return at some stage. Wear your mags’ courts martyrdom fines with pride, but cowering behind the legal protections afforded by the society you seek to undermine is a routine and transparent strategy for groups like this.

    Second, making unreasonable and impractical demands while engaged in ‘passive resistance’ (it’s not ‘peaceful’, see above) is straight out of the radical playbook to justify ‘direct action’ later on. Some of you softies will baulk at that, but you’ll have served your purpose by then and your pleas for restraint will not be heard.

    Third, you offer no solutions that are not immediately destructive and likely to generate third world levels of poverty, crime and violence, resulting in massive civil unrest, probably to include a good kicking or worse for anyone engaged in your movement. Oh woe! No surprises there though, because that’s the whole point, n’est pas? Quoting an unelected and unaccountable UN socialist as some kind of ‘expert authority’ is about as credible as ‘Independent SAGE’ or ‘People’s Assemblies’ (we already have those, so make sure you vote in May).

    Despite the obvious naivety of useful idiots, none of this is really about the environment at all: it’s just another pathetic attempt to undermine democracy and the free market (which is what will ultimately generate lasting solutions to climate change), and to impose crackpot socialism on a population that has repeatedly rejected it for over a century.

    Go ahead, demand away – our democracy welcomes a vibrant exchange of ideas and perspectives and we love putting them to the test – especially at the ballot box. However, do keep out of the way and do be VERY careful about where and who you attempt to obstruct. If in doubt, ask Assistant Professor A. Guterres about Newton’s Third Law (equal and opposing), if he hasn’t forgotten it.

    Comment by Remus — Thursday, Apr 28, 2022 @ 13:03

  2. Felix

    I’m sorry, J B Knight, that you feel there’s hypocrisy in the protester’s alarm, because they use what everyone else uses.

    I’m sorry, that you feel threatened by the actions and people doing them but they’re only desperate peaceful people.

    I’m sorry, that so many are realising that waiting for a fix is not going to work in the time left (2-3 yrs – UN).

    I’m most sorry, for working people, like me, who will pay first and deepest when things breakdown gradually initially but descends into a hell because it won’t ever end.

    Comment by Felix — Tuesday, Apr 26, 2022 @ 18:59

  3. Sophie

    Thank you for this article, I really appreciated getting a perspective into the reasons why people take these actions.
    I’ve spent much of my life avoiding engaging properly with the science around the climate emergency and what it means for all of our lives. It’s really shocking to come to terms with the the destruction which will occur if governments don’t prioritise ending fossil fuels usage quickly. The science is clear.
    So although I don’t like my life being disrupted and I have sympathy for those who feel frustrated by that. I now understand the urgency and desperation. The government is failing us and the results will be catastrophic if action is not taken.

    Comment by Sophie — Tuesday, Apr 26, 2022 @ 15:19

  4. Amanda

    Harry and JB Knight, i feel sad that you feel this way. We are all too busy on our hamster wheels to actually slow down and look at what is going on. I am an older person so I have some perspective on this. Storms, flooding and heatwaves are more severe now. People are actually dying. Noone can now deny that climate change is real. You can hide from the reality but it is going to get a lot worse. Im sorry to say this, but being in a traffic jam or not being able to get any petrol is nothing compared to the unbelievable suffering that is coming if we don’t act now.

    Comment by Amanda — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 21:02

  5. Grace Lally

    These protests are completely non-violent so the accusations in a previous post of throwing acid or bricks etc are completely untrue. The protests do disrupt people’s lives though, so I understand why people think the protesters have disdain for the people affected. The truth is that mass disruption is a last resort because there is nothing else left to do. The government and powerful corporations know the science, they understand what needs to be done, but they refuse because they put short term profits ahead of the survival of humanity. That is what is at stake. There is no option to continue a fossil fuel economy. We either phase it out and transition to renewable energy very quickly – or modern society as we know it collapses due to climate change causing storms, drought, flooding, fires and the inevitable mass displacement, wars and famines that will result. If people think that is scaremongering then just read the IPCC report. The big question is not why should we stop new fossil fuels but why are governments and corporations hiding the truth from us? Continuing business as usual is not an option. Disruption makes people angry but it is unfortunately the only way to get attention and get the truth out. The protests are not aimed against individuals who drive, they are trying to disrupt the system, the government, the corporations who are blocking alternatives to fossil fuels and endangering all our futures.

    Comment by Grace Lally — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 15:42

  6. Yee Chuan Mayhew

    Why does JB Knight think that ‘working class’ people are not interested in Climate change? From what the ‘working class’ people have told me, and let’s throw the odd ‘non white’ people into the mix, they are very worried about Climate Change but feel powerless to do anything as so far all the solutions are too expensive to employ. However, without exception, all the ‘working class’ people I know, are very passionate about recycling, and saving what they can and where possible, gardening for the table. Everyone has become used to the way we live now, although as a child exotic fruit and veg were not so available, there was plenty of locally grown seasonal fruit and vegetables, bought from a local grocer and put into brown paper bags. The buses to and from the villages and the around the towns were also more frequent and cheap allowing ordinary people to go to and from work on time , and children to go to school. Stopping oil doesn’t mean that our way of life is forfeit. It means that we need to re think how we go about living the life we want and how we can adapt our wants to an energy source that is not so destructive. Why is that such a bad thing? It means work and change, yes, to my mind to continue to use old methods instead of investing in new ways of providing energy is not only lazy but holding back progress. The resistance to the motor car when it first came out was very strong but we progressed. The need to continue to progress now is vital. If we all joined together and said no to fossil fuel, give the billions you are spending on new drilling and extraction sites to fund infrastructure for renewables, that will lower our fuel bills and create new technologies. That is progress

    Comment by Yee Chuan Mayhew — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 15:41

  7. Brian Leite

    Good balanced article – thank you

    The fears that impel JSO protesters are with me every day. They’ve changed my perception of everything. Each day I hope to be proved wrong – that I don’t need to worry for the future.

    The climate situation IS an emergency – one that the government declared years ago. What we are not seeing is action. And as the latest IPCC bulletins show – its state / govt action that works.

    People who are taking these brave actions are doing so out of Love for other human beings, love for other species and love for our beautiful world.

    Brian

    Comment by Brian Leite — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 15:35

  8. Leon

    When the UN Secretary General accuses governments across the world of lying, what can we do? Secretary-General António Guterres reminded us, following the publication of the third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that:

    “Climate scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts. But, high‑emitting Governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye, they are adding fuel to the flames.

    They are choking our planet, based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels, when cheaper, renewable solutions provide green jobs, energy security and greater price stability.”

    He went on to say: “If you live in a big city, a rural area or a small island State; if you invest in the stock market; if you care about justice and our children’s future; I am appealing directly to you: demand that renewable energy is introduced now — at speed and at scale; demand an end to coal-fired power; demand an end to all fossil fuel subsidies.”

    Note that last line: “demand an end to all fossil fuel subsidies.” That’s the UN Secretary General, urging ordinary people to make demands for justice.

    Comment by Leon — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 15:10

  9. Andy

    I found this a very enlightening article and am inspired by the courage of these people. It has literally come to this. If the next 3 years will determine the future of humanity FOREVER and government and big business aren’t making the changes necessary what else is there left to do? I for one won’t stand by and let this happen. I cant see how this is a ’cause’ or that this targeted at every day people? Its the future of humanity we are talking about. The science is clear. I see this type of non-violent action being about raising the alarm and giving everyone a choice as to what side of history they want to be on? Thanks HOT for bringing this to my attention.

    Comment by Andy — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 14:52

  10. Rob- author

    To JB Knight, the Just Stop Oil campaign and the XR campaigns have a real focus on Non Violent Direct Action, I have heard of no reports of these actions being anything else.
    As for methods of transport for food/goods and persons – this type of action is demanding system change, we are currently all stuck in the same oil based system- the oil companies pay a lot to keep us that way.
    All protesters I spoke with are deeply sorry for the effects on working class people, I hope the article explains why they feel they are out of other options

    Comment by Rob- author — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 11:58

  11. Nicola

    Dear Mr Knight, I appreciate your frustration. But as a member of Extinction Rebellion I can assure you that our tactics are Non Violent Direct Action know as NVDA. No one from XR or JSO have used any of the violent tactics you have mentioned. Many of our members are vicars, priests, nuns, doctors, nurses, teachers, and scientists. Who are devoted to the care and welfare of others and to the planet. No one in our movements is suggesting we live the life of hermits, we just want to live, and if we dont listen to the words of the UN secretary there will be no planet left to live on, if we continue using fossil fuels.

    Comment by Nicola — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 11:38

  12. Eveline

    It’s great to read a bit more about this movement and the reasons why people decide to take this type of action. A lot of attention in the media goes to their tactics rather than the actual topic of how the government is betraying us by handing out new fossil fuel licenses. I enjoyed reading this article and I appreciate that HOT provided a platform for this type of news!

    Comment by Eveline — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 10:21

  13. Rod

    Looks like the actions of Just Stop Oil are the only way forward. Like the people quoted in the article I’ve spent many years campaigning & going on marches but things have stayed the same. I’ve got 5 grandchildren & I want to leave them an inhabitable world. Very true word spoken by UN Secretary General. World leaders must get their heads out of the sand

    Comment by Rod — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 08:49

  14. Harry

    Targeting ordinary working people is counterproductive. I lost several hundred really needed pounds during these “protests” due to lack of fuel for my van. All they’ve achieved is to make millions hate them and their “cause”.

    Comment by Harry — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 08:47

  15. J B KNIGHT

    NONSENSE!

    Just Grow Up!

    Where do you think all your brown rice and lentils come from?

    Bananas may grow on trees but they get here by freigh and road haulage.

    And how do you get to these protests, Oh Organised coaches and trains DUH!

    And there is open animosity and values of hate, abuse and assault on farmers, fishermen, drivers etc during protests, Such as throwing or dropping bricks, concrete blocks throw divers cabs, cutting brakes, and spraying acid into fishermen faces. But as our nicey whiteys middle class say They Do Not Matter As these people are NOTHING! – including their families and children.

    GROW UP! Things will change, alternatives will be found and developed.
    But I don’t see the values and actions of protestors as any different from the values and actions of govts and corporations. Both need to harm and attack people and both declare that the large majority of working people actually doing the work are nothing there to be abused and expendable.

    Oil and coal is not going away as it is part of a lot of things we take for granted, including medicines, machinery, medical supplies. Brain cells the size of a gnat.

    Comment by J B KNIGHT — Monday, Apr 25, 2022 @ 07:23

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