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Monbiot on reality

While many people have assumed that George Monbiot would always remain an overgrown teenager, his recent outpourings seems to have at least a whiff of maturity and even a newfound willingness to engage with the world as it actually is. Monbiot's column on Monday has attracted much attention (Judith Curry here, Anthony Watts here) and there is now a follow-up piece looking at the same areas.

Environmentalism is stuck – factional and uncertain even of the goals we seek. But we must face facts and engage with reality.

Of course many people have been saying that environmentalists were delusional for years, but I'm sure we were denounced for doing so.

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Reader Comments (33)

He's stoped taking the Prozium, he's feeling!

May 5, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterCmdocker

It always irritates me when people applaud prats like Monbiot for waking up and smelling the nuclear coffee.

Others worked out decades ago that nuclear was a Good Thing. It doesn't make him any sort of a genius that he's taken decades to arrive the answer having been wrong for the whole period in between. It makes him a slow learner and a prat.

May 5, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

It is interesting to see an attempt at putting some rationality into the green environmental position.

What seems most interesting is that the greens are adamantly against both economic and population growth and yet the evidence from almost everywhere around the world (think Italy Japan, Thailand, Sri lanka, even India) is that economic growth and prosperity is invariably accompanied by a drastic reduction in the rate of population increase.

To wish for two opposites can probably be reasonably characterised as delusional.

May 5, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave W

A nasty dose of realism for GM. They'll be learning to count soon, do sums and read graphs!
Interesting to see thorium mentioned as LFT reactors are surely the way forward.

May 5, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Most Enviromentalists behave like a beautiful woman, if you point out any flaw, she'll hate you forever. "Hell hath no fury like a..." comes to mind many a day.

May 5, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterPascvaks

Whilst this article is supposed to be about "reality", it is still written from a "green reality" perspective. The three propositions offered are based on green values and beliefs. Whilst there is some reality where nuclear is concerned there seems to me to be little of it elsewhere.

I work in the Oil and Gas industry and I can say with certainty that new discoveries of oil and gas are continuing and growing. New technology is allowing us to now expolit fields which were discovered but remained undeveloped as the technology was not available at that time. Shale Gas is being discovered in huge quantities. As the International Engergy Agency pointed out with Natural and Shale gas finds, we have enough known reserves for the next 250 years.

Monbiot is right, Fossil fuels are not running out anytime soon and I would suggest still remain the most viable engery solution at this moment in time.

May 5, 2011 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterMactheknife

I think we should attempt to cut GM some slack here. As a long-time Guardian reader, I've read his articles for many years with, on many topics, quite a lot of disagreement. But I have found many of them thought-provoking. Also, compared to much environmental writing, I have found that they show quite a lot of evidence that he has been thinking about the issue at hand, and in an intelligent way. He's got huge blind spots, sure, but he is not a mindless cheerleader. I thought his first article after Climategate showed quite a lot of leadership - much more than has been apparent in the rest of the media since (and I know he backtracked on that article afterwards). He never shows much evidence of having listened to the brave people at CiF who comment on his articles from a sceptic viewpoint, but maybe he does listen? He changes his mind sometimes - maybe there are more changes to come.

May 5, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterj

Ah! The next verse in Little Georgie Moonbat's Threnody for Imploding Delusions!

How touching!

The anguish of all his beliefs crashing against the rocks of hard reality!

Whether to face palm or to roll about the floor in helpless laughter?

A cruel choice.....

May 5, 2011 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

“A whiff of maturity and even a newfound willingness to engage with the world as it actually is” ? He believes so strongly that fossil fuels will destroy the world that he’s willing to abandon all his other beliefs to stop us burning coal. From megalomania to monomania in one step.

j says:
“.. his first article after Climategate showed quite a lot of leadership ... He never shows much evidence of having listened to the brave people at CiF who comment on his articles from a sceptic viewpoint..”

Indeed not. You can get banned for life from CiF for pointing out that his backtracking on his call for Jones’ resignation (which had all the signs of a Stalinist “re-education” job) is incompatible with his claim to be an investivative journalist.

May 5, 2011 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

“Our reliance on the mineral crunch, which was supposed to have brought the economic engine of destruction to a grinding halt, appears to have been misplaced. The collapse of accessible mineral reserves has not occurred, and shows little sign of occurring within our lifetimes. Capitalism has proved adept at finding new reserves...”

Translation: Oh Gaia! There’s plenty of energy, and capitalism isn’t going to collapse. What are we going to DO?

“We have no idea what to do next. Partly as a result, we [Greens] have started tearing each other apart. This is an understandable but unnecessary reaction..”

No, George. This is an understandable and extremely necessary reaction. Bite their legs off.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Monbiot. We need talented radical investigative journalists like him. Trouble is, every time I say that at CiF, I’m banned from commenting.

May 5, 2011 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff, you are one of the brave ones I was thinking about. There's so much nastiness on threads there that I've never been able to convince myself to get involved.

May 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterj

In my previous life in the classroom I would occasionally have to suffer a lad with similar traits as GM; intelligent but joyless, wordy, self-righteous, equipped with a huge ego which placed him at the centre of his universe and a wonderful ability to misunderstand the basics of whatever we were trying to learn. Usually these lads were utterly spoiled by indulgent parents and had little idea of how the world outside their comfortable little bubble of wealth and privelege worked.
For a so-called 'investigative journalist', GM has been very willing to parrot anything which reinforced his extreme socialist views without taking the trouble to do any sort of investigation. His vicious slurs on airline staff, etc are a matter of public record.
I find his current predicament very amusing and entirely a product of his own hubris. His belief in the rightness of his urges to control and manipulte seems as strong as ever.

May 5, 2011 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Mark Twain had a great quote on 'reality'.

It is better to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain.

May 5, 2011 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


The history of socialist movements, be they red and/or green, show that factionalism overcomes principle.

May 5, 2011 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I think Monbiot might have been reading Tim Worstall:

May 5, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

The Madness of King George.

From the article: "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."

People don't give up cooking? Well I never, who'd have thought it. Next they will be wanting food and stuff. /sarc

But like many above I do appreciate George's honesty, but it comes from such a strange place.

Walter Russell has it about right George is a staunch Malthusian. He should read Matt Ridley's 'The Rational Optimist'. Heck, everyone should all read it.

May 5, 2011 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Rumours of a 'mature' Monbiot occur at frequent intervals, but a visit to the 'CACC' site still reveals a picture of a very immature, long-haired Moonbat saying-
' Climate Change is perhaps the gravest calamity our species has ever encountered.Its impact dwarfs that of any plague, any famine we have confronted so far .It makes genocide and ethnic cleansing look like a sideshow at the circus of human suffering'.
Stirring stuff, and one imagines he still believes it.
The only thing Monbiot fears is not being 'centre-stage', so his apparent changes of direction are more to do with the need to be noticed than any Damascene conversion.
This loathsome website of which he is the 'figurehead' is run in conjunction with Caroline Lucas and Michael Meacher, though one increasingly doubts whether all three still sing from the same hymn-sheet.
However if you wish to go along there and sign up you will 'receive one email per day containing links to various climate change news articles. We (they) need you to politely explain in the comments section why global warming is happening and why it's not a big conspiracy'.
You will not, of course, be directed towards the Guardian's 'Komment macht Frei' section which only contains peer-reviewed scientific facts.

May 5, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Since monbiopsy is the flavour of the week, may I say how wrong most of the analysis has been?
Far from wanting to be centre stage, (pace toad) he revels in being the outsider’s outsider, guaranteed to splinter any splinter group he joins. He’s a thinking lefty - a species Blair thought he’d killed off. He argues valiantly against the Malthusians who swarm round his Guardian articles.
Like Archimedes, he needs a single unmoving point to move the world in the direction he wants it to go, and global warming is the pivot of his intellectual existence. Every fibre of his intellect and the habit of a lifetime of questioning authority told him to ditch Pachauri and Jones, but he can’t do it. He needs 4°C and millions of dead like other journalists need fame and fortune. He’s lost it, and he’s showing signs that he knows it.

May 5, 2011 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

To be fair to George, whose writing I respect even if his opinions are cock - eyed, he was the first and so far to the best of my knowledge the only environmentalist to acknowledge there might be a link between exponential population growth and the climate problems.

May 5, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan R Thorpe

Monbiot, the guy has got a ego you could land a jumbo on. Well all was good he was more than happy to use CIF to act as ‘school bully’ both above and below the line where he freely through insults around knowing those attacked could not answer back. His approach to those not total of the AGW faith was general awful, and he was happy to get the mod’s in when the actual facts turned against him. And has for his hypocrisy over flying , well that was epic in scale , what else could you say about a person that liked people who fly to paedophiles shortly before going on a North American book selling tour.

Cut him as much slack as he cut others, none at all.

May 5, 2011 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Ian R Thorpe: "he was the first and so far to the best of my knowledge the only environmentalist to acknowledge there might be a link between exponential population growth and the climate problems."

Given that population growth has been slowing for 48 years, I don't consider that much of a recommendation.

May 5, 2011 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr Potarto

'CACC' happily send out starry-eyed Monbiotphiles to disrupt blogs like this one and JD's (sorry that should read 'politely explain' why we are wrong about 'climate change'), but to-day they issue an invitation to be part of 'Zero Carbon Britain Day' in July, when YOU can organise, in your own town, any of the following - ' a Cycle ride, a procession, a rally, a carnival, a fare............A FARE, W.T.F ?
Perhaps someone whose first language is English could apply for the job of 'proof reader' on the Top Floor of that shop at 5 Caledonian Rd.

May 5, 2011 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Josh wrote: "He should read Matt Ridley's 'The Rational Optimist'. Heck, everyone should all read it."

Josh, he did. He didn't like it one bit.

May 5, 2011 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr Potarto

Monbiot says something that deserves a place in the Annals of Misanthropy. He writes:

"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."

Of course, Monbiot is discussing "some other Greens," you know, not his own views. However, when you are willing to consider the desirability of economic collapse, you have taken a seat at the table with Pol Pot and you are willing to discuss his Maoist vision for Cambodia. Part of my point is that, if you do sit down with Pol Pot, you should do so only after serious reflection on the fact that you will not change his views at all. The psychopaths have taken over already.

May 6, 2011 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Epic shale


May 6, 2011 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames

Monbiot has always come over as a confused schoolboy to me. One minute he was outraged over the scientists involved in the emails, the next minute he was defending them and saying it was all being taken out of context. Anyway, he "writes" for the Guardians massive (!) 300,000 readers, therefore, he cannot be said to have much influence!

The moderation over at CiF, under his column, should be seen as an outrage in a democracy but then again, that is the way the Greens work these days and Monbiot, with his crazy notions assists them in driving good people away from the good environmental work that really does need taking care of!

May 6, 2011 at 5:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

In his latest Guardian piece the Arch Druid of the Climate Change revolution leaves his followers in an impossible dilemma. Having dissed most 'renewables' at some time or other he says- 'Nuclear Power (which he's recently espoused) divides our movement. Some of the most effective envoronmental organisations - Greenpeace for example could not drop their opposition without falling apart'.
On 'peak' fossil fuels he says 'The collapse of accessible mineral resources has not occurred and shows little sign of occurring in our lifetime'.
So what beacon of hope is he now holding aloft for his followers.
'We have no idea what to do next'- he tells them.

May 6, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Here is my model of the man.

He is highy articulate, highly-strung, scared of the future, hateful of the present, and has positioned himself as a gadfly on the flanks of the rich and powerful. However, those flanks are increasingly green-coloured as the establishment shifts leftwards, in response to environmentalism as a route to political power and financial opportunities. So he risks finding himself as a mouthpiece or sounding-board for the well-off and/or powerful - a category which must now include multinational corporations such as the WWF, Greenpeace, etc etc. According to my model, he doesn't like that much, and is squirming to set himself apart again. His recent 'revelations' are of course old-hat to others, but nevertheless new to him and as such they hint at a disarming frankness and capacity for independent thought within his own bubble. I suspect the climate change establishment will be uncomfortable with this new development. If GM keeps turning, his wrath could be an appreciable nuisance for them.

He may yet come to see that his own belief-system is at the heart of an 'atomising, planet-wrecking project' - the one beloved by such as Maurice Strong who longed to see the destruction of industrial civilisation and the creation of a new global totalitarianism to replace it. That's a formula for a wrecked and atomised (apart from the globe-trotting overlords needed to keep us all in line) place to live according to my wider model of the world. A model which, incidentally, sees humans as incapable of dominating climate variations, but capable of such great ingenuity and invention that we shall be able to cope with them - thanks in large part to industrialisation.

May 6, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Monbiot says that the greens are 'tearing each other apart'.

Can anyone tell me which Freeview channel this is on? But if not, I'd be prepared to pay good money for a realtime ringside seat.....compulsory viewing. And if there's a post production celebratory party, I want an invite!

May 6, 2011 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

John Shade

Your judgement on Monbiot's recent writings is as generous and hopeful as anything I can imagine. However, I believe that when push comes to shove he will tow the party line. Among the company he keeps, independence of thought is viewed as symptomatic.

May 6, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Latimer Alder. I think the 'Green-on Green' bloodletting is coming soon to a venue near you (as they say). CACC, in its usual CACC-handed way, invites us to - 'NUCLEAR POWER THE GREAT DEBATE' on Thurs next the 12th May at Vernon Sq Campus of SOAS. - 'Join us in a debate on the proposition -Nuclear Power has no place in the fight against Climate Change, It is simply a diversion which leads us away from the real answer,renewable energy'.
IN THE GREEN CORNER - Stephen Tindale, Ex executive director of GREENPEACE but a recent convert to the case for Nuclear Power and IN THE OTHER GREEN CORNER Darren Johnson, GREEN Party chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee.
I think George will be acting as 'trainer' and 'second' to Mr Tindale, so possibly will not be chairing the proceedings.A function he performed so ably at his 'debate' which you and I so enjoyed, when Phil Jones's boss was made to look rather silly by Steve McIntyre and the boys.

May 6, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Mr Potarto, thanks for the link, not much of an argument against the main themes of the book tho' is it.

The Irrational Pessimist. Could be his next oeuvre.

May 6, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh


'A function he performed so ably at his 'debate' which you and I so enjoyed, when Phil Jones's boss was made to look rather silly by Steve McIntyre and the boys'

Making Trevor Davies look 'rather silly' (hem hem) was hardly the most challenging task that Stephen McCI has ever undertaken. He appeared to have a willing stooge in Davies himself....difficult to imagine how such an oleaginous personality ever rose above milk monitor, let alone 'research director' or whatever it was....not even at Norwich Tech.

May 6, 2011 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

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