During the week of Easter, Britain enjoyed—if that is the right word—a break from the intricate torment of Brexit. The country’s politicians disappeared on vacation and, in their absence, genuine public problems, the kinds of things that should be occupying their attention, rushed into view. In Northern Ireland, where political violence is worsening sharply, a twenty-nine-year-old journalist and L.G.B.T. campaigner named Lyra McKee was shot and killed while reporting on a riot in Londonderry. In London, thousands of climate-change protesters blocked Waterloo Bridge, over the River Thames, and Oxford Circus, in the West End, affixing themselves to the undersides of trucks and to a pink boat named for Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and indigenous leader, who was murdered in Honduras. Slightly more than a thousand Extinction Rebellion activists, between the ages of nineteen and seventy-four, were arrested in eight days. On Easter Monday, a crowd performed a mass die-in at the Natural History Museum, under the skeleton of a blue whale. In a country whose politics have been entirely consumed by the maddening minutiae of leaving the European Union, it was cathartic to see citizens demanding action for a greater cause. In a video message, Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, compared the civil disobedience in London to the civil-rights movement of the sixties and the suffragettes of a century ago. “It is not the first time in history we have seen angry people take to the streets when the injustice has been great enough,” she said.
The Uncanny Power of Greta Thunberg’s Climate-Change Rhetoric