Opinion: We Are Just Witnessing The Beginning of Climate Vigilantes

By Niall Houston

12 May 2022

(Photograph: Wikimedia Commons)

Climate groups such as Just Stop Oil and Tyre Extinguishers are slowly building a reputation of taking matters into their own hands for the ‘good of the world’. But this is just the beginning.

Gotham City was at a stage of total anarchy; it sat on a tipping point verging on complete chaos. The Penguin and his gang of thugs ruled the streets, The Joker was inspiring madness in the working class and blowing up buildings, Harvey Two-Face was committing high-profile crimes on the daily and there was a gigantic crocodile monster swimming in the sewers, feasting on anyone unfortunate enough to fall down a man-hole-cover. 

The rich 1% of Gotham stayed safe in their manors and in their penthouses, while it was those on the streets who suffered most. The Gotham Police Department did not seem to be doing much about the criminals, as half of them were paid off by Falcone and the mob. New policies that politicians and the mayor would pass did nothing. In fact, the mayor would actually deny that these crimes were happening. 

It felt only natural that at some point, someone had to step up and take the law into their own hands; someone who saw how the public-funded systems in Gotham could not tackle all the emerging super-villains. Gotham City needed a hero. 

Step forward Batman; otherwise known as Bruce Wayne. Batman started cleaning up the streets using brute force, high-tech gadgets and fast vehicles, whilst wearing a long, fluttery cape. Bruce Wayne saw the damage that these criminals were doing, and thought he had to do something about them. He saw those rich folk in power, sitting idly and sipping wine, whilst his city was tearing itself apart. 

He became a vigilante. He broke the law every time he set foot outside the Batcave, for doing what he believed was right. He believed it was right to trespass, commit espionage, blow up stuff, KAPOW, WHACK and knock people out, because all of this was necessary for the greater good of Gotham City. 

Yet was it this vigilantism that Gotham needed? Did the peaceful protests outside the mayor’s office not work? Were the children’s marches, filled with beautiful signposts stating ‘STOP THE RIDDLER’, forgotten about? What about all the petitions, with thousands of Gotham signatures? Surely, they made a difference in policies concerning crime. But most would argue they did not. Most would say it was Batman.

Of course, you may be wondering about how this article is supposed to be about the Climate – not some half-assed, semi-accurate review of a fictitious comic book world. Well, actually, I am trying to write an allegory of the most famous, pop-culture vigilante with our real-world vigilantes we are seeing in Scotland now. Across the news in recent times, you will have seen groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil and Tyre Extinguishers.

If you have been living under a rock, and haven’t heard of some of these people, they are climate protest groups, with a few vigilantes amongst them. Extinction Rebellion are constantly holding marches and disrupting public life. Just Stop Oil are spray painting buildings, cable tying themselves onto goalposts in live football matches and Tyre extinguishers are slashing tyres of big SUV cars around the streets of cities. 

These ‘vigilantes’ feel like those in power are not doing enough to halt combat the climate crisis. In a way, they may be correct. 

This is the Tyre Extinguishers pledge: 

‘We are people from all walks of life with one aim: To make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4×4 in the world’s urban areas. We are defending ourselves against climate change, air pollution and unsafe drivers. We do this with a simple tactic: Deflating the tyres of these massive, unnecessary vehicles, causing inconvenience for their owners. 

They are actively breaking the law. They are going out and vandalising people’s property. Caught doing that, they would be arrested. If Batman was caught beating up street thugs, he would be arrested too. There are similarities between them.

The police began to see Batman as a threat. The police will also see the Tyre Extinguishers as a threat. The media vilified Batman. Ask yourself how are some of the main media organisations painting these climate vigilantes’ groups? 

I am not condoning the actions that these climate groups take. I am not saying I support what they do. If I owned an SUV, I would be in a furious rage if someone slashed my tyres. But – it does question whether I would buy an SUV in future. It does make me question my choices concerning the climate. 

But these groups are not going to be the only ones. One vigilante inspires another. Batman inspired Robin and Bat-woman. He inspired others to break the law, to fight against the horrors terrorising Gotham and fight for what they believed was right. 

Until more action is done concerning the climate, more climate vigilantes will appear. We are only seeing the beginning of them. Is vigilantism the answer? Frankly, I do not know. But what it does is that it creates a spark, it creates a change, whether good or bad is up to perspective. But it gets people talking about the climate. 

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