What Else Won't the Greens do for us?

by | Mar 26, 2008

Back in February, we reported on the new plans for ‘eco-towns’ in the UK, to make up part of the housing shortage. We suggested that it was unlikely that even the eco-town-planners would actually go as far as to replace the sewage system with water-free composting toilets…

It is not clear whether the Government intends that eco-homes in eco-towns will feature eco-toilets. It seems unlikely. Yet the principle remains – the ethic driving these developments is not that humans deserve a pleasant space to live in, but that their basic functions and needs are grudgingly catered for in such a way as to remind them that everything they do contributes to destroying the planet. 

We may have been wrong. According to a Guardian story today, there may be no option for the eco-proles to be connected to the sewers.

By capturing rainwater and reusing waste water, eco-towns will also have to be “water-neutral”, which means there should be no overall increase in water demand as a result of the development. 

The Government’s view of human needs is very clear. As a human being, you are entitled to no more water than falls on the land you occupy. That’s your lot.

The Guardian chooses not to focus on this aspect of the developments, however. The title of the piece is, “New eco-towns to make it hard going for cars with 15mph limit”.

Half of all households in eco-towns will have to live without a car and those that have one will find their speed limited to 15mph, according to standards for the wave of new towns unveiled yesterday. In, a series of anti-car measures announced by Hazel Blears, the secretary of state for communities, large parts of the towns of up to 20,000 homes each will be car-free. Homes will instead be built no farther than 400 metres from a bus or tram stop, and car-sharing schemes will replace car ownership. 

Anti-car and ‘sustainable’ (i.e. rationed, and insufficient) water provision reminded us of the following sketch from Monty Python.

All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us 

With roads and water infrastructure out of the question for Britain’s new eco-slums, you have to wonder about the legitimacy of a government which doesn’t sufficiently provide for the public. Eco-proles will be stuffed into these developments so that the Government can tick its “sustainability” targets, and satisfy the mean-spirited and authoritarian demands of the environmental movement. The concept of “sustainability” is used here by the Government as a means to regulate lifestyle, but also to wash its hands of the responsibility of providing adequate public goods. No one will be asking what else Environmentalism did for them, because the entire point of Environmentalism is to provide less and less opportunity for life to be about more than existing.

The irony is that it is highly unlikely that these new estates will be populated by the middle class eco-evangelists, but by the working poor – the ones hardest hit by the housing shortage. It’s one thing to make the lifestyle choice to switch from the electricity supply grid, and to disconnect yourself from the water main and sewage system, and to get around by bicycle and bus. More power to the elbows of people who want to experiment with different ways of life, if that’s what really floats their boats. But it’s another thing entirely to lock an entire generation into a lifestyle with such low horizons. This is a political act that serves to control people, limit their possibilities, inconvenience them, diminish their expectations, and force a lifestyle upon them. It will create a class of people who cannot take a bath, or even a shower without checking that there has been sufficient rainfall. It will prevent people who may find themselves in need of a car from taking work which is not near a bus or train stop. What if someone living in an eco-town has a relative who suddenly falls ill and needs regular care, making a car a necessity? What if someone is relocated by their employer, making public transport an impractical solution? Or, dammit, what if someone actually enjoys having a bath, or having days out in the car? Who the hell is the government to decide that these are aspirations beyond what is reasonable?

As we have said before, the politics that has given rise to the eco-slum has never been tested in the UK. Nobody has ever voted for the concept of “sustainability”, yet increasingly, people are being asked to live with the consequences of sustainababble.


  1. John A

    I assume the UK government will be washing away all responsibility for the rampant progress of water borne diseases which will plague these eco-slums?

  2. john a. bailo

    If these villages aren’t under the control of the Water Board, the Sewer Board and all the government agencies, aren’t they worried they might turn into some type of “anarcho -syndicalist communes that take it in turn to…”

    Seriously, at what point do Britains start questioning how much “loo” water the Royals get to splash on their sagging flesh?

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Ben, I thought I would throw in my two pence worth………..
    There is one concept at work here that is by no means modern or at all radical.
    Parson Thomas Malthus condemned the poor to subsistence two centuries ago by claiming a limit to growth. He posited that while humans populations grow geometrically, materials (food etc) can only be obtained arithmetically. Malthus has been consistently proven wrong by growing populations and economic growth (although distribution has been hugely distorted). Human beings are unavoidably substantial but Malthus misunderstood what creates “value” in a capitalist economy. Value and “weight” were becoming uncoupled before any notion of “carbon heavy goods”. “subjective value”(what individuals want and how much they will pay for it) replaced “material” value as specialisation increased and peoples tastes diversified.
    Like Malthus, some Environmentalists also see humans playing a “zero sum game” with nature. This notion that we are bad for ourselves not only seems ontologically unsound, but in practice any action/reaction to problems denies that political practice can be a creative process.
    There has always been enough material (food clothes housing etc) for everyone to live comfortably, this is not the issue. In most instances in a competitive economy it is the lowest common denominator that gets squeezed in the case of a crisis. This is happening again, with the help of some environmentalists. I would argue that instead being blamed for going over the threshold of environmental disaster the poor should be given room to grow. .


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