Jailed Insulate Britain protester went globe-trotting in a gas-guzzling 4×4 pick-up truck

An Insulate Britain activist jailed after blocking traffic spent more than two years driving across the world in a diesel 4×4. As she was jailed for four months, Emma Smart announced that she was going on hunger strike as she insisted that her actions were “morally right” and “in my heart I know I am on the right side of history”. But the 44 year old, who has been arrested a number of times for her protest activities, including a previous charge for blocking a motorway, has been accused of hypocrisy after she drove more than 81,000 miles across 52 countries in a diesel vehicle.

A blog post by Smart said that they had returned to the UK to earn money and were in a position to continue their travels in the 25-year-old four-wheel drive in around 2019, but they put the plans “on pause” to join Extinction Rebellion (XR) and engage in climate activism. 

Emma Smart waves at onlookers as she walks into the High Court

She told the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday that she could not afford to pay the costs of the prosecution as she had been working as a volunteer in wildlife conservation and climate activism. She told National Highways’ legal team they were “claiming more for postage than I have earned in the last three years” and asked them to sell her clothes as “that’s all I have”.

Round-the-world adventures on hold

Before becoming involved in XR, Smart and her partner, who describe themselves as “valiant adventurers whose dream is to circumnavigate the planet”, drove across Europe, the Western Sahara and central and south-east Asia. Their travels between 2012 and 2016 included trips to Spain, Italy, Mongolia, Russia, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Iran, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.

They returned to the UK in order to get jobs and earn money, Smart said, and two and a half years after they had returned they had saved enough to ship their Toyota Hilux to South America and begin what they described as “phase 4” of their travels. But in their latest blog post on the website detailing their travels, the former biologist said that they decided to put their plans on hold because they were filled with the “love and rage” that she says inspires the XR protests.

The diesel 4×4 Emma Smart used during her round the world tripCredit: aroundtheworldin800days.com

After she was filmed setting out the reasons for blocking the roads earlier this year, Smart’s round-the-world adventures were described on social media as “hypocrisy at its very finest”. Addressing some of the apparent contradictions in an earlier blog post, Smart said that “frustration” of climate change was “a huge motivation for getting out and seeing the world’s wild places… while they were still there”.

She argued that driving around the world in a diesel 4×4 was better for the planet than living in the UK, stating they had calculated that they produced 62 per cent less CO2 per day travelling the world. Smart added that she and her partner had decided not to have children “primarily for environmental reasons” and compared the amount of CO2 they would save by living child-free or living car-free. She said: “This isn’t a game of trade-offs, carbon budgets are not something to be played with – put simply, if we can reduce our carbon footprint then we have a moral duty to do so.”

Arguing for the sustainability of their lifestyle, Smart added: “A major consideration for us will always be that our love for overlanding the planet… doesn’t cost the earth.”


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