There I was, getting myself nicely worked up to write a piece decrying the half-baked environmental claptrap that is from time to time published in the Daily Telegraph, when I was brought up short by what must be the most arrestingly bizarre piece of news I have seen in quite some time. Vivienne Westwood – she of dress-making fame – has driven a tank to David Cameron’s constituency home in Oxfordshire.
Now the whys and wherefores we shall get to in a moment, because I really do urge you to picture Westwood sitting atop a tank. The Guardian reported that she “took up the seat normally reserved for the tank’s gunner” – trundling conspicuously through the verdant and otherwise peaceful country lanes of the Cotswolds. Now if this isn’t the most out-and-out fabulous story of this year, I am no true human.
And so to the reasons. We’re back with fracking; specifically, the protest, intended to be a fake chemical attack, was a response to the government’s decision to offer licenses to frack in 27 sites across the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West. (Cameron’s own constituency has been spared, and hardened conspiracy theorists are duly advised to update their log books accordingly).
The idea for said mock strike apparently came from the Arab Spring. Westwood explains: “Cameron accuses foreign leaders such as President Gaddafi and President Assad of supposedly using chemical weapons on their own people… But he is doing precisely that here in Britain by forcing toxic, life-threatening fracking chemicals on his own people”. Whatever one thinks of fracking – and granted, some of the chemicals used are not the kinds of liquids you’d fancy keeping under the kitchen sink – I do think that we might be stretching the meaning of the word “precisely”. I dislike Cameron but I doubt I’d go so far as to claim that he’s dropping napalm on my house.
So far, so overblown. Then again, cynicism about the effectiveness of environmental process may be misplaced. Just last week, Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company, announced that it would no longer represent coal producers or organisations involved in climate change denial. It would appear that being out of step with public opinion on climate change and the resultant run of negative publicity is presumed to be hurting the bottom line. Edelman is still working with oil and gas companies, but this is an undeniable step in the right direction.
Change can very often be slow – and all the more so when, as is the case with our dependence on fossil fuels, the roots of the problem are so intertwined with the status quo. But surely Eldeman’s about turn shows that it is possible?
And if all we need to do to keep up the necessary pressure is to let a famously rebellious designer all but literally park her tanks on the Prime Minister’s lawn, then I really don’t think that we’re doing too badly for ourselves. Perhaps we needn’t be so cynical about the power of protest after all.