Today’s protest was a rolling picket down Oxford street, targeting companies who create climate change. I got volunteered to give a speech on Boots, which I will attempt to reconstruct here:
My speech in front of Boots
Boots is a major distributor of palm oil. Palm oil suppliers to the many brands stocked at Boots, including Unilever, who makes Dove and Axe products; Netstlé; Colgate-Palmoilive and Modelez, have destroyed an area of rainforest almost twice the size of Singapore.
Did any of ask for this destruction? Do we want to damage rainforests, which are vital carbon sinks, places where people live and home to untold numbers plants and animals? This is not a choice that we have made, but a choice made by Boots, to keep costs down and profits up.
25 palm oil groups have cleared over 130,00 hectares of rain forest since the end of 2015. 40% of deforestation was in West Papua – one of the most biodiverse regions on earth and until recently untouched by the palm oil industry.
This was not a choice that you or I made. This is a choice made by Boots, Unilever and other multinational brands that see the rainforests as resources to be pillaged instead of a vital part of the health of our planet.
Boots also sells own-brand electrical products, which contain conflict minerals tantalum, tungsten, gold and tin. “Conflict minerals” means that people died in the making of these electronics. Boots chose to use these suppliers. It is possible to use materials not involved with conflicts, but this is more expensive, which would impact their profits. They sell us products for which people have died, something that we do not want, and did not ask for. Mining for these minerals also has a significant environmental impact.
More than 120 billion units of packaging is produced by the global cosmetics industry every year. This is plastic crap, things literally made to be thrown away. They sell us literal rubbish surrounding the things we want. We buy a pot of moisturiser and the packaging isn’t recyclable and the pot takes a thousand years to biodegrade. We buy a pot which is empty in six months, but the packaging lasts a millennia! Does anyone here want this kind of packaging? Do any of us hope that our empty, discarded moisturiser pots last for a thousand years? They are forcing rubbish on us! This is a decision that Boots has made.
What Boots sells must change! How they sell it must change!
The rolling picket
We started out in front of the tube station at Oxford Circus, tabling and handing out flyers.
From there, we marched down Oxford Street.
We went to HSBC, and there was a speech about banking and the growing investments banks are making in fossil fuels. Then we marched to the next target and so on. We went to Zara, H&M, M&S, EE, Microsoft, the Brazilian Embassy, Boots, McDonalds and possibly a few more places.
We wanted to make the point that climate change is driven by systemic issues, not individual choice. If Boots were to decide to market biodegradable packaging as a more expensive option, then it’s just a luxury good, not a solution.
Ultimately, solving the climate crisis is a transitional demand – which is to say that it’s fundamentally incompatible with the current imperialist system of capitalist exploitation. We need to build a more equitable future where green tech is shared globally and the countries producing the minerals get to reap the benefits not just the costs. Furthermore, those costs must be drastically reduced. Ultimately, we need to make less stuff. Less packaging, slower fashion. Again, this is a systemic change, not a shopping trend. All people need access to durable clothes, produced in a way that respects workers and the environment. Indeed, everything must change.