Editorial: Activists make noise, not sense

Disruption is not wisdom.

That distinction was lost on a group of climate activists who thought Wednesday morning commuters would see their snarling of Boston traffic and take up arms against fossil fuels.

There’s nothing like deliberately blocking people from getting where they need to be to awaken solidarity with one’s cause.

“We’re disrupting traffic because we need society to wake up and treat the climate crisis for what it is: an emergency. We can’t continue to go about our daily lives as if nothing is happening,” said Extinction Rebellion member James Comiskey in a statement distributed by the group.

People have to go about their daily lives regardless — and that includes going to work, appointments, classes, meetings and various events that they had to be on time for Wednesday morning.

Minutes after the activists were arrested on the Leverett Circle Connector, State Police spokesman David Procopio said two ambulances sped through the area. Did protesters consider that Wednesday morning traffic might include ambulances and other emergency vehicles?

Why should protesters care? The most important thing when you’re throwing a wrench in other peoples’ plans is yelling the loudest, holding your poster high and reveling in as much attention as your antics can garner. But beyond the pointless public gesture, the choice of target is just baffling.

The activists said they were staging the traffic disruptions in order to draw attention to their call to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.

Massachusetts is the sixth greenest state, according to a 2022 ranking by WalletHub. The website compared the states’ environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors and climate-change contributions.

We’re No. 6, right  behind California.

Last month, Gov. Baker signed a significant climate change law under which all new cars sold in the state must run on electric or hydrogen power by 2035.

Does that sound like a state that’s dragging its feet on reducing carbon emissions?

The activists also said Massachusetts should ban all new residential gas hookups.

The new climate change act also allows 10 municipalities to ban fossil fuel heat in new buildings under a new state demonstration program, according to Energywire.

And as the Herald reported, Mayor Michelle Wu has proposed that Boston ban gas service in new building construction.

Cities and towns, including Boston, are already doing what the activists deem vital to fighting climate change. But “we demand you keep doing what you’re doing” wouldn’t make for a catchy slogan.

The group also wants construction to cease on a $55 million gas-fired power plant being built in Peabody and that plans to build a $33 million pipeline in Springfield should be stopped.

So you oppose projects in Peabody and Springfield … by protesting in Boston.

The group issued a message ahead of the events: “Join us early Wednesday morning as we meet rush hour commuters to make some noise and demand Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry, Now!”  the message stated.

Making some noise is not the same as making a cogent point.

In the end, as Shakespeare wrote, “It’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing.”