Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monbiot logic

Have you read Monbiot's latest about placcy bags in the Guardian?

Being the most achingly trendy of warmenists, Monbiot is of course now way beyond worrying about placcy bags. He scorns greens who still worry about placcy bags, just as trendy music critics start hating bands as soon as everyone else begins liking them.

Personally I can see the sense in placcy bag-boycotting, because they are ultimately litter, and litter is an environmental problem that seems to me to be obviously a real problem, with an easy solution.

But anyway, the Monbiot piece is remarkable for this passage:

Don't get me wrong – I don't like plastic bags either. We use too many of them, just as we use too many of all the earth's resources....But their total impact is microscopic by comparison to almost anything else we do. As environment writer George Marshall records in his excellent book Carbon Detox, our annual average consumption of bags produces 5kg of carbon dioxide a year. Total average emissions are 12,500kg.

Monbiot, don't forget, is the man who has launched a campaign against Agas because of their carbon emissions. He doesn't seem to have spotted that his logic above undermines every single thing every warmenist has ever told us to do.



malty said...

One of the first British companies to manufacture placcy bags, on a thin film line, was British Visqueen in Stevenage, during the sixties, they went through a period of very low production, finally discovering the reason to be the entire nightshift was watching from the roof as Sputnik passed over.

The greens obsession with what comes out of a car exhaust is myopic, they never mention the fact that when you fill your tank with fifty litres of petrol, fifty litres of benzine laden air exhaust into atmosphere, whilst this is unburned it is still a polluter.

Monbiot sounds like he should be the third violinist in the Birmingham Symphony orch.

If placcy bags were banned where would dog walkers store the poop before taking it home ? in their pockets maybe, or better still their mouths.

will said...

oh malty dont get me started on the most bizarre aspect of the poo bag - the phenomena of people going out with their dog with a poo bag in their pocket, dutifully picking up the poo like a good drone - AND THEN HANGING THE POO BAG ON A TREE BRANCH

I mean WTF?? Surely it would be better to just leave the poo where it lies, at least it's biodegradable

also - how is Monbiot pronounced - mon-buy-ot or mon-bee-oh???
-such things keep me awake at night with the worry of dinner party ridicule if I mistakenly pronounce his name...oh the perils of being middle class

Brit said...

I believe it's generally pronounced 'moon-bat'.

Nige said...

I think Monbiot's distaste for the anti-placcies is largely because the hated Daily Mail recnetly ran a ridiculously successful campaign which dramatically reduced plastic bag use in the UK - can't be doing with that, can we, those rightwing fascist bigots going all green? Plus of course the man's a raving moonbat anyway.

Nige said...

By the way, am I the only person who remembers that as long ago as the mid-70s at least one supermarket chain (Spar, I think) was using recyclable carrier bags. Very sturdy they were too.

malty said...

Go back even further Nige, when the COOP stores were small, the butcher next to the greengrocer next to the baker next to the general store, everything was loose in large bins, individually weighed and put in paper bags, helped employment and was "environmentally friendly," the detractors would of course take issue over hygiene.
By the way Nige plus Brit, Lords this weekend ? the Geordies are playing.

Brit said...

I'm a Gloucestershire man, Malty. Last season we finished bottom of the bottom without a single Championship win. The dizzy heights of the Geordies at Lordies is way beyound my ken, currently.

Nige said...

I wish, Malty... Looks like drizzle anyway.

martpol said...

Allow me to be the first (and doubtless only) to stick up for Monbiot. Clearly part of the carbon-reduction agenda is about getting lots of people to make small changes, but he's right to point out that we seem to have got our focus wrong.

I often talk about sustainability with school pupils, most of whom assume that "recycling" is the best way of slowing down global warming. In fact, recycling has a proportionally tiny impact - but doing it is far easier than persuading ourselves to stop flying long haul, using 4x4s, buying gadgets and fitting patio heaters.

So I think Monbiot has a point, even if that point is only that we're fooling ourselves. And I'm pretty sure that's what it is; most of us, after all, only want to combat climate change in so far as it doesn't inconvenience us.

Brit said...

There are lots of different types of warmenist, but three of them are:

1) the ones who think that lifestyle changes are irrelevant because we need to look at major changes, invest in technology etc

2) the ones like James Lovelock who think there's nothing we can do about it and the Green agenda is a complete waste of time, drawing attention away from the issues we should be resolving, like how to help people.


3) the greens who demand that we each change our lifestyle because an accumulation of tiny emission savings will help the overall problem.

Monbiot, with his Aga campaign, clearly belongs to the third category, the whole logic of the which rests on the idea that tiny proportions do actually matter.

martpol said...

But there are tiny proportions and really tiny proportions - and if you're going to focus on the small things that individuals can do, it's logical to put the most effort into encouraging people to change the slightly less tiny ones. I'm not obsessive enough to know the figures, but I presume that an Aga's waste of energy is significantly greater than that wasted by plastic bags.

Mind you, that whole point unravels when one considers that most Agas are probably owned by upper middle class country folk whose combined efforts might be fairly insignificant anyway.

martpol said...

Oh, and I also meant to say:

I would say it's now inaccurate to label those under category (3) as 'greens'. What you're talking about is now mainstream opinion, shared by government bodies, anti-poverty NGOs, educational institutions and international organisations alike. And it's not an incompatible opinion with (1).

Brit said...

What you're talking about is now mainstream opinion, shared by government bodies, anti-poverty NGOs, educational institutions and international organisations alike.Yeah, tell me about it.