Insulate Britain

Environmental protest group Insulate Britain have vowed to restart disrupting motorway traffic this week ahead of the Cop26 summit which begins on October 31.

The group had previously caused major disruption on thirteen occasions before announcing a ten-day pause, to allow the government ‘a chance to do the right thing’. The group will resume their ‘campaign of nonviolent civil resistance’ today after being dissatisfied with the government’s latest strategic planning, which they described as being 30 years out of date.

While the government considers whether Insulate Britain’s idea of ‘the right thing’ is appropriate or achievable, it is worth us considering the same in relation to their aims and their campaigning strategy.

The right thing to do?

As Christians, what is ‘the right thing’ when it comes to climate activism?

The principles are clear enough: We are to rule and subdue – to care for and protect the planet (Genesis 1:28-31).

God’s creation reveals his glory (e.g., Psalm 19), and he has given us a duty to honour that creation as a way of honouring himself. As Christians become more like Christ, so we also become a means by which God displays his glory, bringing something of his light into a dark world. Therefore, if both our bodies and God’s creation are instruments of his glory we should treat them as such by caring for the world as we would care for ourselves.

Additionally, Jesus tells us that the law is fulfilled through loving God with all that we are and our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Therefore, does this mean that we always side with those who desire to protect the environment in any given context? The problem is that it is often hard to determine whether the particular goals of campaigning groups like Insulate Britain are actually appropriate, given the difficulty of predicting the long-term effectiveness of any such strategy.

However, neither can we simply say it is impossible to know and thus give up. We need to try to engage with the arguments as best we can and seek a way forward, both for our own lifestyle and in how we want government to respond.

The right way to campaign?

Even if Insulate Britain’s ultimate goals are good, the end does not always justify the means; Christians who care about God’s creation should also consider the ways by which we seek to protect it.

We are also called to submit to those God has put in authority over us (Romans 13). Insulate Britain’s current form of highly-disruptive protest, though non-violent, is unruly and illegal. And those commuters and other drivers whose lives are badly inconvenienced (and worse) certainly do not sense any concern for them from the protesters! There is a balance to be found between rightly drawing attention to big issues and loving our neighbour.

Dan Allen is a Ministry Trainee at Christ Church Fulwood in Sheffield

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