Unsustain-Nobility

According to CNN, Prince Charles, who at some point in the future can look forward to inheriting the United Kingdom, has just signed a book and film deal. Yes, the Prince of Wales is Britain’s answer to Al Gore.

“I believe that true sustainability depends fundamentally upon us shifting our perception and widening our focus, so that we understand, again, that we have a sacred duty of stewardship of the natural order of things,” Prince Charles said in a statement.

“If we could rediscover that sense of harmony; that sense of being a part of, rather than apart from nature, we would perhaps be less likely to see the world as some sort of gigantic production system, capable of ever-increasing outputs for our benefit — at no cost.”

Now why would the future monarch of a country of 60 million people have such an inclination towards ideas about ‘the natural order of things’, eh?

Even more bizarre is Charles’s bedfellow in all this, former Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper.

The co-author of the book is former Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper, who, since leaving the organization in 2008, has been critical of a number of celebrities who promote environmental issues.

Juniper criticized model Naomi Campbell and actress Sienna Miller for not practicing what they preach on the environment, and in an article he accused mogul Richard Branson of “jumping on the global warming bandwagon.”

“The prince and I share similar views on issues of sustainability and the environment. He is in a unique position to express his concern for unsustainable economics, and is committed to highlighting the crisis of our disconnection from nature,” Juniper told CNN.

Juniper has singled out supermodels and Branson – who at least do something – for their hypocrisy, and yet leaves intact the reputation of the prince. This is odd.

The prince is ‘in a unique position to express his concern for unsustainable economics’ mainly because protocol, in theory, precludes him from making political statements. And yet here he is, about to make political statements. Just because it’s ‘green’, it doesn’t mean it’s not political.

As the beneficiary of one the largest estates in England, he also has a unique position on ‘sustainability’, because it increases the value of that estate, the proceeds of which are exempt from corporation and capital gains tax. Lucky, lucky him.

As we have pointed out before, it’s not easy being green… unless you’re filthy stinking rich.

Even more weird is that Juniper should be getting into bed with the future king of England given the number of claims that environmentalism is synonymous with anti-capitalism. It seems that Juniper is more interested in pre-capitalist… feudal… society than anti-capitalist or communist society. Maybe he shares Charles’s keenness for ‘natural orders’.

“Harmony” will warn of the threat big business poses to the environment, HarperCollins said.

If Charles carries on with this preaching to a country experiencing perhaps its most severe recession ever, while sitting on top of a massive stack of cash, he is likely to become an inconvenient monarch. The prince, who reportedly runs his cars on wine… seriously… is going to be making statements equivalent to ‘can’t they eat cake?’. Some might shout, ‘off with his head’. But Charles, the vocal advocate of homeopathy and talking to flowers to encourage their growth… is already off his head.

Friend (of Democracy) or FoE?

A single press release; double standards. Yesterday, in response to the UK’s proposed climate change bill, Friends of the Earth UK director, Tony Juniper said:

We’re delighted that the UK is set to become the first nation to introduce legislation to cut its contribution to climate change. But the Government must strengthen its proposed legislation if it is to be truly effective and deliver the scale of action that scientists are now calling for. This means setting annual milestones that will deliver at least an 80 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, and including Britain’s share of emissions from international aviation and shipping. If Gordon Brown toughens up this legislation, his visions of becoming a world-leader in developing a low carbon future can become a reality.

But responding to proposed changes in planning law, also outlined in the Queen’s Speech, in the same press release, Friends of the Earth’s Planning coordinator, Naomi Luhde Thompson said:

Government plans to overhaul the planning system are bad news for democracy and bad news for the environment. Its proposals will strip away one of the public’s key democratic rights to have a say on how their area is developed, easing the way for a whole range of climate-damaging developments. These proposals are undemocratic, environmentally-damaging and – according to recent legal advice – likely to be unlawful.

So, it’s a Good Thing for political decisions to be made by unaccountable bodies, without either debate or due democratic process, if it will lead to a reduction in CO2 – because “scientists say so” – but it’s “undemocratic” to loosen planning law (if that is what is being proposed) so that new houses and civil infrastructure can be built without interruption from organisations such as itself.

As we pointed out last week, environmentalism has never been tested by UK politics, and there has not been a debate about how best to respond to scientific evidence. Juniper conjures scientific opinion out of his hat in order to close down the possibility of debate by saying “scientists are now calling for” 80% cuts in emissions by 2050, but where do scientists actually say that? Where has this figure come from? Many scientists challenge the idea that the only way to face climate change is to reduce CO2 emissions, arguing instead for adaptation.

If there were to be a proper debate, it would reveal that our interests are frequently not the same as the “environment’s”. FoE don’t want development to happen, yet most people acknowledge the need for more houses, and better transport and energy infrastructure. It may well be that people don’t want these developments in their backyard, but that is quite a different thing to not wanting the development to happen because of the damage it might do the the environment – the enemy of my enemy is the FoE.

Charlie, Carbon, and the Carrots

Prince Charles’s footprint has hit the headlines again. He is now officially ‘carbon neutral’.

Among the first to congratulate the next in line to the throne was Friends of the Earth Director, Tony Juniper:

The fact he reduced his carbon emissions by 9% in the last year alone highlights the potential for making rapid cuts in the nation’s contribution to climate change. 

Tony has obviously been eating too many of Charlie’s rotten carrots and failed to read the small print:

The household’s carbon footprint was calculated at 3,425 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006-2007. 

Charles’s carbon footprint weighs more than most people’s houses. In fact, it weighs more than a small street. Tony should realise that the only reason Charlie is able to make these gestures is because he receives income from a vast estate of land, property and shares, and is extraordinarily well connected. Very few other farms or businesses in the country are in this position. All this says about the ‘potential for making rapid cuts in the nation’s contribution to climate change’ is that it’s only easy if you’re going to be king.

Is Juniper on the Gin?

When environmentalists aren’t aping the war on terror (‘you’re either with us or against us‘, not to mention sexing up documents to generate an unwarranted sense of urgency) they can sometimes sound uncannily like the lunatic extremists that the war on terror is supposed to be against.

Take Tony Juniper’s (Executive Director of Friends of the Earth UK) comments in today’s Observer, in an article reporting on a leaked draft of the IPCC WGIII Summary for Policymakers:

Last night Tony Juniper, executive director of the environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth, said far more fundamental lifestyle changes were needed than had been considered by the UN group. ‘Simply replacing one set of technologies with another set of technologies won’t work, especially when there are such big downsides with some of them,’ he said. Nuclear reactors are dangerous and land clearance and chemical pesticides and fertilisers used to grow fuel crops can cause huge environmental damage, he added. ‘Structural change to the economy, behaviour change and culture change – those have to be elements in a world of decarbonisation,’ said Juniper.
 

What is striking about Juniper’s reaction is that he seems happy to welcome the IPCC’s ‘scientific consensus’ when it suits him, but when the IPCC starts developing technological solutions to the problem of climate change, it doesn’t suit him. For Juniper, technology is the cause of the world’s problems. In which case, how could he possibly see it as a solution to them? He doesn’t want technological fixes. After all, they only encourage the root causes of the problem – our decadence. The problem, according to Juniper, is not technical, it is ethical, so it is a point of principle that only ‘fundamental lifestyle changes’ are good enough. In fact, environmentalists are prone to argue this line to the extent that one can be left wondering whether changing the economy, behaviour and culture is a higher priority than actually ‘saving the planet’.

Compare Juniper’s view of the industrial world to that of Theodore Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber)…

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation… But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a POLITICAL revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society
 

There are, of course, still important differences between Juniper and Kaczynski. First, Friends of the Earth aren’t trying to bomb us into submission. Also, in stark contrast to Kaczynski, Juniper calls for the government to implement the regulation of lifestyle, economics and culture that he demands. In this respect, Juniper is apparently advocating a return not only to a pre-technological society, but to political medievalism. Juniper is apparently more Taliban than Unabomber.

Just as the Taliban arrested people in possession of music, televisions and radios for their corrupting influence on society’s relationship with God, Juniper imagines engineered solutions to climate change to be corrupting our relationship with nature. This isn’t a view of humanity that can be sustained by science. Indeed, it is inherently anti-science, which is why Juniper has to drop the ‘science’ as soon as starts to challenge his ‘ethical’ perspective. In his vision, the state monitors our behaviour, regulates consumption and oversees material sacrifice.

Given that the environmentalists oscillate so easily between the rhetoric of the White House and cave-dwelling Luddites, perhaps they should go off and have a war with themselves and leave the rest of us to work out how best to proceed toward an uncertain future.

Environmentalism Spiked

Three excellent pieces from Spiked about the green movement…

First, Rob Lyons’ ‘The IPCC goes looking for bad news‘ is based on an interview with Aynsley Kellow, a contributor to recent IPCC reports.

‘even though Kellow has expressed public disagreement with the summary for policymakers, and the chapters that it flows from, he will still be listed as having taken part in the process – with the implication that he agrees with the final reports and is one of those thousands of experts who have apparently shown beyond all doubt that climate change will wreak havoc on the world.’

This highlights a major problem with the IPCC. It is regarded as a body that generates an unchallengeable consensus, which allows governments and activists to defer to its political and scientific arguments and to go unchallenged on matters of substance. What we lose is any sort of healthy debate. Rather than discussions about matters of political reality or scientific fact, all we get are (barely distinguishable) alternative interpretations of the scientific consensus on climate change. (Why don’t they just go the whole hog, and let the IPCC make all the policy?)

Second, Tessa Mayes explores what’s behind the recent Vanity Fair special on environmentalism featuring some celebs ‘doing their bit’, ie, assuming themselves to be in a position to lecture us on climate science and politics. Mayes echoes some points made by Lyons about the Eurocentricity of environmentalism, and asks an important question about the green movement…

‘But who does it help when big business is presented as the destroyer of nature and local Amazonians are depicted as the guardians of nature? Is that what Vanity Fair and other green campaigners really want for certain communities in Latin America? That they should live forever in harmony with nature, and their societies remain underdeveloped, natural, organic, hard work, at risk from the elements…?’

No doubt many greens would say ‘no’. But there don’t seem to be any green ideas in circulation that have distanced themselves successfully from Mayes’ characterisation. This is developed in Austin Williams’ account of how recent comments by Tony Juniper seem to acknowledge the conservative, backward-looking nature of environmentalism. Juniper’s attempts to reinvent it, however, suggest that the green movement is suffering from some form of identity crisis.

‘it is interesting that many environmentalists complain that they are constantly let down by how little practical attention we’re paying them.’

Willliams argues that these complaints are laughable, given the degree to which the political mainstream patently has absorbed environmentalism. He concludes that, in spite of all this angst and self-reflection by the green movement, its core values remain inescapably anti-human.

Did we say three excellent articles? Here’s a fourth.