By Tony Emerson
Some of you will remember the transport session that Steve did for us on the Green Christian/CEL ecocell programme, back in January 2013. Steve is a lecturer in transport at UWE in Bristol, and a staunch advocate of sustainable transport. He also practices what he preaches – for instance he refuses to fly to academic conferences, and he no longer owns a car.
He took part in the Extinction Rebellion at Easter this year, and got himself arrested twice. Steve and his wife Sara stayed with us when he was up for his trial last Monday, and I was in a group of some 12-15 people who supported him at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
He and his expert witness, Paul Ekins (Professor of Environmental Policy at UCL), were very impressive, emphasising how the government is in breach of its own laws, and how little notice it is taking of lawful protests. But of course he was found guilty – and the fine was £830 in total.
There are two very worrying features of this trial for me. One was the magistrate’s repeated emphasis on our freedom to express opinions lawfully, and therefore there should be no need to break the law. He seemed unable to distinguish between opinion and evidence-based expertise, as expressed in Paul Ekins’ witness statement. For instance, you or I may express our opinions either way on the aesthetic impact of wind turbines, and your views will be at least as valuable as mine. But when Professor Ekins cited the various IPCC reports in court, the UK Government’s commitments arising from signing up to the Paris agreement, and the evidence that it is not living up to its commitments, that is evidence.
We need to keep emphasising this opinion vs evidence distinction.
The editorial policy of these two papers seems to be to belittle political opponents, and let no facts get in the way. What happened was that Steve’s voice broke when he was summing up, indicating his strength of feeling about the damage being done to our climate by airport expansion and other areas that are his speciality. He certainly did not cry when the judge specified the fine.
So much for the Daily Telegraph lady’s concern about ‘the facts’! See Steve’s own story in The Guardian.
If interested, read more about Steve. As this type of personal attack must be very wounding, I’m sure he’d appreciate messages of support – his University email is on the link.
Let us all be prepared for this type of nasty attack as we stand up for climate justice, for the sanctity of life on earth, and against vested interests.