Common Sense Champion: Zion Lights

Published By
James Knell
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This week’s Common Sense Champion is the British author and environmental activist, Zion Lights.

CCS doesn’t claim any expertise or take any stances on the environment – we haven’t chosen Zion because of her particular views on these issues. Instead, we wish to shine a spotlight on the manner in which she has gone about things: she is evidence-driven, has shown that she can change her mind on big questions, and has demonstrated a desire to find constructive solutions that can bring people together.

Zion is a longstanding environmental campaigner, authored The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting and and gave a TEDx talk on contemplating our place in the universe. In recent years she became an increasingly visible spokeswoman for the direct-action environmental group Extinction Rebellion (‘XR’), advocating the views of the group on television and radio. As her profile increased, she was approached by international media including The Huffington Post.

In September of this year, Zion published articles in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph stating that she had left XR to focus on campaigning for Environmental Progress UK, who advocate for nuclear power stations to replace fossil-fuel burning ones. She remarked that she was concentrating on looking for solutions rather than “shouting ever more loudly about the problem”.

What is notable about Zion’s break with XR is that as a former high-ranking insider, she understands the mindset first-hand, and speaks of a groupthink mentality that does not tolerate dissent. Indeed, for its own survival, it cannot tolerate dissent.

This mindset produces an environment in which members feel inhibited to speak their own minds. Zion writes that during the height of the protests in London earlier this year, members felt that targeting electricity-powered public transport was a “terrible” idea for a green movement but there had been no “time” to discuss it and no “real process” for dealing with the subsequent fall-out.

It is of course easy to be seduced by the idea of having a cause worth fighting for, to wave posters and say “this is what I believe!” It’s seductive and exciting. And whilst there is no doubt that a better environment is a worthy cause, the objectivity needed to find practical and accepted solutions too often gets lost amidst that sea of banners and shouting. Seeing protestors sat atop underground trains and in front of cars, blocking printing presses and delaying distribution, one can’t help but wonder if protests had less to do with the environment and more to do with a desire to cause havoc and feel good about one’s self.

Zion writes that what really discredited XR was its fixation on scaremongering instead of seeking positive and uplifting solutions. The “science” was often shoddy and the moralistic preaching became irritating rather than inspiring. The unsubstantiated claim by co-founder Roger Hallam, that unless climate change was halted SIX BILLION people would die this century, left the organisation open to significant and justified criticism.

Shouting loudly, disrupting transport and bringing cities to a halt is not helpful. Making it impossible for people to go about their lives, or earn a living is positively counter-productive. There are better and more intelligent ways to go about convincing people of one’s case. Sadly, groups like XR are driven by dogma and faith, not evidence or common sense. Zion Lights’ revelations and approach are more likely to inspire others to take a step back and think “can we be doing this better?”

What Zion has done, and in such a public manner, is not an easy thing to do. We hope it inspires others to adopt a similar approach in future. She considered the climate crisis in an objective manner and understood that solutions are a product of pragmatism not sentiment. She is seeking solutions that people can get behind, by conversation, not coercion or chaos – and so is a worthy Common Sense Champion this week!

James Knell

Research Director

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