Climate change is widely regarded as one of the biggest threats that humanity faces in the world today. It is predicted that once the global average temperature reaches 2°C above pre-industrial levels, there will be extreme weather events and a global sea level rise that will be catastrophic for human life.
Given this information, it is no wonder that several different climate groups have emerged over the past few years. In 2018, Extinction Rebellion quickly became the most prominent climate group around, catching people’s imaginations with their idea of non-violent civil disobedience.
But despite all of the protests and demonstrations calling on world leaders to act on global warming, it still doesn’t seem like enough is being done, and COP26 - the latest climate change conference held late last year - was viewed by many as a failure.
This apparent lack of action has led to some groups coming to the forefront in the fight against climate change who are seeking a more direct approach. The Tyre Extinguishers come under this category, who only launched their movement in March 2022 but have already gained a lot of attention from around the world for their no-nonsense approach and intriguing methods.
The group comprises people from different backgrounds worldwide who share one thing in common: they want to defend themselves against climate change, air pollution, and unsafe drivers. They believe that no one should own SUVs within the confines of towns or cities because, statistically, they give off around 25% more carbon emissions than medium-sized cars and – due to their weight and height - are far more likely to kill pedestrians and other drivers if they crash into them.
Employing a straightforward tactic to achieve their goals, the group encourage activists worldwide to deflate the tyres of any SUVs they come across in towns or cities, with the idea that it will eventually put most people off owning this type of car. The movement estimate they have already deflated thousands of tyres.
Marion Walker, a spokesperson for the Tyre Extinguishers, said: “Deflating tyres repeatedly and encouraging others to do the same will turn the minor inconvenience of a flat tyre into a giant obstacle for driving massive killer vehicles around our streets.
She continued to explain that the group are taking this action because politicians “have failed to protect us from these huge vehicles” and commented that “everyone hates them (SUVs), apart from the people who drive them.”
To deflate SUV tyres, the movement use an exciting method, encouraging people to place lentils – mainly green ones as they work the best due to their size and shape - in the tyre's valve cap. This is usually all done under a cover of darkness.
“Once you've put the lentil in,” said Walker, “the deflation rate depends on how tightly you screw the valve cap back on. We screw it on just a little bit so that it deflates slowly and quietly. By the time anyone wakes up, the tyre is fully deflated!”
And this is not the first time that pulses have been used to deflate tyres in an act against climate change, either. Back in 2008, the “mung bean trick” was used by an anonymous group to let the air out of the tyres of what was reported to be up to 32 SUVs.
Walker explained that lentils work well because they are “easily obtained, cheap, and it is a low-barrier task compared to asking someone to slash tyres or smash windows.”
The method has already become a well-known technique for the Tyre Extinguishers, so much so that they claim to have noticed that some SUV owners have started to remove the valve caps from their vehicle’s tyres altogether.
Despite this obstacle, the group said it is not too much of a concern. Instead, they have cleverly managed to get around the issue by 3D printing valve caps in their branch in Dundee, Scotland, so activists can now carry their own when targeting SUVs.
The group are rapidly growing in popularity despite being relatively new on the scene, with people keen to get involved with the cause worldwide.
And, judging from some of the group's feedback, they appear to have also enjoyed some early success in putting people off owning SUVs, suggesting that their tactics are already beginning to impact how people think about these vehicles.
Walker said: “We get emails from people who own SUVs saying they are going to change cars and asking us which cars will not be targeted.”
The Tyre Extinguishers’ ultimate aim is a complete ban on SUVs in urban areas, pollution levies that will tax SUVs so much that no one will want to own one, and an investment in free public transport.
However, these are policies that the government has to decide on, and Walker said that until they do, the group will push on with their direct-action strategies and continue deflating SUV tyres across the globe in their efforts to combat climate change.
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