Academic: let's try violence
Jan 19, 2016
Bishop Hill in Academia, Greens

It goes without saying that huge numbers of academics are a waste of time, space and money, but on a purely selfish level I'd hate anyone to actually deal with the problem. Where else are you going to get an endless stream of people willing to make fools of themselves in public? Without them I'd have nothing to write about.

There I was this morning struggling for something to write about, when Dr Tara Smith came to my rescue. Dr Smith is a legal scholar (allegedly) at Bangor University in Wales, although she is a native of Ireland. In The Conversation, she has set out her view on why environmentalists should be able to break the law with impunity. This was prompted by a US court deciding to throw out an argument by a bunch of hippies that their blocking oil trains was justified by "necessity" and therefore not criminal. 

While necessity is difficult to assert in climate activism trials, the Delta 5 and Greenpeace cases raise a big question: should activists be allowed to take matters into their own hands to prevent global warming and climate change? Given underwhelming results in combating this at the international level to date, arguably they should.

This is such a breathtakingly stupid argument that it's hard to know where to begin. It seems fairly clear that Dr King Smith hasn't thought this through at all. As Geoff Chambers points out in the comments, if the idea of necessity can be extended to climate change it can certainly be extended to necessities like fossil fuels for heating, or powering hospitals and the like. An excuse of necessity, drawn so wide, could easily direct action on people who block oil trains or even, dare we say it, on academics who argue that hippies should be able to do so with impunity. You can see where this would end. Dr Smith is making the case for "might is right"; for thuggery, for violence and - whisper it - for fascism.

One other point of interest. Here's an excerpt from Dr Smith's webpage.

Dr. Smith was a member of the Irish Delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Doha in 2012 and Warsaw in 2013 as well as a member of the EU Expert Group on Adaptation, developing EU policy on climate change adaptation for the international climate negotiations.

And here's her disclosure statement from the pages of the Conversation:

Tara Smith does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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