Environmentalists have been in the news recently for stopping a coal train in Yorkshire, on its way to the Drax power station near Selby. A small group of protesters stopped the train, draped a banner reading “leave it in the ground” and delayed the coal train for several days. They wanted to talk to the power station operators about the amounts of carbon dioxide that they were releasing into the atmosphere.
The operators were not too interested in talking to the protesters. They issued a statement explaining that in terms of unit of electricity generated Drax releases less carbon dioxide than any other UK power station. They just release loads of the stuff because they are the biggest coal fired power station in the UK and they are investing in technologies to reduce emissions.
Of course, being the cleanest coal power station in the UK is not necessarily something to be proud of, and the investment is not, I am sure, entirely voluntary for the good of society but new laws and regulations may have something to do with it.
Is it legitimate for protesters to target a coal train? To my way of thinking it is the wrong target. Energy companies do no more than provide people with the energy that people want, for a profit. Targeting them is a bit like treating the symptom of a disease, rather than the cause.
Protests like this are a form of civil disobedience. The protesters were acting as they did as a matter of conscious. They have to look beyond the coal train, beyond the power stations to find the true cause of emissions. Those causes are you me and virtually everyone else in this land. Those should be the targets for the protesters, because unless you target your civil disobedience at the cause, you are not excluding your own actions for the injustice that the emission do to the earth, but are doing no more than banging the drum.