Is it ethical to be anti-roads?

Our ethical columnist on why no amount of low-carbon cars can ever make another by-pass acceptable.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

In the 1990s, anti-roads protests were taking place everywhere – today, there are hardly any. Does this mean roads are no longer an ethical issue? Because I have to tell you Ethan, I was very sympathetic to the anti-roads cause, but today I drive a Toyota Prius and there is a new by-pass being built round my way which will be very handy! Should I welcome this new road, or regrow my youthful dreadlocks, don my dungarees and donkey jacket, and protest? Confused!

James Whitelaw
Harrow, Middlesex

Dear James,

Do you remember nothing about the anti-roads protests? Have you forgotten what was said on the placards we waved as we clashed with the Tarmac Terrorists and tried to prevent them from permanently scarring Gaia’s face with boiling black tar?

The placards said ‘ROADS ARE RAPE’ and ‘MOTORWAYS ARE MURDER’. What part of ‘RAPE’ and ‘MURDER’ do you not understand? Would you ask me if raping a woman is acceptable now even though it was frowned upon in the 1990s? No, you wouldn’t. So how can you ask if burning a black streak into Mother Earth’s frail and fragile body, WITHOUT HER CONSENT, has somehow become ‘okay’ just because you ended up with a cushy life and an expensive car?

You should be ashamed of yourself, James. Swampy – the Cromwell of the 1990s, that most brave warrior who went without soap or water for months in the name of saving the trees of Newbury from the Road Reich (and who was predictably labelled a ‘soap-dodger’ by the unthinking masses who are not mentally advanced enough to appreciate what he did for them) – will turn in his grave when he hears what you have asked me. (By ‘grave’ I mean ‘political grave’: Swampy, otherwise known as Daniel Hooper, is still alive, but such is the power of the Big Obese Corporate Monopoly Media that this leader of men and mortal threat to the status quo has been successfully sidelined, to the extent that nobody knows what has become of him.)

How quickly people forget why the anti-roads protests were so crucial! First, they helped to rout the road-builders and forever preserve sections of the ‘countryside’. (I hate that word! ‘Country’ is a human concept and ‘side’ suggests that nature should be something ‘on the side’, a nice green getaway for people who spend most of their lives in smoggy cities. Like a slaveowner to his ‘nigger’, we demean nature with phraseology as well as with our noxious excretions.) Second, the anti-roads protests helped to give birth to modern British environmentalism – and opened the ears of millions of people to ethical lifestyle advice! Did you know that I, and many of the other eco-ethicists warning humanity about its ‘carbon footprint’ (or what I prefer to call its ‘carbon skidmark’), were politically forged in the heat of the anti-roads revolution?

I turned green during the anti-roads uprising. First, green with anger at what the Road Rapists were doing to the trees of Newbury; then green with envy at the searing intellect and implacable bravery of Swampy and his lieutenants (Shifty, Dogbreath and Y-front); and finally green as in Environmentalist, as in Righteous and True and Upstanding and Dignified. And I have remained that shade ever since.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive! The camaraderie! The sense of purpose! The sitting in trees for weeks on end with nothing but berries, nuts and leaves to furnish the linings of our stomachs! Our impassioned anti-tarmac chants shook the trees of Newbury, their leaves and twigs rustling in deep-felt appreciation for our selfless attempt to save them from the bulldozer that is humanity’s one-eyed greed and destructiveness.

We brave few, we merry warriors… we did everything we could to save the forests from being plundered by road-builders. Me and three others were charged with protecting one of the tallest, proudest oaks in Newbury. We lived in that tree for seven months, three weeks, four days, eight hours and 12-and-a-half minutes. We adopted Warrior Names. Tarquin Alberwaithe from Oxford became ‘Armpit’; Ernest Windsor-Montague from Hertfordshire became ‘Mole’; Zachariah Devonshire III from Edinburgh became ‘Mudface’; and I, Ethan Greenhart from Kent, became ‘Stinky’.

We handcuffed ourselves to the branches. When the planet-hating police removed our handcuffs on the trumped-up charge that they were ‘dangerous weapons’, we tied ourselves to the branches using our dreadlocks. When our dreadlocks snapped after being moistened by tree sap and rain (rain, what were you thinking?! We were on your side!), we clung on with our weakened arms and legs. And when our weakened arms and legs gave way, we fell one by one – first Mole, then Armpit, then Mudface, and finally, me, Stinky. We were so weak and malnourished, we didn’t even have enough salt in our systems to shed a tear for our tree as it was abused and finally murdered by man-unkind. Thankfully, Zachariah’s father sent one of his helicopters to pick us up, and we spent a few weeks recuperating at his castle in Scotland.

Many called our anti-roads protest ‘The Third Battle of Newbury’, after the two battles of the Civil War that took place there in 1643 and 1644. I was passionately opposed to comparing our protest to those historic moments: our struggle was far more important than the grubby clash of human self-interests in the English Civil War. The Roundheads fought for human control (yuk!) over England’s destiny, and helped to usher in an age of destructive liberal democracy – we Dreadheads fought for NATURE’S right to self-determination against the Imperialism of Industry.

It’s no coincidence that today’s anti-flying campaigners, environmentalist commentators and eco-advice dispensers emerged from the anti-roads protests (our media entryism has been a stunning success!). We learned such important lessons during that Battle of Newbury. First, we learned that ‘progress’ is codeword for destruction: after Newbury, we hunted down every purveyor of ‘progress’ and made a mortal enemy of him or her. Second, we learned that there is no room for ‘democracy’ in environmentalism: so addicted are the masses to roads, and supermarkets and air travel, that they cannot be reasoned with; rather they must be shocked out of their complacency with direct action, tough taxes and authoritarian legislation. Third, we learned that the authorities are so nervous today it is quite easy to make them change their plans. The big secret of the anti-roads protests is that the Tory government was actually not very committed to a sweeping roads-building programme…and we ‘smelly hippies’ provided it with the perfect excuse to call parts of the programme off! A mix of muddy radical antics in trees and the collapse of authority in Whitehall meant that certain roads were not built – how could anyone compare such a wonderful moment in British history to the Civil War?!

Thus from the Battle of Newbury did a new dignified movement emerge – one which declared war on ‘progress’/destruction, shirked untrustworthy ‘democracy’, and exploited the moral indirection of late Industrial Era governments. James, continue the good works of this great movement. Yes, you can don your dungarees and donkey jacket for old times sake, but there’s really no need. Your best suit would do just as well. Just head down to that by-pass, and tell the road-workers that they’re ‘RAPING’ and ‘MURDERING’ Mother Earth. You never know, these days, their bosses might agree with you!

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Politics


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