The working class can’t afford to solve climate change – only those with money can

Classism is certainly nothing new in the climate war (Picture: REUTERS / AP)

According to the BBC, football fans ‘can all do our bit’ in tackling climate change.  

BBC Sport tweeted this out last week like a substitute teacher shrieking about homework to a class that is already halfway out the door for lunch. 

The article attached to the tweet read: ‘You drive to the game, have a burger, hand over your ticket, watch the match and give the third kit you bought a rare outing…’ followed by a list of information on sustainability for sport fans including how football supporters should only buy replica kits if we really must, carry reusable water bottles (even though some clubs don’t allow them in the grounds), and to sing less as the warmth from our breath is melting ice caps somewhere, presumably. 

This came in the same week that both Boris Johnson and Joe Biden were pictured seemingly falling asleep at the COP26 summit.

The football fans responded as you’d imagine, memes, apathy and a slight sense of ‘who are you to tell me what to do with my weekend?!’. In years to come, when our grandchildren’s kids have to have gills surgically inserted at birth due to the sea levels rising, we may well look back at moments like this and wish we’d taken action rather than reaching for the GIF button. And yet we shouldn’t.

It’s not on football fans to save the planet in the same way that it isn’t on fish to stop pollution in the oceans – football fans exist within a world that’s being destroyed by the greed and selfishness of those at the top of society, why would it fall on those at the bottom to fix it?

Telling football fans they need to save the planet is like approaching a turtle on a polluted beach, watching the poor thing try to get a discarded plastic mask off its head and asking him why, if he must wear a hat, he couldn’t have chosen a biodegradable one?

I’m always eager to point out classism when I see it in these situations and classism is certainly nothing new in the climate war. A couple of years ago, before we became used to seeing angry mums tempted to run over Insulate Britain protesters on the school run, Extinction Rebellion staged a protest at Canning Town station.

They climbed on top of trains, attempting to stop thousands of commuters from getting to their places of work. 

I was there that day at Canning Town, trying to get to work, as everyone else was, and rather than heeding the message of the protesters, I watched with fear as the mood turned violent very quickly.

Canning Town is a fairly low income area, only 33.3% of people either own or have a mortgage on their homes, compared to 63.4% nationally. 18.3% of people live in council housing, compared to 9.4% nationally. 

To have the time to research and concern yourself with things like climate change is a privilege

These people aren’t change makers, they’re hard up people doing their best to go to work and pay the rent – it’s telling that the only people I saw wearing suits at these demonstrations were the ones protesting.

The protesters were attacked and dragged off of the trains, images of this went viral. What didn’t go viral were the conversations I heard between commuters and protesters in which commuters begged the climate activists to let them get to work, to let them earn a wage to pay their rent. I can quite distinctly remember a woman pleading ‘I can’t do much for the planet if me and my kids become homeless’.

And the battle between well meaning protesters and working people who don’t have time to care has continued since then.

Awful pictures emerged recently of Insulate Britain protesters covered in ink, after a man had squirted them with it. Heart strings are pulled when the elderly retired doctor covered in ink tells the cameras ‘I hate doing this…I’ve spent my entire life trying to help people’ while the lunatic who carries a bottle of ink escapes out of shot. You really have to wonder what kind of maniac picks up a bottle of ink (or a squid?) before leaving the house, just in case a protester gets in his way.

And of course we feel for the pensioners gluing themselves to dual carriageways for our benefit, but at the same time we should try to remember that there’s probably a reason that most of these demonstrators are people who don’t have mortgages or rent to pay, they are retired on healthy pensions and have the time and energy to concern themselves with the future of the planet rather than where their next meal/rent payment comes from.

To have the time to research and concern yourself with things like climate change is a privilege, and it’s important to accept that if you want to properly understand why the vast majority of the country can acknowledge climate change while having to continue business as usual. 

And yet working people and retired pensioners getting lost in a class war is incredibly convenient for the Government and the corporations that should be acting on climate change.

I saw more people on Twitter arguing over whether a man who has the disposable income to spend on a large bottle of ink (or a squid?), could even be working class than I did people discussing the catastrophic impacts of climate change that the Insulate Britain protesters are trying to highlight.  

And the sad irony of it all is that hard up people are the ones most likely to suffer from climate change – climate activists may well have a class problem, but working class people also have a climate problem, and it’s growing by the day.

Ultimately the world slowly burning is a money problem, green alternatives are expensive, cooling the planet down isn’t cheap, and what does this Government do when something needs paying for? They raise taxes and the bottom echelons of society suffer, not the top. 

United action to catch the attention of the leaders falling asleep at COP26 is the only way to save the planet, not eating a hot dog instead of a burger at a football match.

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