It is hard to believe that Just Stop Oil was founded in 2022. It took no time at all for the environmental activist group to get attention when in March of the same year they invaded several premier league football pitches during live matches. In under two years, they have forced their way onto the scene creating a media storm that culminated in 49K press mentions in 2022 alone. But is the movement of orange power conveying a positive message? Is the group that inspired 1.7 million UK adults to take some form of climate action still getting its point across? And is disrupting Wimbledon, Pride and The Chelsea Flower Show leading to a decline in public sympathy for environmentalists?

Questionable Methods

Just Stop Oil say that their main aim is to get the government to halt any new fossil fuel licensing and production. Almost every party but the Tories has committed to this. The current government plans to licence more than 100 new oil and gas projects by 2025. This is despite the fact that Just Stop Oil’s website says that 58 per cent of the British public support their demands. Surveys reveal that 72 per cent of the UK believe themselves to be environmentalists and many young people are keen to voice their opinion on environmental matters that will directly affect them and their children. By all accounts, it would appear that the movement continues to enjoy widespread support. However, this is until we examine the public’s reception of the group’s methods. Just 16 per cent of people agree with the way Just Stop Oil protests. This disagreement over tactics is surely emboldening the government to push on without taking decisive environmental action — despite the fact that the majority of the electorate supports a policy change.

It’s fair to say that many are questioning Just Stop Oil’s choice of protesting venues. Whilst people may be able to see the connection between obstructing the M25 and fossil fuel emissions, stopping Pride parades (typically a symbol of love and inclusivity) because they are sponsored by ‘high-polluting industries’ is one step too far for many. The decision to protest at the World Snooker Championships simply because it is widely viewed reveals a need to keep making headlines. Many have voiced their frustration with the organisation and almost every protest on the roadways has been met with viral videos of members of the public dragging protestors off the road. The outcome of all this disarray is that Just Stop Oil is having an adverse effect on its own cause. Instead of sparking conversations around climate change, it has prompted the government to make new laws to deal with protestors.

Mounting Anger and Costs

The anger towards Just Stop Oil has palpably taken centre stage and is having a bigger impact than the protests themselves. Willful obstruction of a highway has always been illegal, but now the government is passing additional laws to deal with the nuisance of protesting crowds. The Met Police has said that the Just Stop Oil protests cost them £3.5 million in one month alone with nearly 11,000 police officer shifts lost. Mounting economic costs together with public dissatisfaction makes it clear that something has to be done. The government is hoping to pass The Public Order Bill which will give new powers to prosecute those who disrupt national infrastructure in England and Wales. 

Just Stop Oil claims that they are encouraging more climate action. While it is undeniable that they have increased awareness, there is less agreement about the overall benefits of their activism. From throwing powder at the Chelsea Flower Show to throwing soup at a work of art, the criticism and condemnation are mounting.

Stop Oil’s radicalism is giving the environmental community a bad name — precisely the opposite of what it set out to achieve. It’s also giving the right-wing media ammunition to attack the group. Daily Mail called them Eco clowns. The Telegraph‘s headline reads: ‘Even The woke now hate Just Stop Oil.’ The headlines are a warning. If Just Stop Oil’s extreme tactics do not stop they will lose the most important ingredient of their cause: the people.

What started as a noble venture to awaken the social consciousness to the environmental impact of non-renewables, has had people questioning whether environmentalists are extremists rather than realists. Given that the only piece of legislation to have materialised from all this activism aims to stop Just Stop Oil’s life-disruptive protests, they may have a point.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.