American Elephants

Major Green Activist Admits Their Ideas Are Hopelessly Flawed! by The Elephant's Child

You may never have heard of George Monbiot, who is a columnist for the left-leaning The Guardian newspaper in Britain.  He is perhaps better known as a major green activist, a child of the late 70s, who believes deeply in global warming.

Setting targets for greenhouse emissions, issuing citizens with a personal carbon ration, regulating building standards, wind farms, banning (yes) incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights, reducing airport capacity by 90%, closing down all out-of-town superstores, are only some of his goals in a campaign for austerity to prevent disastrous climate change.

Now that he is reaching middle age, he seems to be beginning  the struggle to grow up.  He has taken a hard look at green ideology, and discovered that it just doesn’t work. The answers that greens have provided to the problems they perceive don’t solve the problems.  Oh, he still sees a disastrous future of warming and decline, but he is dimly realizing that the solutions offered by the environmental movement don’t solve anything.

We have enough non-renewable resources of all kinds to complete our wreckage of renewable resources: forests, soil, fish, freshwater, benign weather. Collapse will come one day, but not before we have pulled everything down with us.And even if there were an immediate economic cataclysm, it’s not clear that the result would be a decline in our capacity for destruction. In east Africa, for example, I’ve seen how, when supplies of paraffin or kerosene are disrupted, people don’t give up cooking; they cut down more trees. History shows us that wherever large-scale collapse has occurred, psychopaths take over. This is hardly conducive to the rational use of natural assets.

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.

Monbiot, like all far leftists, has little understanding of humanity.  Man, except for those like Montbiot himself who think the right thoughts, is thoughtlessly and greedily destroying the earth. Fossil fuels, carbon, corporations, a lack of social justice, greed, economic growth, population growth,industrialization , decline every where he looks— forests, soil, fish, fresh water,  benign weather, declining stocks of minerals, societal collapse. And the stupid public doesn’t get it and is unwilling to adapt to austerity, and less of everything.

Denying man’s humanity, neglecting our ingenuity, neglecting the vast progress we have made in conquering hunger, disease, clean air and clean water, preserving endangered species, the Greens deny our accomplishments to make us the cause of what their “magical thinking” sees as inevitable decline.

We remain a carbon-based species. CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere and is not the cause of global warming.  The earth is always warming and cooling. But for Monbiot, a major Green, to realize that their ideas simply do no work, and they need to put aside magical thinking— that’s an important first step!

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I, for one, am quite familiar with the works of George Monbiot, and his latest article seems pretty consistent to me with what he has been writing over the past six years (when I first started reading his columns). He may be radical (by your criteria), but he has been a consistent critic of agricultural subsidies, and was one of the first commentators — in 2005, at a time when George Bush and all his cabinet were pushing them as an “answer” to high fuel prices — to raise the alarm about crop-based biofuels. And he was right.

I would say that this latest column of Monbiot shows that he very much understands human behavior. And the major holes in the strategies of some in the environmental movement. He has looked at the world and concluded that we are headed down a path towards dystopia from which a reversal of direction is more and more unlikely. I doubt you agree with that view, but I find your reasons for disagreement rather perplexing. You write:

[N]eglecting the vast progress we have made in conquering hunger, disease, clean air and clean water, preserving endangered species, the Greens deny our accomplishments to make us the cause of what their “magical thinking” sees as inevitable decline.

Really? Most “Greens” I know would not deny the great accomplishments that have made in conquering hunger and disease, cleaning the air and water, and preserving (some) endangered species. But what those who trumpet these accomplishments seem unwilling to acknowledge are the externalized costs and unintended consequences.

Increasing food supply has been enabled by important developments in technology, crop genetics and veterinary medicine. But it has also been enabled by abundant and cheap (until now) fossil fuels, large investments in irrigation, and the destruction of tropical forests, particularly in Brazil and south-east Asia.

Regarding fuel, Monbiot (and many other environmentalists, by the way) accept the fact that, technically, one could produce huge amounts at a cost of no more than $60 per barrel — from unconventional sources. But, of course, those involve much more emissions and water pollution than extraction of oil from conventional deposits.

Water is more likely to be a limiting factor. Some of the irrigation systems around the world are based on run-off, but many — in the western Great Plains of the United States, in Mexico, in India — are based on tapping into fossil aquifers, aquifers that are being depleted far, far faster than they are being replenished.

Fighting disease has been a great boon to humans and their associated animals. But, of course, it has also been a major factor behind the rapid growth in the world’s population, which in turn puts pressure on natural resources. (And, yes, means there are more people around to think innovatively … if they don’t engage in battles over reources instead.)

But what I don’t understand is your trumpeting of strides in the cleaning of air and water, particularly water effluents. That has not simply happened out of voluntary actions by emitters. Laws have required that polluters reduce their emissions. Yet you (or your counterpart on this blog site) seem to attack the very idea of government regulation of emissions. So, which is it? Do you support government limits on emissions of pollutants (I am talking here about things like soot, sulfur oxides, toxic chemicals) or not? Or are you saying that the reductions in rates of emissions would have resulted even without government regulations?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

As far as I can tell, evidence of any untoward global warming— outside of the normal warming and cooling of earth— is to be found only in climate computer programs, which program in what we know pretty much for sure and an enormous amount of fantasy and guesswork. They have not been able to predict today’s climate. I am quite aware of what Monbiot is saying—he is saying that it’s hopeless, because the remedies that the environmental movement has come up with not only don’t work, but they can’t be made to work, and the public has turned against them. The fact that he realizes that environmental policies aren’t going to work, which is true, is a small step forward. He has not given up on doom.

I have seen little evidence of either clear-thinking or common sense in the environmental movement. Their aim is not improving the environment, it is environmental justice. The environmental movement has long since been taken over by the watermelons— who after the fall of the Soviet Union moved to the green movement as the best way to achieve social justice. I do not support the EPA. I believe it is a crooked agency that should be abolished. They have done far more damage than anything useful. Most people care about the natural world and are willing to do what is necessary to preserve it.

There’s a lot of Malthusianism in the environmental movement, and some really nutty ideas. Most of the needed cleanup has come from local efforts and local laws, not federal laws. As an example, there are a few places in the country that have undesirable levels of arsenic in their water. The EPA wanted to clean it up by ordering every water supply in the country to install massively expensive filtration systems, something most could not afford to do, and was totally unnecessary for most of them. The government operates with a heavy hand, and a fairly ignorant one. Soot, sulfur oxides, toxic chemicals? To what extent are these actually a real health problem? As always, the dose makes the poison. We are surrounded by things that would be a problem in large doses, but benign the amounts we normally encounter. Acid rain was a local problem, fixed by directly addressing the few industrial plants that were causing the problem.

I’m an optimist, in that I believe that people rise to meet real need. We bumble along, learning from our mistakes, and trying to do better. Assuming, without reason, that this particular generation of baby boomers are so important that they are going to preside over the decline and fall of the earth, unless they persuade humanity to do as they say— is pretty typical of the self-esteem with which that generation has been infused.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

A new to me slang term!


Comment by zeusiswatching

Alas, all too often a very appropriate one.


Comment by American Elephant

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