It's all about attitudes.
It's about "Accept the truth and act upon it."
We're in a world of hurt, folks, and it's likely too late to change
course. It is time for mitigation and remediation and alteration and
postulation and thinking seriously about what we are going to do in
order to survive what is coming. Break new ground.
You think this isn't about gardening? You are wrong. Learn all you
can, as quickly as you can, and practice all you can.
FB - FFF - RAS
Eco-Junk: Why Buying Less Is More Than Buying Green
by George Monbiot
It wasn’t meant to happen like this. The climate scientists told us
that our winters would become wetter and our summers drier. So I can’t
claim that these floods were caused by climate change, or are even
consistent with the models. But, like the ghost of Christmas yet to
come, they offer us a glimpse of the possible winter world we’ll
inhabit if we don’t sort ourselves out.
With rising sea levels and more winter rain (and remember that when the
trees are dormant and the soils saturated there are fewer places for
the rain to go) all it will take is a freshwater flood to coincide with
a high spring tide and we have a formula for full-blown disaster. We
have now seen how localised floods can wipe out essential services and
overwhelm emergency workers. But this month’s events don’t even
register beside some of the predictions now circulating in learned
journals(1). Our primary political struggle must be to prevent the
break-up of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. The only
question now worth asking about climate change is how.
Dozens of new books appear to provide an answer: we can save the world
by embracing “better, greener lifestyles”. Last week, for example, the
Guardian published an extract of the new book by Sheherazade Goldsmith,
who is married to the very rich environmentalist Zac, in which she
teaches us “to live within nature’s limits”(2). It’s easy: just make
your own bread, butter, cheese, jam, chutneys and pickles, keep a
milking cow, a few pigs, goats, geese, ducks, chickens, beehives,
gardens and orchards. Well, what are you waiting for?
Her book also contains plenty of useful advice, and she comes across as
modest, sincere and well-informed. But of lobbying for political
change, there is not a word: you can save the planet in your own
kitchen - if you have endless time and plenty of land. When I was
reading it on the train, another passenger asked me if he could take a
look. He flicked through it for a moment then summed up the problem in
seven words. “This is for people who don’t work.”
None of this would matter, if the Guardian hadn’t put her photo on the
masthead last week, with the promise that she could teach us to go
green. The media’s obsession with beauty, wealth and fame blights every
issue it touches, but none more so than green politics. There is an
inherent conflict between the aspirational lifestyle journalism which
makes readers feel better about themselves and sells country kitchens
and the central demand of environmentalism: that we should consume
less. “None of these changes represents a sacrifice”, Sheherazade tells
us. “Being more conscientious isn’t about giving up things.” But it is:
if, like her, you own more than one home when others have none.
Uncomfortable as this is for both the media and its advertisers, giving
things up is an essential component of going green. A section on
ethical shopping in Goldsmith’s book advises us to buy organic, buy
seasonal, buy local, buy sustainable, buy recycled. But it says nothing
about buying less.
Green consumerism is becoming a pox on the planet. If it merely swapped
the damaging goods we buy for less damaging ones, I would champion it.
But two parallel markets are developing: one for unethical products and
one for ethical products, and the expansion of the second does little
to hinder the growth of the first. I am now drowning in a tide of
ecojunk. Over the past six months, our coatpegs have become clogged
with organic cotton bags, which - filled with packets of ginseng tea
and jojoba oil bath salts - are now the obligatory gift at every
environmental event. I have several lifetimes’ supply of ballpoint pens
made with recycled paper and about half a dozen miniature solar
chargers for gadgets I don’t possess.
Last week the Telegraph told its readers not to abandon the fight to
save the planet. “There is still hope, and the middle classes, with
their composters and eco-gadgets, will be leading the way.”(3) It made
some helpful suggestions, such as a “hydrogen-powered model racing
car”, which, for Ł74.99, comes with a solar panel, an electrolyser and
a fuel cell(4). God knows what rare metals and energy-intensive
processes were used to manufacture it. In the name of environmental
consciousness, we have simply created new opportunities for surplus
Ethical shopping is in danger of becoming another signifier of social
status. I have met people who have bought solar panels and mini-wind
turbines before they have insulated their lofts: partly because they
love gadgets, but partly, I suspect, because everyone can then see how
conscientious (and how rich) they are. We are often told that buying
such products encourages us to think more widely about environmental
challenges, but it is just as likely to be depoliticising. Green
consumerism is another form of atomisation - a substitute for
collective action. No political challenge can be met by shopping.
The middle classes rebrand their lives, congratulate themselves on
going green, and carry on buying and flying as much as ever before. It
is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously
buys green products, and its carbon emissions continue to soar.
It is true, as the green consumerists argue, that most people find
aspirational green living more attractive than dour puritanism. But it
can also be alienating. I have met plenty of farm labourers and tenants
who are desperate to start a small farm of their own, but have been
excluded by what they call “horsiculture”: small parcels of
agricultural land being bought up for pony paddocks and hobby farms. In
places like Surrey and the New Forest, farmland is now fetching up to
Ł30,000 an acre as city bonuses are used to buy organic lifestyles(5).
When the new owners dress up as milkmaids then tell the excluded how to
make butter, they run the risk of turning environmentalism into the
whim of the elite.
Challenge the new green consumerism and you become a prig and a party
pooper, the spectre at the feast, the ghost of Christmas yet to come.
Against the shiny new world of organic aspirations you are forced to
raise drab and boringly equitable restraints: carbon rationing,
contraction and convergence, tougher building regulations, coach lanes
on motorways. No colour supplement will carry an article about that. No
rock star could live comfortably within his carbon ration.
But such measures, and the long hard political battle required to bring
them about, are, unfortunately, required to prevent the catastrophe
these floods predict, rather than merely to play at being green. Only
when they have been applied does green consumerism become a substitute
for current spending rather than a supplement to it. They are harder to
sell, not least because they cannot be bought from mail order
catalogues. Hard political choices will have to be made, and the
economic elite and its spending habits must be challenged, rather than
groomed and flattered. The multi-millionaires who have embraced the
green agenda might suddenly discover another urgent cause.