George Monbiot

Ploughing On Regardless

Almost all other issues are superficial by comparison to soil loss. So why don’t we talk about it? Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re knackered if we don’t address […]

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Better Dead Than Different

Our visions of the future are defined, like the film Interstellar, by technological optimism and political defeatism. Yawn: "Hey, we can make it out here!" “It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are,” the hero of Interstellar complains. “Explorers, pioneers, not caretakers…. We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.” It could be the epigraph of our age. Don’t get me wrong. Interstellar is a magnificent film, […]

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A Gunpowder Plot Against Democracy

This bill of rights for corporations will blow up the sovereignty of parliaments. On this day a year ago, I was in despair. A dark cloud was rising over the Atlantic, threatening to blot out some of the freedoms our ancestors lost their lives to secure. The ability of parliaments on both sides of the ocean to legislate on behalf of their people was at risk from an astonishing treaty, […]

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Ripping Yarns

Only 0.01% of our seas are protected, and even the top conservation sites are up for grabs. A few days ago, I visited the Flamborough Head “no take zone”, one of the UK’s three areas in which commercial fishing is prohibited. Here marine life is allowed to proliferate, without being menaced by trawlers, scallop dredgers, drift nets, pots and all the other devices for rounding it up, some of which […]

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“Cleansing the Stock”

How our governments now talk about human beings. To blot people out of existence first you must blot them from your mind. Then you can persuade yourself that what you are doing is moral and necessary. Today, this isn’t difficult. Those who act without compassion can draw upon a system of thought and language whose purpose is to shield them – and blind us – to the consequences.

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Falling Apart

Competition and individualism are forcing us into a devastating Age of Loneliness. What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void now filled by marketing and conspiracy theories(1). Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on […]

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The Toll-Booth Economy

Corporate power is the real enemy within, but none of the major parties will confront it. The more power you possess, the more insecure you feel. The paranoia of power drives people towards absolutism. But far from curing them of the conviction that they are threatened and beleaguered, it becomes only stronger. On Friday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, claimed that business is under political attack on a […]

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The Kink in the Human Brain

Pointless, joyless consumption is destroying our world of wonders. This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing. If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to […]

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Political Straightjacket

If the ozone hole had been discovered ten years later, governments are likely to have done nothing. In The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, a comedy made in 1971, Spike Milligan portrays Sloth as a tramp trying to get through a farm gate. This simple task is rendered almost impossible by the fact that he can’t be bothered to take his hands out of his pockets and open the latch. He […]

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Someone Else’s Story

Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm. Imagine that the question was posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power […]

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The British Thermopylae – and the Case for Reintroducing Big Cats, a Weird and Wonderful Tale

Y Gododdin is one of the few surviving accounts by the Britons of what the Anglo-Saxons did to them. It tells the story of what may have been the last stand in England of the Gododdin – the tribes of the Hen Ogledd, or Old North – in 598AD. A force of 300 warriors – the British version of the defenders of Thermopylae – took on a far greater army […]

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The Pricing of Everything

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion. Below is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video […]

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