Newsnight of the Living Dead

by | Oct 15, 2009

For those who missed Wednesday’s edition of BBC2’s Newsnight, we highly recommend that you watch it:

When you’re asked to adapt your lifestyle to combat climate change, what goes through your head? Do you embrace the challenge, switch off the lights and reach for the hair-shirt? Or do you shut your eyes, bury your head in a carbon-luxurious lifestyle and hope it will all go away? Tonight we ask what the green movement has really achieved. Yes, they’ve brought the issue to the national conscience. But are they now becoming part of the problem by rejecting so many potential solutions? They style themselves as radical, but are they actually too conservative? Tonight we put the great and the good of the green movement on trial.

It doesn’t quite live up to the promise, but it’s well worth it for the spectacle of Caroline Lucas, Zac Goldsmith, John Sauven, Franny Armstrong et al being lined up Weakest-Link-style for self-inflicted humiliation. Available on iPlayer here if you’re in the UK.



    Interesting – about the nearest I’ve seen to actually asking these people to justify themselves – so what was Greenpeace’s Nuclear policy after all that? It sounded like a Zen Kōan or a Schrödinger’s cat type conundrum.

    The 10 10 campaign sounds dull despite being labelled “empowering” and the campaign tag being made from “a scrapped plane” (did Rik from The Young Ones think of this edgey and poetic symbolism). The usual hot air is that the first 10% is easy but I am just checking the 10 point list you can tick off which at least point where we are going; “Never fly or only one return flight a year?” (pretty generous to get the return flight), “Don’t use gas or oil”, “Don’t eat meat or dairy” etc so just small unnoticable changes really although luckily number 10 is feeling as high as a toddler on Ritalin – partly due to your new found health – I always love the mixture of the worlds destruction and and feeling fit as a fiddle – “I saw my last song bird die today but I have to say my stamina is excellent”

  2. Stefan

    If those people represent “green” these days, then this is the impression I got:

    – they don’t like being labelled luddites, and you can see them squirm their way out of the question as they try to create smoke:
    “we’re not rejecting… we are pro a lot of things… we just want to prioritise… we’re not anti nuclear, it is just that nuclear costs too much, and we’re not anti-GM, it is just that hunger is caused by injustice and GM never came up with anything useful anyway, and nuclear will take 15 years to get up and running, but scientists say we only have 6, so we are just prioritising on efficiency, which is the low hanging fruit”

    – they don’t like being called anti-capitalist nor anti-market nor a fringe group:
    “the market is a tool, and it is blind to the value of the environment, so we want to make things reflect their true cost, and people can cut a little bit, in lots of ways, just leave your car at home one day a week, see the 10 10 web site for things you can do”

    – they don’t like being labelled as lacking pragmatism, but oddly this is the one that they couldn’t even think of any way to dodge–instead, they just said,
    “start cutting… and then everything will change”

    Yep, just leave your car at home one day, lag your loft, and buy less toys, and suddenly 6 billion people will be doing it and the problem, you know, the big problem where, “all life on earth is at stake”… will be solved.

    On this point the Conservative politician disagreed, saying that he didn’t think 6 billion peoples’ behavior would change, but rather, his interest was that all the green interest showed to politicians that there was “an appetite for leadership”, in other words, politicians could gain votes by talking green.

    As SFA says, it was all very dull.

    The greens are highly ineffectual. They are really a rather sensitive and depressed lot, combined with deeply egocentric feelings that the health of the whole planet hangs in the balance of their choice of whether to buy soya milk or dairy milk.

    Should I drive my car today? I drove it yesterday, that’s 5 times this week, I really need to avoid taking my frail mother in law shopping otherwise I’ll kill the planet, and I’d better forego that packet of cheese, it has cow fart methane induced tipping point written all over it, save the cheese for Sundays, try some Quorn instead. Oops, just discovered this Soya milk is GM… this means I’ve contributed to Monsanto’s control of the food chain strangling small African farmers and I’ve starved a few more babies, I should throw it away… or should I drink it as the waste means another kilo of organic soya milk being transported around the world causing unnecessary emissions… oh heck a dilemma…

    As rationally minded experts have commented, a lot of small changes added together on a massive scale add up to a small change on the big scale. If I save 1% and everybody saves 1%, that adds up to a saving of 1% on the large scale.

    It does not work the way the greens claim:

    “start cutting, and then everything will change”

    If you want to change everything, then you’re changing the market, you’re changing the economy, you’re changing technology, you’re changing religion, behavior, psychology, everything. But ask them, in that interview, are you doing those things? and they answer no, we’re not, we’re only looking for simple efficiencies, the low hanging fruit, the easy to make changes.

    This has been from day one my own disconnect with the greens. They pretend to change everything whilst claiming to change nothing, and that just doesn’t follow. It is simply magical thinking.

    I’m glad it has been shown on national television.

  3. geoffchambers

    Living outside England, I wasn’t familiar with these people. They were less weird than I expected – normal Guardian-reading Chattering Classerati, I’d say, just like everyone I know. Which I suppose makes the whole thing more frightening. Their message would sound better coming from the body-painted John the Baptist types featured at the beginning of the programme.
    The oddest thing was the way Goldsmith and Lucas – members of opposing political parties – were so eager to agree with each other. There’s a common demand from voters for politicians to stop bickering and co-operate. One good result of this green hysteria might be to make people realise that politics is about disagreement. And if they won’t disagree among themselves, it will be us disagreeing with them.

  4. Alex Cull

    Very interesting edition of Newsnight. Stefan, your comment: “They pretend to change everything whilst claiming to change nothing, and that just doesn’t follow. It is simply magical thinking” I’d absolutely agree with. Given that they believe that we have just 6 years left to save the world, and “all life on earth is at stake here”, to quote Franny Armstrong, what cunning plan do they have, exactly? Energy efficiency and 10:10 (things like “leave your car at home one day in two weeks”), which is laughably puny, given the enormity of the problem they think we’re facing.

    Geoff, yes they did agree on the surface, but did you notice Zac dismissing 10:10 as ineffectual apart from the supposed message from the public it sends to politicians (who are all on-message anyway, which would make the whole thing doubly futile?)

    And Solitaire Townsend contradicting herself, basically. One moment she says (about the greens’ inability to communicate with non-greens) “I know they’re not pragmatic at all. In many cases, the idea of actually compromising on a message to make sure that more people will resonate on it [sic] comes very very hard to a lot of greens.” And later, when Emily talks about Greenpeace activists climbing the Houses of Parliament, engaging in “schoolboy protests”, she responds: “All power to them – there needs to be a core of passion and honesty and keeping to the absolute principles of the environmental message, and Greenpeace is exceptional at that.” But Solitaire, the public is turned off by these uncompromising stunts, exactly the sort of outcome you say the greens shouldn’t be trying to get, and a symptom of their failure to communicate.

    Finally, I was gobsmacked by Ethical Man Justin Rowlatt’s admitting his family have flown abroad on holiday twice this year and they have a tumble dryer. What the??? I haven’t flown abroad this year so far, I didn’t fly last year and I don’t have a tumble dryer – I have a solar powered dryer, i.e., a clothes line. According to Rowlatt, climate change is a “global emergency threatening the very existence of mankind.” Then why, Justin, did you fly twice this year, and why do you have a tumble dryer? Why is it that I, a “climate change denier”, can out-green you so easily? Does your brain actually believe the things your mouth is saying?

    Abolutely glaring inconsistencies and contradictions. A brilliant and fascinating programme, and thanks for posting this, Editors!

  5. JMW

    Can this video be found on sites like YouTube?

    I can’t watch it due to not being in the UK (Canadian, here), and I would like to see it, if for no reason other than idle curiosity.

  6. Alex Cull

    JMW, there are said to be ways of accessing iPlayer from outside the UK, using an IP anonymizer, but I can’t vouch for this. Eventually, though, I’m sure it’ll end up on YouTube & hope it does, as it’s worth watching.

    Here’s a similar themed episode of Newsnight that is on YouTube – enjoy!

  7. JMW

    I’ll use one of those gizmos if I can get it on the cheap [disposable income I don’t have much of] or free.

    But perhaps the video you provided will entertain me in the meantime.

  8. JamesG

    I hope i see global warming dying off as an issue just as globalization before it. The next vital issues for the angst-ridden chattering classes will be world population + resource depletion.

    I still blame the scientists. We need to deploy our science grants in a way that doesn’t develop into a self-feeding frenzy.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.