Plane Stupid

First, the custard. Then, the rhubarb-rhubarb:

Direct action historically has been a major way that we’ve got change. I mean, you can look at, historically, through the Suffragettes, through the miners’ strikes, through all of the major changes. Yes, some of it is about putting yourselves in the way, as we have done, as Plane Stupid has done, putting ourselves on runways, directly reducing carbon emissions. And some of it is about debunking the lies and spin that some people have the opportunity to put across to the rest of the world. Yes, we are using the media. But Peter Mandelson is using the media. He’s not elected. He’s not working in the interest of the people and the planet. He doesn’t have science behind him. Ninety per cent of scientists now agree that climate change is a very real threat, that it’s already occurring, that it’s man-made, and that our last chance is going to run out within the next ten years. So I ask you: what else are we supposed to do when democracy is failing people in this country? You have to resort to any means necessary, as long as it’s peaceful, and as long as it doesn’t harm other human beings.

The only difference that custard-thrower Leila Deen can identify between herself and custard-recipient Peter Mandelson, UK Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (and, yes, he’s an unelected peer), is that she has science behind her and he does not. She has nothing else to cling to. By her own words: Just like Mandelson, her actions are undemocratic. Just like Mandelson, she lies and spins. And just like Mandelson, she has the opportunity to put those lies and spin out to the rest of the world. She also demonstrates perfectly why, just like Mandelson (and who wouldn’t quite like to throw custard in his face?), her organisation is deeply unpopular with the electorate.

Her problem is that the only way she can make it sound like she has science on her side is by twisting that science beyond recognition. Ninety per cent of scientists now agree what? Ten years? These are just random numbers plucked from the ether. What sort of consensus is it when ecotastrophists can’t even agree on what 90 per cent of scientists are saying? Hansen says four years, Lucas says eight, the Green New Deal Group gives us 100 months.

Given that Deen has no more science on her side than her nemesis, all that does separate them is that she’s not happy about the building of a single new runway. That runway might or might not increase aviation emissions and will have virtually no impact on UK Climate Change Act targets when aviation accounts for only six per cent of UK emissions. So she has to make up stuff about that, too:

[…rhubarb rhubarb…] the vast majority of people are against the third runway […rhubarb rhubarb…] a runway that will cause catastrophic climate change and ruin any chance that we have of stopping our carbon emissions […rhubarb rhubarb…] if we build a third runway, all other industries will have to reduce their carbon emissions to zero […rhubarb rhubarb…]

We have nothing against direct action per se. But what sort of direct action is it when the activists target those who are pushing in the same direction as themselves? And let’s not forget that the government quite likes the fact that a few silly protestors are lending some street cred to its own agenda. We recently quoted Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband on the runway protests:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

The custard slinging came before Mandelson spoke at the UK’s Low Carbon Summit. Here’s a video of the event’s ‘highlights’, published on 10 Downing Street’s Youtube channel:

The media focused their attention on the custard-chucking, at the expense of criticising what was being said inside the summit. Take, for example, the words of Mandelson himself:

So the point we want to start at today is this… This transition to low carbon is an environmental and economic imperative and an opportunity for us. It is also inevitable. There is no high carbon future for us.

Here we see familiar lines in action. There are imperatives, and a low carbon economy is inevitable. That is to say that democracy has no say in determining what is or isn’t an imperative, or what the Government’s priorities ought to be. But as we have pointed out before, environmentalism has never been tested democratically in the UK. All the parties absorbed its ‘imperatives’ into their manifestos in a process that has never been challenged or really even debated. Mandelson has no authority to say that there exist environmental or economic imperatives – he isn’t an elected politician; he is held widely in contempt, being seen at best as a joke or a symptom of New Labour’s intransigence and corruption; and he does not have facts on his side.

He continues:

The huge industrial revolution that is unfolding in converting our economy to low carbon is going to present huge business and employment opportunities as well as enabling us to meet our climate change targets and reduce our energy consumption

We’d like to know from Mandelson precisely where this ‘industrial revolution’ is supposed to be unfolding, and where these opportunities actually are. During the last quarter of 2008, nearly a quarter of a million people lost their jobs in the UK. Unemployment is currently just shy of two million.

There is no unfolding revolution. A revolution implies spontaneity, dynamism and popular support to shake off an old order or system. Instead, this ‘revolution’ requires regulatory laws, massive subsidies, and the creation of targets and goals – the precise opposite of a revolution. The French revolution was not achieved by setting goals for the number of aristocratic heads it intended to remove from aristocratic shoulders by a given date. It just happened. The industrial revolution did not happen because people set targets for miles of train track laid over the next ten years, it produced its own momentum and possibilities, which were, in turn, demanded. Nobody is demanding green politics. It is being foisted on us from above.

Ed Miliband pipes in:

There’s been a huge growth in the green sector and it’s already a three-trillion-dollar industry set to grow by fifty per cent. Now the question isn’t is that industry going to happen; it is going to happen. The question is, can Britain take advantage of that? That’s what our strategy is designed to do. It covers a whole range of areas from waste to recycling to renewable to all… err… a whole range of sectors. Increasing numbers of people will be working in these areas and we want Britain to be a world leader.

Again, we see the ugly leitmotif of today’s bland politics – inevitability. ‘It is going to happen’.

Of course there has been a growth in the Green sector. It has been heavily subsidised. For instance, a report from the think tank Policy Exchange estimated that the (now abandoned) biofuel subsidy (that required diesel sold to be 5% bio-diesel) cost the UK over £500 million a year. The report cited by Miliband and Mandelson (more about that report later) says that the renewable and low carbon energy sector grew by ~6% in the year 2007/8. It also says that the size of the biomass market was £5billion. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what drove the biomass sector’s growth.

The other side of this sector’s growth is regulation. For example, In 2002, the UK’s Renewables Obligation order instructed electricity suppliers to source an increasing percentage of their fuel from renewable sources. In 2002 this figure was 3%. By 2008, it was 9%. Failing to meet this target means paying a price per unit of electricity generated, which is then redistributed to suppliers according to how they met the target. A 2004 report by energy watchdog Ofgem said that the Renewables Obligation scheme was ‘providing additional financial support of at least £485 million to the renewables industry this year alone.’

This ‘revolution’ is presented by the Government as something which ‘is happening’, rather than something which was caused by the Government. The worldwide growth in the renewable energy sector is manufactured, much less by spontaneous innovation opening up new opportunities than, as with Britain, new environmental laws and massive subsidies.

Premier Gordon Brown is top act of the night:

So let us set a challenge to our scientists to lead the world in this great human endeavour to create a clean environment for future generations. Let us each set a challenge to business. Let us compete to lead the world in new low carbon products. Let us set a challenge to our planners to build homes and buildings and business and then eco-towns and eco-cities around the vision of a low carbon environment. And let us set a challenge to our schools. Let us teach young people. Inspire them that a low carbon future is not only the best future we can have, but the best future they can have as young people too. And let me tell you, our low carbon future, to create the low carbon economy we need is now a national endeavour that gives us purpose for years to come.

None of Brown’s aspirations are shared by the public. They are his, and the political establishment’s aspirations. Very few people want to live in an eco-home in an eco-town or eco-city. Very few people want their children indoctrinated by eco-dogma. Brown pretends that he wants us to share his eco-centric eco-vision, but Mandelson and Miliband have already revealed that it is inevitable, and that we don’t have a choice. We are to be eco-proles, whether we like it or not.

This ‘let us…’ rhetoric in intended to be statesmanlike, imploring us to be part of some moment of change. But the moment of change has long since passed, and Brown’s vision is a hollow attempt to rescue it. After decades of decline in manufacturing output, and chronic underinvestment in housing and energy, it is a bit rich, and a bit late, for Brown to be telling us that we need eco-homes and eco-industry powered by eco-energy. We needed homes and industry as the conditions for the current economic climate were forming. His government, and previous ones, didn’t see the need then, and the need now owes less to the fact that the climate is changing, and much, much more to the fact that individuals in the Government want to use the climate change issue to generate moral authority for themselves, especially on the world stage. They can’t do that unless the UK is seen to be green, with green laws, green economy, green industry, and green people. Hence, over the last year, the UK has seen a raft of measures hurried through so that the UK contingent can arrive at the UN Climate Conference in Denmark later this year dressed as planet-saving super-heroes, not as a ship of foolish Chicken Littles, struggling to sustain their political legitimacy.

The Low Carbon Summit was, like the web page announcing it, hosted by RBS. Yes, that’s the same RBS that made a loss of £10 billion last year.

The Low Carbon Economy Summit is the only event this year to focus on the business opportunities in moving to a low carbon economy. Uniquely the Low Carbon Summit will explore what further action needs to be taken by government and business to create an environment which supports and promotes investment in low carbon solutions such as renewable power generation and carbon capture and storage as well as emissions trading.

This partnership knows far more about generating crises than stopping them. But then again, crises, real or imagined, are the bread and butter of politicians who otherwise fail to explain to the public what their ‘vision’ actually is. It isn’t until crunch time that Brown, Miliband and Mandelson unveil their ‘revolutionary’ ideas. The language about the inevitabilities and imperatives of environmental catastrophe are attempts to explain failures as success, decline as progress, and inactivity as activity. Politicians stand on their heads to complain that the world is upside down, and that all the trends actually show improvement.

Journalists, too, struggle to explain what’s going on in the world without the prospect of the catastrophe signposting right from wrong. A Guardian article on the event demonstrates its writers’ inability to subject the Government’s climate policies to any scrutiny:

In an interview with the Guardian, Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said there was a global race towards creating a low-carbon economy and that Britain must not get left behind. He set out the key elements required – from energy efficiency to a smart electricity grid – ahead of today’s low-carbon summit in London, with representatives from industry, unions and the environment movement.

Much is made of the alleged influence on the public mind of the odd hour of television here and there that does stand against climate orthodoxy. But the media’s failure to subject the terms of the climate debate to scrutiny has had a much more significant effect on the Government’s mind. It seems that they can do no wrong – and consequently can have their many failures overlooked – while they are being green. The only criticism they can expect from Guardian hacks is not being green enough, never mind what kind of outcome it will produce, or what kind of society it will create. There is very little question of the policies, only the echoes of mantras about ‘imperatives’, and ‘inevitability’. One of the lines in the Guardian, also picked up elsewhere was the headline that…

New jobs will be created in low-carbon industries for 400,000 people – from lagging lofts to nuclear power – the government will announce today.

This figure comes from a report by consulting firm, Innovas, commissioned by the Government. What the report said was not that ‘new jobs will be created’, and the Guardian omits the caveats attached to the report.

If the UK environmental employment baseline level grows in line with projected annual growth rates, then, potentially, an additional 400,000 jobs could be created over the next eight years ‐ representing a 45% increase on today’s level. This is a rough estimate based on the growth in market value, where employment levels are calculated on a pro rata basis. Some of this growth in employment might be due to displacement activity, as green goods and services become more acceptable than the alternatives, such as a shift from manufacturing traditional doors/windows to heat and energy efficient ones, or from carbon‐based fuels such as coal to renewable energies such as wind. However the majority of the growth in employment, particularly in the Renewable Energy industries, would represent additional economic growth to 2015.

The figure of 400,000 new jobs becomes even more dubious when it transpires that Innovas estimates that employees in the low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector number 881,000 people in the UK. There are roughly 30 million working people in the UK. That means 2.6% of the workforce are employed by the LCEGS. This sector has (according to Innovas) a market value of £106 billion. It seems hard to believe that such a large number of employment opportunities has been opened up by demand for green products. Yet the report projects, nonetheless:

The LCEGS sector, including supply chain, currently employs some 881,000 people in the UK, and this is forecast to increase to 1,289,000, or around 400,000 in the next eight years.

On what basis, though? The statistical summary accompanying the report claims that there are 6361 UK companies, employing 106,826 people in the ‘Alternative Fuel Vehicle’ sector. This turns out to mean ‘Alternative fuels (main Stream) for vehicles only’, and ambiguously, ‘other fuels and vehicles’. Does this lump together people who work on developing green cars and green fuel? According to www.autoindustry.co.uk, 210,000 people worked in manufacturing automobiles in 2005. Even assuming that there are still 210,000 people working in the UK’s ailing motor industry (which seems unlikely), can we really assume that half of these positions are in the LCEGS sector?

The report’s statistical summary goes on to say that 154,992 people work in ‘Alternative fuels’, 70,538 in the LCEGS ‘water and waste water’ sector, and 22,563 in the LCEGS ‘energy management’ sector. This gives us a total of 442,813 people in these LCEGS sectors. But according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), only 177,000 people worked in the energy and water sector at all. If we now include people that work in the LCEGS ‘hydro’, ‘wave and tidal’, biomass, wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, and ‘additional energy sources’ sectors, there are 626,557 people working in LCEGS energy sectors according to Innovas – many more people than the ONS claim.

It is plausible that the ONS and Innovas categorise jobs and businesses in different ways. But to claim that a greater number of people work in the LCEGS energy and water sector than work in the energy and water sector, when just a small percentage of Britain’s energy comes from renewable and alternative sources is just daft. We simply don’t believe it.

According to Eurostat, the UK produced 14,813,000 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) energy using renewables, against a total of 183,946,000 TOE. That process seems to have involved 533,455 people, according to Innovas’ statistics. If the UK’s total energy production was as efficient in terms of labour, it would have needed 6,624,378 people, or 22% of the workforce engaged in the production of energy. Perhaps this is what Brown and his fellows have in mind, when they are talking about the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs:

(image leaked from the UK government’s secret Low Carbon Industrial Strategy document)

Stupid custards.

ATTENTION – VISITORS FROM CACC CAMPAIGN WEBSITES AND EMAILS.  ALTHOUGH IT IS SPELLED OUT IN WHITE AND BLACK, MANY OF YOU HAVE FAILED TO REALISE THAT WE ARE NOT THE ORGANISERS OF THE EVENT. THE DEMONSTRATION IS ORGANISED BY MODERN MOVEMENT. Thanks, the Editors.

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Modern Movement, who are mounting a stand to the bleak language of the environmentalists, are planning a demonstration in favour of the Heathrow Airport expansion, to counter a demo planned by opponents of the scheme.

Support Airport Expansion: Thursday 19 February, 17.30 -19.30 on Parliament Square, East Footway

The extension of flying to millions of people has been a liberation. Most of us can now afford to go on holiday and welcome the cheapening of air travel allowing us to fly abroad. The development of aviation infrastructure is crucial to allow ever more people to fly.

This is why Modern Movement will be holding a counter-demonstration at the same time as the anti-aviation groups to show our support for airport expansion and urge on the building of the third runway at Heathrow.

Join us in front of Parliament to argue for guilt-free travel, for ever-cheaper flights and for freedom of movement.

Modern Movement – Faster, Cheaper, Better Transport for All!

Banners, flags and posters welcome but not essential. Look out for the large Modern Movement banner. This demonstration has been authorised by the Metropolitan Police.

This comes in the wake of what seemed to be a call for movement to be rationed from the Climate Change Committee chair, Lord Adair Turner, who gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee last week,

If there has to be demand constraint, we will then bring in the analysis I mentioned earlier of where are these flights, and one of the questions we will ask is, “How many of the flights which occur are of sufficiently short distances either because they are domestic or they are London to the south of France, London to the skiing resorts, et cetera”, that there is a believable story that they do not have to be flights, they can be high-speed rail, or are quite a lot of them things where, realistically, it is never going to be competed by high-speed rail and, therefore, you actually have to say that we have got to constrain demand in an absolute sense and people just will not be able to make as many journeys as they would want to in an unconstrained fashion. That is the analysis that we are going to do.

If you’re near enough to London to be able to make it to the demo on the 19th Feb, please do.

One of the most toxic effects of environmentalism’s tendency to reduce human needs and wants to problems that need to be contained and controlled is found in the debate over transport policy. Movement itself is threatened by demands that we reduce our ‘impact’ on the world. We are urged not to take ‘unnecessary’ journeys and to take them in the least carbon-intensive ways, or the carbon calculator will be used to prove our guilt.

But why should people feel guilty about travelling? Isn’t the freedom to travel a moral good? If we can travel, we can find opportunities for work, to meet new people, to find new culture, discover new ideas, or just escape for a while, for whatever it is we want to indulge in. Travel broadens the horizons of the mind.

Hoping to mount a defence of this freedom is a new group, starting up on Facebook for now, Modern Movement.

Protests over the third runway at Heathrow, and against airport expansion in general, attempt to portray much needed investment in transport infrastructure as an unwanted imposition on ‘the people’, rather than a development to be welcomed.

Heathrow may not be the ideal location for a large airport but we need more runways. Flying is a freedom millions have only recently been able to afford. The long-standing environmentalist prejudice against the freedom of flight shows that for Greens, the real problem is freedom of movement for the masses.

Modern Movement – a group campaigning, amongst other things, for 21st century transport infrastructure – is mobilising against the moralisation of cheap flights and the ‘cheap’ people (in the eyes of Greens) who take them. We support the building of the third runway at Heathrow.

The observation that when living standards suffer, people turn away from green issues, is correct. And so people should! People deserve better – lower fares and faster transport ultimately give people more time and money to do the things that matter. The majority continue to vote with their feet by taking flights…while they can still afford to.

Modern Movement demand fast, cheap and plentiful transport and an end to the moralisation of flying.

Following the Plane Stupid protest group’s day in court recently, another climate group, Climate Rush is planning disruptive action at Heathrow and Manchester airports next Monday, according to activist media portal, Indymedia.

Hundreds of anti-aviation protesters are expected to give the government a nasty shock when they return to Parliament after their Winter Recess on Monday 12th January. Protesters from the environmental action group, ‘The Climate Rush’ will be holding a sit-down picnic at the Departures Gate of Terminal One in Heathrow Airport. The dinner will begin at 7pm sharp and is expected to last several hours. At the same time the Northern Climate Rush will hit Manchester Airport Terminal 3 (Domestic Departures).

Climate Rush? Silly name. Never heard of them? Nor have we.

‘The Climate Rush’ held their first protest last October. Taking their inspiration from the Suffragettes they mounted a ‘rush’ on Parliament.

Ah. It’s a ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ form of protest.

But let’s give this claim that they take ‘their inspiration from the Suffragettes’ a little more inspection. What exactly is it they are taking from the movement?

Yesterday, we looked briefly at the words of Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change…

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

…and we pointed out that far from standing against the Government, protesters styling themselves on the Suffragette movement were necessarily doing what the Government were instructing them to do. It is curious, isn’t it, that Government lacks such confidence in its environmental policies, that it asks people to participate in ‘direct action’ in order to make it own actions look like a response to a democratic movement. What this clearly indicates is that the Government knows that environmental concerns do not emerge from ‘grass roots’, mass political movements. And it knows that it is a problem.

The favourable comparison of climate activists to the Suffragettes fails at the first inspection. Could we imagine that it was the early 20th Century Government, wanting to extend the franchise to women, calling for the radicalisation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage? No.

Climate Rush’s website continues to explain themselves:

Climate Rush is inspired by the actions of the Suffragettes 100 years ago, who showed that peaceful civil disobedience could inspire positive change. We are a diverse group of women and men who are determined to raise awareness of the biggest threat facing humanity today – that of Climate Change. Our government acknowledges the huge problems we face from Climate Change, but carries on with business as usual. We demand DEEDS NOT WORDS because individual choice alone cannot curb CO2 emissions if we are to stop runaway global warming.

And here a further contradiction separates the Suffragettes from Climate Rush. Demanding ‘deeds not words’ is all well and good, but the Suffragettes’ claim was that women were as capable as men in determining what form of Government should exist. Climate Rush, meanwhile, claim that Government action is necessary because individuals are not capable of making decisions. An equivalent claim by the real Suffragettes would be that women be made equal to men by removing the male right to vote. Some kind of equality.

This echoes the statements made by the lawyer defending the Plane Stupid protesters yesterday, quoted in the Guardian:

Benjamin Newton, defending, said the group regretted what they saw as the necessity of taking part in the protest, but had done so as a “last, desperate act” having exhausted all traditional means of influencing the democratic process.

It’s not the Government that environmental protesters have failed to influence – as we can see from Miliband’s words, they are on side. It’s the ‘stupid’ public that the Plane Stupid and Climate Rush protesters have failed to reach. Publicity seeking, and irritating stunts are their only avenue of expression. What this expression amounts to is not a call for democratic equality, but, on the contrary, less democracy. The democratic process has failed.

These protesters have nothing in common with the Suffragettes. At all. They flatter themselves with the image of heroic, oppressed, and put upon victims, such as the following graphic from the Climate Rush website:

Here we see silhouettes of women dressed in the Suffragette style, wearing sashes, bearing the slogans, not of radical demands for equality, but for less democracy, for lower standards of living, and less freedom. This is all about style and absolutely nothing about substance. A meaningful and important historical movement has been plundered for its iconic value only, with the values it represented left forgotten.
Such a travesty is possible because of the immaturity and intellectual vacuity of the environmental movement, and the Government which requested it. We’ve argued before here on Climate Resistance that environmentalism is unable to make its own history. Therefore it needs to steal gravity from moments in the past in order to make some kind of statement in the present. And so we see claims that ‘climate change is our moon landing‘, we are offered a ‘Green New Deal‘, and environmental advocates try to rekindle the mythological spirit that was generated during WWII as the country was on a ‘war footing’, all pretending that environmentalism offers a hugely liberating way of life.
This game of dressing-up and let’s-pretend is pastiche politics. It creates retrogressive manifestos by decoupage, not political ideas: historical images are stripped of their context to give meaning to the lives of a small number of morally-disoriented moralising whingebags. This breeds grotesque chimeras: the privileged offspring of the establishment, convinced simultaneously of their own importance and the belief that they are the downtrodden victims of industrial society. They march into the lives of ordinary people, going about their ordinary business and demand it all stops, to be reorganised around their insecurities and sense of alienation. Such incomprehensible naffness would be funny, if these infantile clowns didn’t already have what they were demanding.

The Stansted protesters have had their day in court.

Most of the 22 campaigners, who are members of the group Plane Stupid, were ordered to do between 50 and 90 hours community service after admitting aggravated trespass. The incident closed the airport in Essex for five hours.

Each of the protesters must pay compensation of £60 to cover £3,000 worth of damage to the perimeter fence, which they cut through in the early hours of 8 December, and orders made for court costs totalled £570.

According to the Guardian, the group also face being sued for £2 million. That’ll dent the trust funds.

None of this is as interesting as the account given by the defence lawyer. According to the same article,

Benjamin Newton, defending, said the group regretted what they saw as the necessity of taking part in the protest, but had done so as a “last, desperate act” having exhausted all traditional means of influencing the democratic process. “They felt government policy was directly contrary to meeting the country’s international obligations to mitigate climate change and that those policies were going to make us closer to the tipping point,” he said.

This is a nonsense defence.

The ‘democratic process’ had, just a week and a bit before the protest, produced the UK’s Climate Change Act, which commits the country to an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050 – going further than ‘meeting the country’s international obligations to mitigate climate change’ by a third. But as we pointed out, the process wasn’t democratic. There was no real debate, and the ‘democratic institution’ – parliament – defers decisions to an unaccountable committee of ‘experts’, who have their own interests served by climate legislation.

Worst than this, however, is the idea that these protesters see themselves as above the ‘democratic process’. In their view, they’ve failed to influence the debate, yet don’t pause to reflect on that failure as the consequence of their own shortcomings.

Let’s not say that all disruptive action of this kind is a necessary wrong. It’s not, at least in our view. Feel free to disagree in the comments below. But these protesters don’t have any such grievance. They are not excluded, or persecuted in any way. As the Guardian point out, they’re actually from rather privileged backgrounds. Yet these well-heeled kids beleive they have been alienated by a process that they are entitled to rule over.

Their defence is that there’s something stupid about the democratic process. It’s failed to listen to them. But it is their failure to mount a convincing argument, and to build popular support. Consider the words of Ed Milliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who said on the day of the protest

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

The establishment welcomed the protestors – it needs them. It has embraced their environmental concern – it needs it too. The protestors and the sense of crisis generated by the environmental movement legitimise the Government’s environmental policies. These policies are retogressive, authoritarian, and serve the interests of the political establishment, that otherwise struggles to identify its purpose. The kids at the protest say that “We’re here because our parents’ generation has failed us and its now down to young people to stop climate change…”, but really, they’re doing the work of the very institutions that they imagine themselves to be pitched against.

So who’s stupid?

How long has it been since we last mentioned George Monbiot? The truth is that we simply got bored of his predictable column in the Guardian. Furthermore, we aren’t convinced that anyone actually takes him at all seriously, apart from the people who book him for media appearances. After all, his earnestness excites the vapid newswaves with the prospect of the end of the world. And there’s nothing more exciting than the end of the world, especially when the rest of the news is so mundane. But this week, George has surprised us.

Speaking for himself, as ever, George attempts to convince us that ‘online, planted deniers drive a blinkered fiction’ and begins his argument by telling us that,

We all create our own reality…

Hmm. Not a good start. At this point, it’s hard to tell if George is giving us some kind of excuse for losing a grip on the objective world… a kind of my-truth-is-as-valid-as-your-truth caveat to everything he’s about to say, so that when challenged, he can smugly refer you to this relativistic axiom. Or is it just an apology for being a nutcase?

George certainly does create his own reality. It’s one in which his failure to make his reality yours is explained as the malign influence of other people, paid for by dark forces, distorting your reality. The bastards! This is a good definition of denial: what George can’t reflect on is the idea that his failure is the consequence of the shallowness of his own argument – you must be deluded. George continues,

…and shut out the voices we do not want to hear.

Of course. We’re the mad ones, George. Keep shutting out those, erm, voices.

Only the Plane Stupid protesters who occupied part of Stansted airport yesterday appear to have understood the scale and speed of this crisis. In cyberspace, by contrast, the response spreading fastest and furthest is flat-out denial.

That’s right, the self-indulgent teenage eco-toffs at Stansted know more about ‘The Realty’ than us hoi-polloi. But what is the substance of this reality?

The most popular article on the Guardian’s website last week was the report showing that 2008 is likely to be the coolest year since 2000. As the Met Office predicted, global temperatures have been held down by the LaNiña event in the Pacific Ocean. This news prompted a race on the Guardian’s comment thread to reach the outer limits of idiocy.

George is constructing his own reality again here, and rewriting history. At the beginning of the year, the Met Office ‘predicted’ world-record higher temperatures for 2007, with an error margin of just 0.06C. At the time of the ‘prediction’, the El Nino/La Nina oscillation was positive, having been climbing from negative over the course of the preceding year, and seemed to be continuing on its trajectory (indicating that an El Nino event was underway, and getting stronger). But by August 2007, the El Nino/La Nina oscillation had changed direction, and gone negative again, and global temperatures had diminished. The Met Office issued a new ‘prediction’, temperatures wouldn’t rise. Except that it’s not a prediction: it was already happening, and it is known that a consequence of La Nina is cooler global temperatures. Anyone who knows this could have made the same ‘prediction’, and it says absolutely nothing about the Met Office’s ability to make statements about climate change which are consistent with reality.

We wrote recently about the Guardian article Monbiot refers to, and the problems with it. Here.

George forgets the Met Office’s wrong prediction, to focus on the other, non prediction, which is equivalent to backing every horse in a race to sell yourself as a master tipster by telling people how often and how much you’ve won without revealing your losses.

George uses his fraudulent claim to have ‘facts’ on his side to make statements about the quality of comments to Guardian articles on the newspaper’sCommentisfree pages. Monbiot sees this as ‘a race on the Guardian’s comment thread to reach the outer limits of idiocy’. But judging the human world on the basis of comments to blogs makes about as much sense as judging the physical world on the bogus (yes, bogus) predictions made by the Met Office.

The new figures have prompted similar observations all over the web. Until now, the “sceptics” have assured us that you can’t believe the temperature readings at all; that the scientists at the Met Office, who produced the latest figures, are all liars; and that even if it were true that temperatures have risen, it doesn’t mean anything. Now the temperature record – though only for 2008 – can suddenly be trusted, and the widest possible inferences be drawn from the latest figures, though not, of course, from the records of the preceding century. This is madness.

King George lectures us on madness? He ought to know, after all. He’s taken one of two, contradicting predictions to make it appear that he is armed with the facts, against an enemy whose position he has constructed from comments on the Guardian’s site, that in fact bear no resemblance to the arguments you will find here, for example, or (and we apologise for presuming to lump ourselves in with the them) William M Briggs’s excellent blog, or Steve McIntyre’s, or Anthony Watts’. Monbiot constructs a fictitious argument against which he battles. What a brave hero. But Saint George has not yet slayed the dragon in his fantasy.

Scrambled up in these comment threads are the memes planted in the public mind by the professional deniers employed by fossil fuel companies. On the Guardian’s forums, you’ll find endless claims that thehockeystick graph of global temperatures has been debunked; that sunspots are largely responsible for current temperature changes; that the world’s glaciers are advancing; that global warming theory depends entirely on computer models; that most climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting a new ice age. None of this is true, but it doesn’t matter. The professional deniers are paid not to win the argument but to cause as much confusion and delay as possible. To judge by the Comment threads, they have succeeded magnificently.

Memes, for readers who are not acquainted with the, erm, meme, were conceived of by Richard Dawkins. His theory, outlined as an afterthought in The Selfish Gene, was that ideas, or ‘units of cultural information’ are transmitted from host to host in a process that is analogous to genetics. An imperfect copying mechanism means that memes are subject to ‘transcription errors’ and so mutate, which according to this theory, might account for the creation of new ideas, or memes.

But the theory has an unavoidable and terrible consequence. If it is correct, it means that you – the thinking subject – are neither thinking, nor a subject. You are an unthinking object, merely responding to the memes that you are exposed to, like balls on a pool table. You might think that you’re thinking for yourself, but it’s just a clever illusion, perpetrated by complex systems of memes -memeplexes – for their own advantage in their competition to propagate themselves. 

This theory – abandonded by many of its original proponents – has persisted in certain ‘rationalist’ circles (in spite of it being a wholly unfalsifiable theory that has made no progress in the 32 years since it was proffered), particularly amongst angry atheists and biologicaldeterminists who struggle to understand why their scientism hasn’t been absorbed into the political mainstream. Like Dawkins . It allows them to explain their own failure to create convincing arguments in pathological terms. Let us not mince our words about this theory, using it to explain anything about the social world is sheer pseudoscience. Ironically, it has greatest currency in the strange world of Internet conspiracy theorists, who are convinced that ‘the truth is out there’, but that ‘They’ don’t want you to know about it.

Monbiot is highly selective about what obstacles in his battle for the truth are ‘memes’. After all if the idea that ‘the hockeystick graph of global temperatures has been debunked’ is a ‘meme’, why isn’t the idea that it hasn’t been debunked a ‘meme’? The problem with memes is that you can never arrive at the truth, because you’ve undermined the very notion of ‘truth’ – it’s just a meme – andrelativised it into meaninglessness. Any application of ‘logic’ – which must be a meme – to the ‘facts’ – which must also be memes – simply reduces to a competition between memes for the resources in your head.

And what about the environmental ‘memes’ that we know to be false, or wildly exaggerated – for example the lie continually propagated by Monbiot that he’s absorbed from Greenpeace’s exxonsecrets.org website?

After consistent campaigning by Greenpeace through ExxonSecrets,  ExxonMobil was forced, in 2006, to drop funding to some of its key allies in the campaign to deny climate science and delay policy action The Competitive Enterprise Institute was the key group dropped – it had received $2.2 million fromExxonMobil since 1998, more than any other thinktank.  But the relationship continues as CEI’s climate operatives continue to work closely with the other think tanks funded by Exxon.

As we pointed out last year, if the biggest recipients of ‘fuel lobby’ funding was the CEI, which received just $2.2 million dollars over the course of 8 years ($275,000 a year – hardly big money), in return for generating ‘memes’, then it needs to be seen in the context of the environmental movement’s budget formemetic engineering. As we revealed, Greenpeace, the engineers of the exxonsecrets.org memes, had at their disposal over $2 billion over the same time frame. Conservation NGO, the WWF between 2003-7 recorded income of $2.5 billion. If cash buys you memes, then why are the poorly-funded sceptics so much better at creating them?

The idea that Exxon have ‘bought’ the debate does not stand up to scrutiny. Yet the lie persists. That’s not because it’s a successful ‘meme’, but because it’s a convenient way of moralising the debate, and robbing it of any nuance. Lying is the only way people likeMonbiot can clothe themselves in moral fibre.

Monbiot then explores a new idea about why his message hasn’t gone mainstream.

In his fascinating book Carbon Detox, George Marshall argues that people are not persuaded by information. Our views are formed by the views of the people with whom we mix.

Yeah? Where did you hear that, Georges?

According to this logic, then, it can be no accident that Marshall and Monbiot, and for that matter Mark Lynas and Oliver tickell all think alike, because they all lived very near to each other in Oxford – where Caroline Lucas, Green MEP rose to prominence. Their views must have homogenised as they smugly quaffed organic wine at eco-parties, and rubbed minds as they rubbed shoulders. Monbiot continues the nauseating double entendre of memetic procreation:

Of the narratives that might penetrate these circles, we are more likely to listen to those that offer us some reward. A story that tells us that the world is cooking and that we’ll have to make sacrifices for the sake of future generations is less likely to be accepted than the more rewarding idea that climate change is a conspiracy hatched by scheming governments and venal scientists, and that strong, independent-minded people should unite to defend their freedoms.

But again, this concept of our being the mindless vessels of ideas reduces our subjectivity, and leaves the Oxonian circle-penetrators with no greater claim to objectivity than the rest of us. Even if we seek ideas that yield a ‘reward’, it’s not hard to see what rewards have been sought byMonbiot and his circle, all of whom have elevated themselves into the limelight on the back of their ethical claims. They’ve sold many books. They are on TV. They have risen to positions of influence over the British establishment. They make money from the ‘ethical’ businesses they are involved in. And so on.

Monbiot seems to be making a claim that our weak wills leave us vulnerable to convenient conspiracy theories. And yet what argument has he been trying to sustain? Ah, yes, the idea that ‘planted deniers drive a blinkered fiction’.Monbiot’s theory is that there has been a conspiracy to create a conspiracy theory.

Marshall is right: we have to change the way we talk about this issue. You don’t believe me? Then just read the gibberish that follows when this article is published online.

Monbiot is frustrated that he has failed to convince people of his perspective. But rather than reflect on his own argument, which, as we can see is constructed out of sheer bullshit, he finds ways to show faults with people – ordinary, normal, everyday people, not just ‘bloggers’ – and damns the entire human race in the process. We are unthinking automata, objects, blindly obeying the forces that surround us. Only he knows the truth. But the truth that most people can sense is that Monbiot uses the status of scientific factoids, such as the Met Office’s dubious ‘prediction’ to convince people in the same way that a caveman seeks to persuade people with a club. Second, it is transparent to most people thatMonbiot is mischaracterising the arguments of the people he sets himself up in opposition to – he doesn’t answer objections, and he makes straw men out of the flame-war battlefield that is the comments section oncommentisfree instead of picking up on the arguments that are actually being made. Third, he clearly overstates the relationship between these messages and a conspiracy of vested interests. Fourth, he diminishes the moral character of anyone who takes a different perspective to him. Fifth, he diminishes the intelligence of anyone who sees things differently to him. But the biggest problem for Monbiot is that the second, third, fourth and fifth are, he seems to believe, logical and necessary consequences of the first. He seems to think that, because the Met Office ‘predicted’ the 2008 temperature record (and they didn’t), then he is right to characterise his opponents as he pleases, he is right to think that silly comments on blogs represent the influence of an oil-industry conspiracy, and so on.

And we can see why Monbiot fails to reflect on his own argument. Because if he could, he would realise what an embarrassing lunatic he has turned himself into.

Ridiculous, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and self-important protest outfit, Plane Stupid broke into Stansted Airport today, to delay the reopening of a runway.

The group’s website quotes one of their number, 21 year old Tilly,

“We’re here because our parents’ generation has failed us and its now down to young people to stop climate change by whatever peaceful means we have left. We’re afraid of what the police might do to us, we’re afraid of going to jail but nothing scares us as much as the threat of runaway climate change. We’ve thought through the consequences of what we’re doing here but we’re determined to stop as many tonnes of CO2 as we can.”

Tilly might as well be 12. As might Daniel, 24.

“We fully appreciate the scale of what we’ve done here today and we know many people will struggle to understand why we’ve done it, but the Arctic ice cap is disappearing, the seas are rising and our last chance to save our future is vanishing. With people taking more flights in Britain than anywhere else on earth, we have a unique responsibility to tackle emissions from flying.”

Daniel is aware that ‘ many people will struggle to understand why [they]’ve done it’, which raises a question about what kind of protest this is. What is the point of a protest if the people you inconvenience – one of whom was a woman travelling to her father’s funeral according to a BBC Radio new item – are none the wiser as to what you’re doing?

Tilly’s reasons for the protest – ‘ to stop as many tonnes of CO2 as we can’ – are equally confused. If it’s just CO2 she’s worried about, there are a number of less irritating avenues she might have explored.

The protest is in many ways equivalent to an infantile tantrum. The protesters clearly have problems articulating their message to the generation they feel are responsible for their emotions. The sense that they have failed to get the message across results not in some self-reflection, but a loud, obnoxious and pointless remonstration. And like a small child, these protesters cannot make a sensible distinction between their failure to assert their will over the world, and the end of the world. The rhetoric of Armageddon ensues. Tilly again,

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And here is something even more bizarre about the protest: they have actually got their way. Two weeks ago, Parliament committed the UK to an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, including shipping and aviation. Yet Tilly believes that the Government has failed to respond to its own climate change rhetoric. Just like a toddler, the concept of deferred gratification is beyond her.

We’ve often wondered what the difference between the Government and the environmental protest movement is. Who are the establishment, and who are the revolutionaries? They often seem to be saying exactly the same thing. Neither can claim that their actions represent the will of the general public – most people still want to fly, use cars, and so on. But both are committed to preventing people from expressing this desire. Both use the prospect of catastrophe to justify their self-importance, even though there is virtually no scientific argument that catastrophe is a possibility.

There is also more than a symbolic similarity between the way that protesting infants and the 9-11 plotters choose to make their mark on the world. So impotent are their ‘radical’ (for ‘radical’, read deeply socially conservative and retrogressive) ideas, that they impose them on the world in grand stunts. Both are indifferent to the trouble their self-righteousness causes others. In spite of their failure to generate mass support, they want to change the world, and believe that their actions are warranted by a higher purpose than the trivial concerns of mere humans.

The Government is left in a curious position. What can it really say to these spoilt children? It has indulged their every tantrum.