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Letters to the Editor: Extinction rebels do little more than harm their cause

Extinction Rebellion's protests are unlikely to change the minds of those in power.

Drummers (some wearing what Will Self might class as pantaloon-style trousers) march past the Old Bailey during Extinction Rebellion’s two-week protests over the use of fossil fuels and the climate crisis. Photo: Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Once again Will Self (“…on Extinction Rebellion”, TNE #259) has focussed on the issue so well.

I accept it’s the economic system, controlled by the rich nations, which is at the root of most environmental problems. I agree that the “circus” presented to us by those in “pantaloon-style drawstring trousers” is unlikely to make the powers-that-be take much notice.

However, disruption to “normal” life by mass protest, traffic jams and so on may be just as ineffective.

Local systems based on sustainability – personal changes in food choices, energy savings etc – might make it easier for individuals to lead greener lifestyles where they have more control.
J Wheatley
Norwich, NR2

Apart from helping harness a new form of ‘arm energy’ by constantly encouraging me to lift the dictionary to look up ruminative words that he writes in his augmented articles, what exactly is Will Self doing to help with the climate and ecological crisis? Pantaloon prose aside?
Debbie Bourne

I was disappointed to read Will Self’s article on Extinction Rebellion, with his focus on “pantaloon-style trousers” and hoary stereotypes. Saying he has “some sympathy” for XR and then trivialising their protests seems an odd way of showing it.

I joined the local XR group as soon as it began and found one of the nicest, most compassionate groups of people I have ever encountered. I don’t possess pantaloon-style trousers nor multicoloured dreadlocks and have never smoked grass. I care deeply about the climate and biodiversity crises we are facing, and wish extreme protests were not necessary for governments to take these issues seriously.

Of course, most of us heat our homes with gas, and some of us drive cars – we can’t help being part of the capitalist economy in the UK. (And I do think it is right to point the finger at capitalism as a prime driver of these crises, with its focus on profit and growth at the expense of all else.) However, if I managed to detach myself from ‘the hydra of heating’ by somehow living off the land and thus avoid his charge of hypocrisy, I think he’d be the first to dismiss me as some sort of eco-weirdo whose views could safely be ignored.
E Jenkins

‘Boomer’ is bust as a term
Bobby Duffy (“Battle for the ages”, TNE #259) is to be thanked for puncturing at least some of the inflated nonsense about inter-generational conflict that has been floating around, especially since Brexit and climate change became pressing issues.

I was surprised however that the term ‘baby boomers’ is now applied to those people born 1946 to 1964. That makes Boris Johnson a baby boomer.


I prefer Francis Beckett’s definition in his 2010 book What did the baby boomers ever do for us? – namely those born from 1945 to 1955, whose attitudes would likely have been forged in the political climate of the 1960s and early 1970s. I don’t need to amplify what that means.

‘Baby boomers’ could reasonably argue that a) they did not choose when to be born and b) the ‘boom’ was created by a generation that had lost much in the 1940s and were trying to build a new sort of society, which worked at least for a while.

Couldn’t somebody come up with a less divisive, condescending label?
Nigel Britton

Sinn sin
I was sorry to see Gail Walker repeat the canard that ‘Sinn Féin’ means ‘Ourselves Alone’, which we had supposed dead, waked, buried – and not mourned (“Where the streets have two names”, TNE #260).

‘Sinn Féin’ means ‘We Ourselves’, using a more literary form of the pronoun. In ordinary everyday speech, people say ‘muid féin’, pronounced ‘mwij hane’.
Tim Saunders

Gail Walker’s article on the Irish language’s place in the political shaping of these islands was both welcome and interesting. My only quibble is her assertion that language being controversial could be a surprise to the rest of Great Britain. Has she heard of a place called Scotland?

S. G Owen
Dunoon, Argyll & Bute

Pros of paper and pencil

James Ball contests that we should be careful what we wish for regarding Proportional Representation, then goes on to make several claims about PR which we would dispute. James should know that the ground has shifted considerably within the Labour Party on this subject.

This weekend the Labour Party gather in Brighton for their Conference. Some 144 constituency parties have submitted pro-PR motions calling on Labour to adopt PR as their official policy, which is the largest number of submissions in agreement on any single topic received in recent history. Some 83% of Labour members are now in favour of PR with only 10% against.

The writing is on the wall. FPTP is a morally bankrupt system perpetuating right wing governments and the Labour membership have woken up to this fact.

It is high time for the Labour Party to change its policy to match, and support PR. We know exactly what we wish for.
John Doolan
Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform

• Have your say by emailing Our deadline for letters is Monday at 9am for inclusion in Thursday’s edition. Please be concise – letters over five paragraphs long may be edited before printing

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