New monbiot stuff
- George Monbiot has set up another great website dealing mainly this
time with Greenwash.
I think this has become necessary because, as so many of us must have
been noticing recently, there's been such an avalanche of greenwash
in growing momentum. And a reason behind this is probably because
global warming/climate change has become undeniable. Some who might
have denied before cant now without looking stupid-just as stupid as
those still denying the Holocaust.
But I've detected politicians, celebrities, bent academics, probably
technocrats-all manner of crooks on the make-are becoming adept at
pretending to be green. One little example I've just seen: An
interview with some publisher of travel books, promoting flights and
tours to Asia, Africa etc., : of course this guy boasts that its
''eco-travel'', and of course he has a car running on biofuel. Save
In the review article (see below) about Monbiot's new book he gives
a very similar example about an ''environmentalist friend'' who
spends her holidays snorkelling in the Pacific. "She doesn't get there
by bicycle," he adds angrily.'' Yup that's the kind of anger I get too
and increasingly coming across people of this ilk.
Good to have a writer like George dealing with this kind of stuff on
his site, (though in the articlesthere I've read so far he's is
dealing with slightly bigger greenwash fish, eg Bransom).
The new site must go hand in hand with Monbiot's new book- Heat.
I cant afford to buy books nowadays so will have to wait till I can
get it from my City library. Ah, but just seen on the site that The
Guardian are running a serial from Heat over 3 days this week.
Apparently this means he cant show excerpts on the website just yet
but '' As soon as that's run come back and you'll be able to read the
extract here.'' Thanks George.
There was a review of the book the other day:
Change or die
George Monbiot argues that there's still time to save the world in his
solidly researched manifesto for change, Heat. We must act now, says
Saturday September 30, 2006
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning
by George Monbiot
277pp, Allen Lane, £17.99
The 1959 film of Nevil Shute's On the Beach depicts a world in its
dying days. After a nuclear war, lethal fallout is gradually being
carried on the wind to all four corners of the world. The film
concludes with a lingering shot of a banner flying in a deserted
Melbourne street: "There is still time ... brother." For the fictional
inhabitants of Melbourne - and the world - it was too late. For cinema
audiences, however, many of whom wept openly after seeing On the
Beach, there was still time to act. Such fictions played an important
role in raising awareness about the threat of nuclear war. We stared
into the abyss and then stepped back from the brink. Today we face a
threat as terrible in its way as nuclear holocaust: global warming.
According to George Monbiot, climate change denial is beginning to
look "as stupid as Holocaust denial, or the insistence that Aids can
be cured with beetroot". The latest research suggests that if carbon
dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere remain what they are today,
by 2030, global temperatures will rise by 2C. Above this level major
ecosystems begin collapsing: rather than absorbing carbon dioxide, the
dying Amazonian rainforest will begin releasing millions of tonnes of
it. And elsewhere, as the permafrost melts, the ground releases
greenhouse gases. Climate change will spiral out of control. To avoid
this, says Monbiot, we must prevent global average temperatures rising
beyond this "critical threshold". It's possible that we have already
passed the point of no return. But, says Monbiot, he is writing "in
the spirit of optimism".
Like the characters in Shute's novel and film, we are all living in
denial about the catastrophe that is about to engulf us. One of
Monbiot's environmentalist friends spends her holidays snorkelling in
the Pacific. "She doesn't get there by bicycle," he adds angrily.
Another burns coal on an open fire. Chris Martin, lead singer of
Coldplay, sings about people mistreating the planet and then boasts
about how his band flies everywhere by private jet. In just 30 years'
time, this country will be "profoundly and catastrophically
different". So where are the mass demonstrations? "We are simply too
comfortable, and we have too much to lose." Monbiot sets himself the
task of persuading us that climate change is worth fighting. At the
very least he wants to "make people so depressed about the state of
the planet that they stay in bed all day, thereby reducing their
consumption of fossil fuels".
Heat is a solidly researched manifesto for change. Monbiot regards the
threat as so obvious and the need for action so urgent that he wastes
little time combating the arguments of sceptics such as Bjørn Lomborg.
According to Monbiot, we need a global reduction of 60% in emissions
to avoid hitting the critical threshold. This means the richest
nations will need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 90%. The
Kyoto protocol envisaged a 5.2% cut by 2012. In the UK, we need to get
our carbon emissions of 2.6 tonnes per person down to 0.33 tonnes.
Monbiot's first thought was that this would be impossible. But in Heat
he argues convincingly that a medium-sized industrial nation like the
UK can be "de-carbonised while remaining a modern economy". He
proposes a system of carbon units, or "icecaps": "it enables us to cap
our carbon emissions to keep the planet cool." Every person in the
world will have an annual carbon allowance. But to make the new
rationing scheme feasible, governments have to establish a carbon-
neutral infrastructure: that means redesigning our transport systems
to cure us of our addiction to cars; electricity generation not from
nuclear but renewables and gas-fired power stations utilising carbon
capture and storage; and a new national grid that will make wind
turbines on the continental shelf and solar power from the Sahara
viable: "High Voltage Direct Current cables ... could change the
Energy-efficient housing is an area where individuals and governments
both need to take action, particularly in Britain. He admits that his
home, built in the 1900s and refurbished with scant regard for energy
efficiency, is a typical "ecological disaster." Demand for energy
across the UK rose by 7.3% between 1990 and 2003; but in our homes it
rose by 19%. Building regulations in Sweden were tougher in 1978 than
they are in Britain today: "our builders get away with practices very
similar to those that prevailed in 1900." On becoming chancellor of
Germany, Angela Merkel declared that she would provide £1bn annually
to ensure that every house in the country would be air-tight and
properly insulated within 20 years. But in Britain, the minister for
housing and planning, Yvette Cooper, described proposals to introduce
proper energy-efficiency standards for the refurbishment of houses as
"unnecessary gold plating", a phrase Monbiot bitterly recalls every
time he pays his gas bill. One eminently sensible suggestion he makes
is that a rebate on stamp duty could be used to help pay for
refurbishment and insulation of existing homes.
Monbiot comes up with some ingenious solutions to cut carbon while
preserving our lifestyles. There is, however, one carbon extravagance
he insists the planet can no longer afford: air travel. A return
flight to New York creates more greenhouse gases per passenger than
the total amount Monbiot says we should be allowed to use as
individuals in a year. "The growth in aviation and the need to address
climate change cannot be reconciled." A 90% cut in carbon emissions
means that there can be no more shopping trips to New York or parties
in Ibiza, "unless you believe that these activities are worth the
sacrifice of the biosphere and the lives of the poor".
Heat, he writes, is "both a manifesto for action and a thought
experiment". The combination of practical detail and creative thinking
is immensely impressive. Monbiot concludes that "it is possible to
save the biosphere", but we must be prepared to accept that setting a
limit on our freedom to pollute means all our lives will change. What
we need now is "bold politics and ambitious engineering". The
catalogue of political failure Monbiot describes does not give one
much cause for hope. For example, the budget for widening the M1 is
£3.6bn - seven times more than is spent annually in the UK on tackling
climate change. But we can do it. As someone once said, "if sunbeams
were weapons of war, we'd have had solar energy long ago".
· PD Smith is writing a cultural history of science and superweapons