Monbiot on Eco-comsumerism…

Once again, the wonderful George Monbiot has hit the nail on the head in this article for the Guardian, in which he addresses the false notion that the future of the planet can be assured by doing business as usual with a coat of green paint – keep buying all the same old shit, just make sure it’s the ‘green’ version. Keep flying all over the place, just ‘carbon off-set’, keep driving the huge car, just get the bio-diesel version. At least then you won’t have to mix with the plebs on public transport.

The three Rs of the eco-movement, as told to us by Jack Johnson are Reduce Reuse Recycle. there’s a reason why Reduce is the first. Cutting our consumption is by the far the most important of these. It’d be great if we didn’t need to recycle stuff because we could reuse, and even better if we weren’t using it in the first place.

The biggest fallacy in all of this is the carbon-offsetting thing – what started out as a well-meaning and vaguely scientific way of introducing some balance into our carbon producing actions has now become a cheap way to assuage the guilt of the middle classes, so that instead of flying less or driving less or using less, they can just buy themselves a licence to pollute. Plant a few trees, keep the hummer, fly to Manchester instead of taking the train? no problem, just sprout a conifer or two and all is forgiven. Bollocks. Utter bollocks. Carbon-offsetting is a great idea to help to minimise the impact of UNAVOIDABLE carbon-useage. it’s a great reminder of our need to consume less. It doesn’t, never can and never will repair the damage we’re doing. If we are still fostering a culture of cheap domestic flights and allowing politicians to get away with airport expansion, we’re screwed. That all needs to change, both on a political level and a personal one.

And as always, I say this as someone who uses planes, who hates it every time I HAVE to and will avoid them wherever possible.

There are loads of great things you can do, lots of the stuff that the style mags write about – using shopping bags instead of plastic ones, eating organic, shopping local, buying at farmers markets, driving hybrids, catching trains instead of driving, recycling, but the bottom line is that we need to CONSUME LESS. The seemingly sad news is that there isn’t a way to maintain the level of consumption and waste that we’re currently at in the UK and even more so the US. There isn’t a ‘green version’ of that. It’s going to affect our lifestyles.

The good news, however, is that cutting back will give us that which we can’t buy. Time. Time for people, for hobbies, for reading, for music, art, cooking – stuff that doesn’t require endless stuff being fed into it to keep it going (OK, musicians need strings, plectrums, reeds etc. and artists need paint/clay etc but it hardly compares with helicopter rides or Branson’s domestic space program in terms of the consumption…) I’m pretty confident that the world can be a much better place AND a place of drastically reduced consumption in time to save it all. It just won’t be the same, and it certainly won’t be normal, thank God. After all, we all know that the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

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