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Clash of Comments: Are Insulate Britain's methods the right way to tackle climate change?

Zara Osako and Sonny Garside go head to head as they debate whether Insulate Britain enlighten or alienate the British public

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YES - Zara Osaka

Insulate Britain may have made the headlines for their controversial and unfavourable methods of protest, but is there a glimpse of success behind these methods of madness? I would say so.

There’s no denying that their drastic measures have repeatedly landed them at the centre of attention. People are thinking about their cause and whether you agree with their extreme methods or not, it is an important one. We’re all aware of the ever-growing imminent issue of climate change, but many of us overlook poor home insulation as one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. Home heating is responsible for 15 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, heightened as a result of poor home insulation. In addition to criticising our heavy reliance on fossil fuels, the climate change activist group claims that the UK’s homes are some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe. Regardless of whether you believe that they “could go about it in a different way”, it can’t be denied that their cause is worthy of recognition.

Before Insulate Britain popped up in the headlines, I was unaware of the severity of poor home insulation, as I’m sure others were. One thing we can all agree upon is the group’s success at raising awareness. Whether we like it or not, we are all talking about Insulate Britain.

Many of us misinterpret the intentions behind these controversial methods of protests, questioning why they inconvenience civilians for something they cannot personally change. However, we repeatedly see a lack of responsibility be-ing taken by our government and world leaders. Their failure to tackle climate change is infuriating, particularly for young people who will face the consequences of our government’s negligence in their lifetimes. Insulate Britain regard the gov-ernment as inadequately meeting the UK climate change targets set out in the Paris Agreement, as well as the Climate Change Act of 2008 recently revised in 2019. Despite the government’s prom-ises, we see little action from them, particularly in terms of home insulation and there is currently no long-term plan to tackle this issue. These ex-treme and disruptive protests are needed to grab our government’s attention, energise public support and ignite necessary change.

Their radical and borderline dangerous cam-paign is often under public and media scrutiny for its disruption. Many of their protests attract police intervention, financially burdening our public services. However, this consequence may help to catalyse their demand for change - the more it costs our public services, the more pres-sure is put on our government.

This also isn’t the first time history has seen extreme and unconventional methods of protest, most of which we now regard with praise. The Suffragette movement was a result of unorthodox methods of protests, such as sit-ins, hunger strikes, and vandalism. The movement was forced to move to more disruptive methods when peaceful methods were unsuccessful. Insulate Britain has been forced to take similar action - they have recognised that disruption is the only way to land them at the centre of media attention.

At the time of these protests, all of these methods were seen as disruptive and unpopular, however their consequences are met with thanks by today’s society. Perhaps one day we will look back in gratitude for these protests - as long as we haven’t yet been defeated by climate change.

NO - Sonny Garside

As I read Insulate Britain’s 12-page ‘Master Report,’ readily available on their website, I was struck by how sensible it all seemed. Gone was the alarmist language peddled on TV by the group’s acolytes, as they predict, with much certainty, the impending apocalypse. Also receding from my consciousness, though with greater difficulty, were the scenes of ‘Civil Resistance,’ the psychodrama playing out on our country’s highways and byways that have both engrossed and infuriated us. In its place: a considered, detailed and (dare I say) convincing argument on the need to insulate Britain’s homes. As I said, I was surprised.

However, rather than converting me from skeptic to prophet, this report merely reaffirmed my distaste for the group’s unapologetically lawless methods. An issue as important as home insulation – which incorporates debates over job creation, personal health, and, of course, climate change – deserves better advocates than Insulate Britain.

The usual retort to this is that without Insulate Britain, no one would be aware of the importance of home insulation and the inefficiency of our current housing stock. I would counter this, however, by asking: when you see footage of a crazed protestor reaching for the nearest bottle of Super-Glue; or squirming under the studio lights while quizzed on their own insulation credentials; or blocking the shipment of a truck crammed full of precious insulation, do you stop and ponder the implications, the benefits and drawbacks, of a mass home insulation programme? Or do you, like me, only stop and ponder the stupidity of the protestors themselves, as with each passing day they’re recast as society’s new court jesters, not the saviours they think they are. While the psychodrama is reaching the lengths of an epic – with no end in sight - these are not the characters befitting of such a genre.

While most of us can look on as bemused viewers, for those caught up in a now ubiquitous road block, Insulate Britain are more akin to villains than jesters. I recall the furious HGV driver, who missed a job interview due to the group’s antics. Not ideal for a country in the throes of an HGV driver shortage.

Another example was the woman caught up in traffic for six hours after suffering a stroke. Her condition deteriorated as she was confined to her son’s car and deprived of urgent medical care. She is now paralysed on one side. Yet another instance was the woman left tearfully pleading with protestors as she tried to follow the ambulance containing her ill mother as it winded its way towards the hospital. These three stories are a microcosm of the damage Insulate Britain has inflicted on our roads. Recorded on mobile phones and documented by the media, they are a case study in how to alienate people who you’re otherwise trying to cajole.

In a democratic country the freedom to protest should be enshrined and celebrated. However, Insulate Britain has gone too far. With methods as extreme as theirs, is there any wonder that the substance of their argument often fades into the periphery? The group need to realise that continuing along this path of selfish, self-righteous and insensible protest does no help for their cause. Not to mention, all the excess exhaust fumes emitted from stationary cars may mean that soon enough we’ll need more than insulated homes to prevent the damages of climate change. Ironically, they may become net contributors to what they hate.

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