Who Are the Real Climate Criminals?

by | Apr 29, 2008

If there’s one thing that’s supposed to annoy us British about Americans, it’s their environmentally unfriendly ways. And not just George Bush and his Exxon-funded cronies. It’s the whole lot of them – as highlighted by the recent ABC News poll where “global warming” scored a big, fat zero (see page 6) in the US public’s list of priorities.

Contrast with London’s Mayoral candidates all battling to save the planet. The “central pledge” of New Labour’s Ken Livingstone to his electorate includes: “London will tackle the great environmental problems, above all climate change, to ensure that our success is sustainable.” And the whole thing is only one sentence long. Boris Johnson (Conservative) pledges “a ban on bottled water, a ban on internal flights, recycling, green procurement and sustainability”. Both claim to be against Heathrow’s third runway on environmental grounds. And there’s still somehow room for a Green Party candidate. Politics: available in any colour, as long as it’s… well… Green.

But is our superciliousness towards the green credentials of the USA really justified? Are we really that different here in the UK? Not according to an Ipsos Mori poll last year, which indicated that more than half of us are not convinced that the science of climate change is robust enough to justify a Green revolution. Despite the vast sums of cash available to the environmental PR machine to keep the looming ecopalypse at the front of our minds, nobody’s really that interested, it seems.

Funnily enough, environmentalists like to blame their failure to capture the public’s imagination on oil-funded “deniers” (whose budget is a fraction of Greenpeace’s alone). Or they’ll blame the selfishness of the public itself, who need to be hectored into making “ethical” consumer choices… and taking fewer baths.

But is there another reason for our complacency? Could it be that we have a better nose for eco-friendly bullshit than Livingstone’s “London will tackle the great environmental problems, above all climate change, to ensure that our success is sustainable”, or Boris’s “a ban on bottled water, a ban on internal flights, recycling, green procurement and sustainability” give us credit for? Both look like nothing more than attempts to convince us that they’re taking armageddon seriously, rather than serious attempts to make the world a better place.

So why, given the public’s lack of interest, isn’t there a candidate with the balls to stand up and challenge Environmentalism? Where is the candidate who thinks a third runway is a good thing? It’s not as if Londoners don’t want to use airports. Or who thinks there aren’t enough roads? Or that a new desalination plant is a better idea than saving water by hectoring Londoners with “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”?

Perhaps it’s because green policies can’t actually do any harm. We might be ambivalent, but we’re hardly going to vote against saving the planet. Which is perhaps why everyone from the BNP through to Socialist Worker are striking a green pose. Environmentalism is attractive to unimaginative politicians precisely because it’s seen as inoffensive and uncontroversial.

Except that it is offensive. And it should be controversial. Just ask Gareth Corkhill, the father of four who was fined a week’s wages by Copeland Borough Council and slapped with a criminal record for overflowing his wheelie bin by 4 inches. (And environmentalism is supposed to be ‘progressive’!). Once authorities get it into their heads that human concerns can take second place to a higher purpose – saving Mother Nature, Gaia, or whatever you want to call her – no reason exists for them to imagine that they owe the public anything, or are even accountable.

Environmentalism isn’t the left-wing conspiracy that those whom it accuses of being a right-wing conspiracy are wont to accuse it of being. It’s just very convenient, that’s all. Public servants can become policemen; they can suddenly make life more difficult in the name of saving the planet. Eco-Proles can be farmed out to Eco-Homes in Eco-Towns that lack flushing toilets and where the only water you are allowed to use is that which falls on your land. And to complain is to have the blood of future generations on your hands, or to be a bin-abusing ‘carbon criminal’. Environmentalism turns the purpose of government and public service on its head.

Environmentalism is all very convenient – for everybody except real, live human beings. So who’s more in tune with their electorate on environmental matters? Copeland Borough Council? Boris? Ken? Or George Bush Jr?


  1. john a. bailo

    The problem is once we get electricity from the sun, how are they going to tax us? Our whole society is built on scarcity. The providers twist the nozzle and let the drips come out at many dollars per swig.

    Now we may end up with energy by the boatload…practically free!

  2. John Nicklin

    They will switch to taxing the equipment required to extract the energy. Put up a windmill? You’ll need a license, freely available for a small annual fee. Solar panels will require a zoning variance, for a small annual fee.

    The creative minds of beurocrats will always find a way to extract their salaries from the people they “serve.”

  3. Donald

    Just remind me what the advertising budget is for unfettered consumption, or do you think the advertisers are wasting their time and everyone spends their time reading newspaper articles?

    I’d say that 44% of the UK population thinking they need to do something is quite impressive, and certainly not “nobody’s really that interested”.

    No need to overegg the pudding!

  4. Editors

    Donald, you falsely pitch adverts for products of ‘unfettered consumption’ as party political broadcasts.

    This is symptomatic of the environmental movement which views checkout activity as political engagement. (And yet it complains about consumer society.)

    The choice is false because we can have our interest in burgers aroused by an advert, but we can simultaneously be aware of the claims made by environmentalists about the effect of industrial meat farming on the world. It is only in the environmentalist’s nasty and narrow view of humanity are our base impulses the same as our intellectual engagement with the world, hence it’s preoccupation with consumption.

    Nobody can avoid the global warming message because it is ubiquitous. Worse yet, while we are given the option of buying burgers, environmentalism is rammed down our throats whether or not we want it…

    You may believe that 44% is an impressive figure. But when you bear in mind that ~100% of the political establishment are behind the environmentalist project to some degree, what we see is a huge disparity not just a in representative sense, but also a huge failure to convince the public to engage.

    The problem is that environmentalists seem to believe that the ‘message not getting through’ reflects badly on the public. In fact, it says more about the environmental movement’s contempt for the public. It also reflects badly on the political establishment that the only way it can find to connect with the public is through images of catastrophe and Armageddon.

    44% is a generous figure. As an article in today’s Independent puts it “More than seven in 10 voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll.”


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