If you want to appear like any sort of grown-up the general rule is that you say that law-breaking is wrong and you should never ever, and I repeat, never, do it.

It’s the rule even though we know various heroes in history - Emmeline Pankhurst, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr to name but a few - have broken the law to produce important change.

It’s the rule, still, when it seems as if the policies of your government may themselves be causing damage.

And it’s the rule even if the scientific consensus is telling us that the rising global temperatures we are already experiencing and which are set to worsen, are the result, chiefly, of the emissions produced by our burning of fossil fuels, yet your Prime Minister still announces 100 new oil and gas licences, and a U-turn on key green targets.

It also remains the rule that you should say this though actually most of us break the law in some minor way or other, quite regularly. In fact, one piece of research by BT TV, from 2017, found that the average Briton commits as many 32 offences a year, though for the most part, these are "under the radar".

As it turns out, in the past week, a couple of people have broken that rule about how to be a grown-up - namely television presenter Chris Packham and Scottish Green co-leader and minister, Patrick Harvie - and, of course, there have been plenty around to harangue them for it.

Harvie had been asked his view in the wake of Packham’s recent documentary, Is It Time To Break The Law?, and whilst he wasn’t exactly egging people on, there was certainly no slamming of protestors. 

“Many people," Harvie said, " have found themselves effectively feeling disempowered and feeling the only way they can take some power into their hands is to take part in direct action. I will never condemn that.”

I’m with him there. I write this as a person who has never (as far as I can remember) broken the law in the name of a political protest, for the environment or other cause - and feels no pride over that. I write it as a person who has been on plenty of marches and wondered if any of this actually makes any difference - and what actually does.

All of this is why it was so interesting to watch Chris Packham’s documentary last week and see him ask that big question for himself. When is breaking the law the appropriate and right response to a global problem that we seem otherwise to be failing to solve? And, if you don’t hurt anyone in the process, is it really so bad?

The documentary is well worth watching, particularly for the moment when Extinction Rebellion founder Roger Hallam essentially tells the presenter that the one big thing he could do as a public figure is to get involved in the type of political action that will get him “banged up”.

What is also interesting is the way Packham created a space in which climate activists are not portrayed as “eco-zealots” and “eco-clowns” and were given room to speak of why the cause matters to them. It was this that I was most relieved to see. As a writer on the environment, I frequently notice the dominant media narrative around the climate activist as extremist or foolish, dangerous or daft.

That narrative was there, for instance, in the response from Scottish Conservative net zero spokesperson, Douglas Lumsden, to Harvie’s comment: “People in Scotland are sick and tired of these childish stunts, and will be shocked by Patrick Harvie’s weak refusal to denounce these acts.”

What Packham drew attention to in his docuentary also chimed with something an academic, studying television interviews with environmental activists, told me recently. What she had observed, she said, was a pattern in which the protestors were asked questions about the silliness or pointlessness of their protest before they were asked why they were doing it.

It’s a curious narrative we now have, in the face of climate change, where those who argue for inaction can play at being the grown-ups, and those who protest are portrayed as childish fools, their “stunts” dismissed - and it's one we must fight.

There are, of course, good reasons to condemn law-breaking. Former Climate Change Committee chair Lord Debden does so in Packham’s documentary, saying: “The protestors have to realise that you can do some kinds of protest that help your cause and others that are counter-productive".

He is right to point that out. Often, also, we don't know what is working - or whether, even if it does work, it will in any case be turned into fuel for the other side, for grown-ups to dismiss.  

One thing I’m sure of, however, is that we won’t get there by simply playing the grown-up. We have to actually be it – and I believe Chris Packham is that.

I look forward to seeing whatever he does next.