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Eco-activists targeting Heathrow with drones will antagonise rather than win sympathy

Eco-activists targeting Heathrow with drones will antagonise rather than win sympathy
The eco-warriors are back, this time they’re calling themselves ‘drone activists’ and are planning to ground flights at Britain’s Heathrow next month.

A drone activist group calling itself Heathrow Pause and described as a splinter of environmental group Extinction Rebellion has warned that on September 13 its members will be flying drones around Heathrow, forcing the grounding of flights as part of a protest at the planned expansion of the airport.

These protests cause most of us a real dilemma, because while almost everyone wants to save the world, they also want to go on holiday.  When it comes to the crunch, the majority would choose a week on the beach over protecting the polar bears. Of course most would deny it publicly. 

Perhaps activists need to take this into account when planning their public relations campaign. At the moment the environmentalists seem to believe that they can annoy the public into changing their behaviour with a series of seriously inconvenient stunts.

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The activists targeting Heathrow say they’ve found a loophole in the rules which means they won’t be doing anything illegal.  Essentially, they’ll be flying toy drones at head height within restricted airspace which they believe will force all air traffic to be stopped. 

Some members have apparently already discussed their plans with the police in advance. This could cause some to question their commitment, given that telling the authorities in advance where, when and how you intend to cause chaos is not usually the best way to achieve your goals.

The activists justify their protest action by insisting they are raising awareness of climate change, but is there anyone in Britain for example that is not aware of climate change?

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The battle being faced at this point is not to make people aware of the dangers of climate change, but to make them care enough to change their behaviour.  The only behaviour putting passengers at risk on planes and ruining their holidays will change is to make a nonviolent person want to punch a drone activist on the nose.

Environmentalists have a compelling message, rebelling against one’s extinction is about as persuasive an argument as you’ll find, but is the continual inconveniencing of people going about their lives the way to win people to your cause?

Extinction Rebellion have also been spotted stopping traffic in the centre of cities like London, threatening to shut down London Fashion Week, as well as targeting other airports. It’s got to be tough to get a message through if you’re being antagonistic at the same time.   

Eco-warriors see themselves as fighting a just cause in which the ends justify the means. To others they’re beginning to look like nothing more than extremists who, in the worst cases, are willing to put lives at risk to make their point.   

By Simon Rite

Simon Rite is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites

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