August is often known as ‘silly season’ in the UK media, a time when politicians pop off on holiday and significant column inches are dedicated to celestial apparitions on slices of toast or touching tributes to famous fish (who knew Britain had a “best-loved carp” called Benson?).
So I had reason to pause for thought as Greenpeace, the organisation I run, was splashed all over the August front pages for our climate protest at the Prime Minister’s house last week. Are we this season’s toasted deity? Are we the “plonkers”, in one of the more generous comments from a government minister? Some people obviously think so. And I’m yet to see the heartfelt tributes that Benson the carp got.
But then, it’s not really a typical August is it? Most of us have sat watching haunting images of holidaymakers and locals fleeing wildfires on our TV screens. Every heatmap of Europe is scorched crimson. Extreme weather events are destroying communities and claiming lives and livelihoods across Asia and Africa. The phrase “the hottest on record” is starting to lose meaning, like repeating the same word over and over again until it sounds incomprehensible.
People are scared and with good cause. But we have to push through that fear. We must be driven to action. And none more so than the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, the action Rishi Sunak has arrived at is to mount an unconvincing salesman’s pitch for the fossil fuel industry, the same industry which got us into this mess in the first place. His opening offer: a two-for-one on new oil and gas licences and flimsy spin. ‘Ensuring our energy security from tyrants like Putin’ and ‘lowering people’s bills during a cost-of-living crisis’ must have sounded like great arguments on the Number 10 whiteboard, until they realised the inconvenience of them being utter garbage. But it hasn’t stopped Sunak peddling these lines to the public in wilful disdain for next year’s voters.