Tyre Extinguishers Q&A

The clandestine climate activist group famous for covertly deflating the tyres of SUVs answered our questions about their tactics.

Around seven months ago, an environmental activist group popped on our Twitter feed that was taking action against Sports Utility Vehicles, or SUVs, by inserting lentils into the air valve of tyres to deflate them.

We are, of course, talking about the Tyre Extinguishers.

There is no doubt that SUVs are a problem for the environment and if you go onto the Tyre Extinguishers website, it shows very clearly why.

But there is a question about whether direct action of this type is a positive part of how to eradicate SUVs from our roads.

There have been differing opinions even within GND Media on this question. We decided to reach out to the Tyre Extinguishers with some questions that we hope will help people to come to a better understanding of both the group and their tactics.

Why is the target of your direct action consumers at the point of emission rather than fossil capital, which is at the point of extraction?

We believe that, in general, individuals should not be targeted.

However, there comes a point where the consumption of an individual is so massive, so egregious, so unnecessary, that they become a target.

We believe the owners of massive gas-guzzling death machines fall into this category.

SUVs are "luxury emissions" — totally unnecessary emissions produced by the world's richest people. According to the International Energy Agency, if SUV drivers were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter in the world. So they must be targeted.

How do you evaluate the success of your strategy?

We are already seeing some success. The Telegraph suggests motorists opt for smaller cars to avoid being targeted by Tyre Extinguishers.

Forms of SUV attacks of this kind have happened before in other countries, but after some initial success they have petered out. Have you looked at the reasons why? And have you factored this in the longevity of your campaign?

We believe that given the widespread frustration at inaction, the infinitely replicable nature of the action and the continuing dominance of cars in our streets, this action is here to stay!

Direct actions within the environmental movement have been, on the whole, within the parameters of non-violence and minimal criminal damage. Are your actions due in part to frustration with this ethos? Or do you see it as simply on the edge of criminality, without ever crossing this line?

Essentially, we want to live in towns and cities with clean air and safe streets. Politely asking and protesting for these things has failed.

It’s time for action — so there is little point in calming down SUV owners. They cannot be reasoned with. They know the climate science, yet they continue to own SUVs.

The only thing that we can do is make it impossible or extremely inconvenient to own one. The real criminal damage is caused by SUV drivers wrecking the climate, polluting the air and killing other road users.

We act to stop that. We believe in a diversity of tactics, but the climate movement needs to adopt sabotage tactics to stop the pollution at source.

Do you factor into your actions who may own SUVs due to disabilities?

Yes. We instruct our activists not to target SUVs with disabled badges, or vehicles that are clearly being used for work.

What do you decide is an SUV? Does a people carrier fall under that as well?

Some common (but not universal) characteristics of SUVs are: High ground clearance (greater distance between the ground and the chassis of the car), their being taller than most other cars and coarser or larger tires than normal. You can learn to spot an SUV here.

Image: Unsplash/Denny Müller


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