Roger Hallam: the conservative case for Extinction Rebellion

February 3, 2021
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As the Conservative government prepares to host the COP26 climate summit, famous environmental campaigner and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, has a message he wants people to hear: his movement is not just for woke students and the radical Left.

In an eye-opening interview, he tells Freddie Sayers about the importance of the nation-state, social conservatism, local community, and how he wants church leaders and ex-police officers in his movement. His pitch, in short, is that philosophical conservatives should not be afraid to embrace radical environmentalism:

There’s a certain amount of cowardice amongst social conservatives, that they see this culture war, and they don’t want to make that step that I’m making today in talking to you. I want social conservatives to step forward and say, ‘Yes, I’m going to sit on an XR platform’. And as a social conservative, you know, as an ex-police officer, as a church leader, right? And say, ‘Yes, I don’t agree with your culture. But I agree with the moral imperative, that at this time in history, we have to start going above and beyond our sectional interest’. And I think that’s a key element of social conservatism at its best, which is to put the national interest, the interest of the whole of society above the sectional or cultural interest.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On the ideological diversity of the XR membership:

A lot of people that have come to London have been from what you might call the Celtic fringe, you know, Cornwall, Wales, the north of England. I mean, yes, there’s been a lot of the usual suspects, as it were, urban students and that sort of thing. But lots of people, for instance, are over 50. And they have a pre-Thatcherite culture, as you might say. Their culture is more: there’s a right and wrong in the world. We’re moderate people, but we don’t go about destroying the next generation. We have a connection to the land. We have a connection to traditional small town politics.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On the failings of the ‘Davos elite’:

I think the global strategy, which is being pursued by the western liberal class has catastrophically failed. Carbon emissions have gone up by 60% since 1990. And how many conferences have there been? 30? 40? We’ve got another one coming up. And we’ve got this narrative that the professional classes and the global liberal class and the bureaucrats and the diplomats and all the rest of that area are going to sort this out. And we all remember in the 1990s and early 2000s, that feeling that there’s climate change out there and yes, it was serious, and these men in suits were saying they will go and sort it out. It has a sort of emperor-without-clothes feeling about it now, which is they’re still saying the same thing.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On why nationalism is the best approach:

National identity at the end of the day trumps internationalism when you’re faced with annihilation. Now, I want to make clear that that does not mean the chauvinistic nationalism that a lot of left wing people associate nationalism with, for good reason, of course. But as we all know, there’s many different shades of patriotism and nationalism. And it’s silly really to weaponise it. What we’re looking at is a nationalism or patriotism which is rooted in a love of one’s country, a love of one’s tradition, and a love of one’s political traditions.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On the moral law:

We need to understand we have obligations to those that came before us, particularly those that sacrificed their lives in the 20th century in order to protect the liberty of this country. And the other idea, which is related of course, is the notion of legacy. The notion that we’re not just here to enjoy ourselves, right? That’s the new liberal, individualist, consumerist idea, that people on the left, from where I come from, and also social conservatives are critical of for lots of reasons. But the point here is that the essence of the immorality of continuing to put carbon into the atmosphere is the transgression of the moral law, the moral law being you don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t have them do to yourself. In other words, you don’t shit on your children.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On the tactics of Extinction Rebellion:

“We can see that Left and Right wing groups engage in civil disobedience or forms of disruption, and leaving aside the violence issue, sometimes it goes into that. But the idea that disruption in itself is anti conservative isn’t sustainable. I think I would turn it around and say that just because the majority of the people in a society believe something, does not make it right. And that’s a core conservative idea. It’s not just that that superficial idea of democracy, which is a poll saying, everyone agrees with something.”
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV

On the media portrayal of the movement:

The media they tend to juxtapose the secular and the religious. It’s like one minute you’re technocratic scientists, and the next minute, we’re mediaeval child saints. I mean, dare I say it, there’s a little bit of middle ground. So what’s happening with Extinction Rebellion, what’s happening with the broad immobilisation around the world, is you’re exactly right. We moving from a reductive scientific technocratic orientation on the climate to something that’s deeper. But that doesn’t mean we’re rushing off to some millenarian cult sort of religious situation. What we’re doing is we’re starting to reconnect with a deeper sense of humanity, in various different cultural manifestations. And if you want to call that spiritual then so be it. But it’s certainly a deeper sense of self and a deeper sense of community, which has religious connotations.
- Roger Hallam, LockdownTV


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