How far would you go to save the planet?
Well, there is a movement of activists making it impossible to own a huge, polluting 4×4 SUV in the urban areas of the world. So they take out SUVs and their owners, flattening tire by tire.
I spoke to a representative via email, on the condition of anonymity due to “security risks”.
Meet the tire extinguishers
Their method is simple: they deflate a car tire. They hope this will “turn the minor inconvenience of a flat tire into a gigantic obstacle to driving huge killer vehicles through our streets.”
Every time they do that, the owner gets a leaflet titled “ATTENTION – your gas guzzler kills.”
And there are hundreds of people involved in the UK, Europe and the U.S†
Why are SUVs bad?
SUVs are a separate category from large vehicles such as the Range Rover, Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Esplanade. I’ve never understood their appeal to those who don’t need them for transportation duties.
First, they are terrible for the environment in their gas-guzzling form. Research in 2019 found that SUVs de second largest cause of the global increase in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade — even eclipsing behemoths like aviation and trucks.
Even electric SUVs can be difficult to maneuver, lacking the maneuverability of a small car and the practicality of a minivan. They are also large and take up a ridiculous amount of space both on the road and when parking:
Even worse, SUVs are dangerous. A 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Road Safety found they are more likely to kill pedestrians than other cars.
What has been the impact of the campaign?
I questioned the role of the tire extinguishers in Germany, as I rarely see SUVs – at least in East Berlin – and was suggested, “If people wanted to edit the flyer to hit luxury cars, we’d be happy about that too!” controversial.
My contact sees their value in starting a global campaign and spreading the idea of their activism as a barrier to owning an SUV.
A article in the British newspaper The Telegraph in April suggested motorists opt for smaller cars to avoid being targeted by tire extinguishers.
This is really the ultimate goal of the group, to prevent people from buying fossil fuel SUVs in the first place. The goal is fine, but I’m not so sure about the method.
The Privilege of Activism
I recognize that cars are a necessary evil for some people and for some scenarios. I asked about the impact of the group’s activism on people with hidden disabilities. Or for those who need their car to go to the hospital, a job interview or something urgent?
My contact suggested that conversations with people with disabilities found them offended at the idea that “they” need an SUV to get around† They also claimed they only target cities with “many other ways to get around.”
These people’s right to drive around a huge tank in the city shouldn’t trump other people’s right to breathe clean air or live in a world with a safe climate.
Is extreme activism the only way to drive real change?
Look, environmental activism is nothing new, with recent groups like Extinction Rebellion and old hands like Greenpeace who do everything from spinning of crude oil pipelines until block roads†
No one lacks the knowledge that gasoline powered SUVs are bad. But that’s not enough to stop buying them altogether.
Is guerrilla activism the way to prevent people from making such a purchase?
I would like to hear your opinion.