A stark assessment and a revealing piece into the mind of the reasoning for what counts as "environmentalism" in this day and age.Who is George Monbiot?
George Joshua Richard Monbiot (born 27 January 1963) is an English writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He lives in Machynlleth, Wales, and writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) and Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (2008). He is the founder of The Land is Ours campaign, which campaigns peacefully for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom. In January 2010, Monbiot founded the ArrestBlair.org website which offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizens arrest of former British prime minister Tony Blair for alleged crimes against peace.
Not exactly a crusading conservative.....
Monbiot believes that drastic action coupled with strong political will is needed to combat global warming. Monbiot has written that climate change is the "moral question of the 21st century" and that there is an urgent need for a raft of emergency actions he believes will stop climate change, including: setting targets on greenhouse emissions using the latest science; issuing every citizen with a 'personal carbon ration'; new building regulations with houses built to German passivhaus standards; banning incandescent light bulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights, and other inefficient technologies and wasteful applications; constructing large offshore wind farms; replacing the national gas grid with a hydrogen pipe network; a new national coach network to make journeys using public transport faster than using a car; all petrol stations to supply leasable electric car batteries with stations equipped with a crane service to replace depleted batteries; scrap road-building and road-widening programmes, redirecting their budgets to tackle climate change; reduce UK airport capacity by 90%; closing down all out-of-town superstores and replacing them with warehouses and a delivery system.[2
Not exactly the middle of the road type on the climate issue....
Yet, you would think a person as strident and clear in his views would be as strident and clear in his reasoning. Yet it is an incomprehensible mish-mash because..... well because really humanity is the problem. This piece is fantastic in it's honesty and frightening in it's conclusions.
You think you're discussing technologies, and you quickly discover that you're discussing belief systems. The battle among environmentalists over how or whether our future energy is supplied is a cipher for something much bigger: who we are, who we want to be, how we want society to evolve. Beside these concerns, technical matters parts per million, costs per megawatt hour, cancers per sievert carry little weight. We choose our technology or absence of technology according to a set of deep beliefs: beliefs that in some cases remain unexamined.
Settled science, more like differences in religious dogma.
The case against abandoning nuclear power, for example, is a simple one: it will be replaced either by fossil fuels or by renewables that would otherwise have replaced fossil fuels. In either circumstance, greenhouse gases, other forms of destruction and human deaths and injuries all rise.
You abandon nuclear, then people are going to demand fossil fuels.
What the nuclear question does is to concentrate the mind about the electricity question. Decarbonising the economy involves an increase in infrastructure. Infrastructure is ugly, destructive and controlled by remote governments and corporations. These questions are so divisive because the same world-view tells us that we must reduce emissions, defend our landscapes and resist both the state and big business. The four objectives are at odds.
Note that infrastructure is the enemy here.
But even if we can accept an expansion of infrastructure, the technocentric, carbon-counting vision I've favoured runs into trouble. The problem is that it seeks to accommodate a system that cannot be accommodated: a system that demands perpetual economic growth. We could, as Zero Carbon Britain envisages, become carbon-free by 2030. Growth then ensures that we have to address the problem all over again by 2050, 2070 and thereon after.
Economic growth is the enemy here.
In the latest edition of his excellent magazine The Land, Simon Fairlie responds furiously to my suggestion that we should take industry into account when choosing our energy sources. His article exposes a remarkable but seldom noticed problem: that most of those who advocate an off-grid, land-based economy have made no provision for manufactures. I'm not talking about the pointless rubbish in the FT's How To Spend It supplement. I'm talking about the energy required to make bricks, glass, metal tools and utensils, textiles (except the hand-loomed tweed Fairlie suggests we wear), ceramics and soap: commodities that almost everyone sees as the barest possible requirements.
Manufacturing, even items as simple as soap and ceramics is the enemy. I seriously doubt those folks driving a Prius are aware that a land based economy about staying local and subsistence living. I guess ol' Jesse Jr was right, the iPads are the problem.
Are people like Fairlie really proposing that we do without them altogether? If not, what energy sources do they suggest we use? Charcoal would once again throw industry into direct competition with agriculture, spreading starvation and ensuring that manufactured products became the preserve of the very rich. (Remember, as EA Wrigley points out, that half the land surface of Britain could produce enough charcoal to make 1.25m tonnes of bar iron a fraction of current demand and nothing else.) An honest environmentalism needs to explain which products should continue to be manufactured and which should not, and what the energy sources for these manufactures should be.
An honest environmentalism won't just take your SUV. They'll take your Prius. They'll control it all and perhaps they'll make sure the candlemakers don't go out of work.
There's a still bigger problem here: even if we make provision for some manufacturing but, like Fairlie, envisage a massive downsizing and a return to a land-based economy, how do we take people with us? Where is the public appetite for this transition?
Obviously they don't go with you. They don't continue to exist. You need not worry about the public appetite when the well intentioned fix the problems with bullets and mass graves.
But this also raises an awkward question for us greens: why hasn't the global economy collapsed as we predicted? Yes, it wobbled, though largely for other reasons. Now global growth is back with a vengeance: it reached 4.6% last year, and the IMF predicts roughly the same for 2011 and 2012. The reason, as Birol went on to explain, is that natural gas liquids and tar sands are already filling the gap. Not only does the economy appear to be more resistant to resource shocks than we assumed, but the result of those shocks is an increase, not a decline, in environmental destruction.
Global economic collapse THAT WAS HOPED FOR, didn't happen. Turns out those darn capitalists and the masses of people who don't wish to stop existing were more resourceful than we thought.
All of us in the environment movement, in other words whether we propose accommodation, radical downsizing or collapse are lost. None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess. None of our chosen solutions break the atomising, planet-wrecking project. I hope that by laying out the problem I can encourage us to address it more logically, to abandon magical thinking and to recognise the contradictions we confront. But even that could be a tall order.
You think the people will just disappear and that wind, solar and other sources will save the day? (Until lawsuits stop them as well) That thinking is MAGICAL.
This article which reads more like an informal chat between a group in agreement on the broad points and disagreeing on particulars shows that it isn't about carbon indulgences, improvements in efficiency while letting you largely keeping your lifestyle, buying "green" and checking the tire pressure in your car. It is about a radical transformation of society where elites get manufactured goods and the masses get subsistence existence in the name of serving the global warming god.