Climate activists have faced floods of criticism over destructive and damaging protests, but state these are the only way to ensure their dire concerns are heard.  

“Are we going too far? Are we doing too much? Are we going to alienate and does that cause more harm?” 

 Those are all questions regularly on the mind of demonstrators taking on extreme actions, eco-protestor Mike Grant assured, but added “there is no easy answer”.  

The former paratrooper was arrested three times during Cop26 in Glasgow and more recently faced a trial after blocking a tanker carrying 33,000 tonnes of Russian diesel from docking in a Greenpeace action.  

“Marches, petitions, letters to MPs have got us nowhere, too many organisations have not moved the needle, so it is time for direct action,” the 62-year-old said. “I think we will see increasing amounts of direct action.” 

Countries across the globe facing the excruciating effects of the climate crisis, including Pakistan where monsoon rainfall nearly three times higher than the 30-year average killed more than 1,700 people and displaced almost 8 million. Scotland recently saw the records for the warmest Remembrance Day broken with the mercury hitting 17.2C in Aviemore this November.  

Mr Grant said climate warnings from the science community are “simply not translating into political action at virtually every level from local governments and the way up to the international forum”. 

HeraldScotland: Mike Grant (Image: Angela Christofilou / Greenpeace)Mike Grant (Image: Angela Christofilou / Greenpeace) (Image: Angela Christofilou / Greenpeace)

He said this is driving people to join organisations such as Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Just Stop Oil.   

“When Extinction Rebellion broke onto the scene, I thought that’s it that’s what I have been looking for,” he explained.  

“Activists like me are concerned all the time, about the impact of what they do. You've got some very, very committed very intelligent, very thoughtful people doing these things.  

“The more radical your action, the more attention it tends to draw, but also the more criticism it can draw. That, in a nutshell, is the activist dilemma.” 

Glasgow-based Sarah McCaffrey, 19, joined Animal Rebellion this summer and joined her first “arrestable” action in September with a week-long campaign to disrupt UK dairy distribution centres.  

Speaking on protests undertaken by the group, Ms McCaffrey said: “We’re not seeing the changes that we’re demanding and asking for but I think we are being heard.  

I think some people are still getting caught up in the actual actions, so they’re talking about us pouring milk instead of the reason we are doing it.  

“It’s not a popularity contest and we’re not looking to be liked, but we are bringing these conversations to the table with the actions that we’re doing.” 

Animal Rebellion has previously coordinated “milk-pours” in supermarkets across the UK, including a Waitrose in Edinburgh, to draw attention to the environmental impact of the dairy industry which the group labelled “incredibly environmentally destructive”.  

The group believes transforming the global food system to plant-based diets is the only sustainable approach amid growing impacts of climate change.  

Asked about the food wastage implications of such actions, Ms McCaffrey said: “It's a really small amount of milk that is actually being wasted. 

“This is about covering a way bigger issue about animal injustice, as well, and that the dairy industry is costing the UK taxpayers millions a year because of heavy subsidies.”  

Asked about the food wastage implications of such actions, Ms McCaffrey said: “It's a really small amount of milk that is actually being wasted. 

The group believes transforming the global food system to plant-based diets is the only sustainable approach amid growing impacts of climate change. 

Another activist to join Extinction Rebellion this year is Joan Forehand, 57, who said she could not “sit back and feel like I’m not doing anything”.  

“I was born in 1965 and what terrifies me, and is spurring me on here, are the changes to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during my lifetime,” she said. 

In 1965, the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were around 320 parts per million (ppm) but in 2021 climbed to 415.7ppm. The jump in these levels from 2020 alone is larger than the annual growth rate over the past decade, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization confirmed.  

During the 10,000 years running up to the mid-18th century, the CO2 levels fluctuated between 180ppm and 280ppm. 

“The science has been increasingly worrisome, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable about the culture we live in.  

“The views of using the planet as if it is full of resources to be extracted and used and then thrown away.  

“The reality is that we're part of this vast, complex web of life that's so finely tuned to the environment that we live in.” 

This week, windows of a Glasgow Barclays building were smashed by XR members who called on the company to "stop funding Rosebank” – an oil and gas field off the coast of Shetland.  

The group said the action followed in the footsteps of suffragettes and the Ploughshares movement, “using nonviolent direct action and causing damage to property to prevent and draw attention to greater damage”. 

Asked if she agreed with the approach, Ms Forehand expressed she now believes that the climate groups need to take "a wee bit shocking" actions to be heard.  

She said: “If you’d asked me this question two or three years ago, I'd probably have given you a different answer.  

“I would have been quite uneasy in that you could say that smashing windows in some people’s views is a violent act.  

“However, I have changed my view and it’s very hard to get attention without doing something that is in some way a wee bit shocking.” 

With Cop27 coming to a close on Saturday, after talks remained gridlocked on the intended final day, all three activists claimed global leaders are still failing to agree to action which radical enough to combat the crisis.  

Mr Grant said: “We're seeing again from Cop27, we're simply not achieving the kind of breakthroughs that we need to ameliorate the worst of the climate crisis.” 

Meanwhile, Ms Forehand said the climate summit is not receiving “the priority it deserves”. 

She believes it is “the best thing” we have to discuss climate on a global scale but added: “But the fact that there's been 27 of them and emissions are still going up, points to the tragedy of global society not being able to come together.”