SUV Owners Beware: Climate Activists Are Coming for Your Tires

Members of a group calling itself Tyre Extinguishers recently deflated tires on 43 vehicles in Boston

A photo of a person in black deflating the tires on an SUV in Boston, courtesy of Tyre Extinguishers on Twitter (@T_Extinguishers)
They're not slashing tires, just deflating them.
Twitter: @T_Extinguishers

A new climate protest has found its way to American shores: deflating SUV tires. 

Members of an “autonomous movement” called Tyre Extinguishers said they recently “disarmed” 43 SUVs in “one of the wealthiest areas” of Boston by letting the air out of the tires, according to a post about the demonstration on Twitter. A number of these were verified by the Boston Globe, which also reported that none of the tires had been punctured. 

The point of this extremely annoying if generally harmless act, according to the website of the Tyre Extinguishers, is to get people to ditch their SUVs for transportation that’s less harmful to people and the planet, like public transit or smaller cars.

“SUVs and 4x4s are a disaster for our health, our public safety and our climate,” the mission statement on their website reads. “Bigger and bigger cars are dominating our towns and cities, and all so a privileged few can flaunt their wealth. Because governments and politicians have failed to protect us from this danger, we must protect ourselves.” 

The group doesn’t claim central leadership, stating that anyone “can create your own tyre-extinguishing group,” but the spelling of “tyre” instead of “tire” betrays its U.K. origins. The campaign has spread to many countries since it began in 2022, around Europe and across the Atlantic into Canada; and with this latest action in Boston, it seems to be ramping up in the U.S.

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Along with at least one flat tire, the Tyre Extinguisher members leave a flier on the windshield of the SUVs they target. “ATTENTION – your gas guzzler kills,” it reads. “You’ll be angry, but don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s your car.” They’ve even translated the notice into 14 languages and dialects.

It’s undeniably true that larger SUVs are fueling the climate crisis that not only threatens but is already severely impacting our current way of life. We’ve known this for years. But will this new tactic slow sales and change the habits of Americans? As many climate organizations are shifting their focus from the individual to the businesses that are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions — for example, pressuring oil companies to cut their carbon emissions instead of making sure you and I recycle our soda bottles — this movement seems to shift the blame back to each American. 

Personally, I’m all for shaming people who drive F-150s and Escalades by themselves back and forth to the office every day. But there is the worry that by deflating tires, instead of starting a healthy conversation, these activists will turn people away from supporting the goals that they hope to achieve. The New York Post already labeled them “climate goons,” and according to email screenshots posted on the Tyre Extinguishers’ Twitter account, they’ve been called much worse. (It should be said that the group explicitly says to steer clear of SUVs used by people with disabilities, among other specific vehicles, and claims to focus its actions on luxury SUVs that are deemed unnecessary.)

Have these tire-deflators considered that maybe it’s the automakers — who decided to push SUVs and other ridiculously  large vehicles to the public to make more money — that should be targeted instead of individual Americans? I emailed them to get their take, but did not immediately receive a response. I guess they’re busy putting lentils into the tire valves of Land Rovers.

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