George Monbiot

La Nouvelle Trahison des Clercs

When scholars sell out, the consequences are grave. by George Monbiot In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda published a piercing attack on the intellectuals of his day. They should, he argued in La Trahison des Clercs (the treason of the scholars) act as a check on popular passions(1). Civilisation, he claimed, is possible only if intellectuals stand in opposition to the demands of political “realism” by upholding universal principles. […]

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Via Dolorosa

Corruption and short-termism are pushing us along the path of sorrows. by George Monbiot The records go back 800,000 years: that’s the age of the oldest fossil air bubbles extracted from Dome C, an ice-bound summit in the high Antarctic. And throughout that time there has been nothing like this. At no point in the pre-industrial record have concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air risen above 300 parts per […]

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Where Hope Flows

If the “hardest-worked river in the world” can recover to this extent, almost anything is possible. by George Monbiot River Wandle Photo: Keith Rose Warning: this article begins with a spoiler. If you have not read The Road already and intend to do so, please skip the first three paragraphs. Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, which I still believe is the greatest environmental work ever written, ends with the shock […]

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The Providential Principle

Amazingly, the UK government has not defined the precautionary principle and appears to have no idea what it is. by George Monbiot Click for larger view Here’s something remarkable I stumbled across while researching my column on Monday, but did not have room to include. I hope you’ll agree that it is worth sharing. I was trying to understand the context for the new chief scientist’s cavalier treatment of scientific […]

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Suckled on Lies

The case for banning advertisements aimed at children is overwhelming. by George Monbiot How many people believe this makes the world a better place? A company called TenNine has hung advertising hoardings in the corridors and common rooms of 750 British schools(1). Among its clients are Nike, Adidas, Orange, Tesco and Unilever(2). It boasts that its “high impact platform delivers right to the heart of the 11-18 year old market.”(3) […]

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The Self-Hating State

Devolving policy to “the market” doesn’t solve the problem of power. It makes it worse. by George Monbiot In other ages, states sought to seize as much power as they could. Today, the self-hating state renounces its powers. Governments anathematise governance. They declare their role redundant and illegitimate. They launch furious assaults upon their own branches, seeking wherever possible to lop them off. This self-mutilation is a response to the […]

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The Great Unmentionable

We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions by George Monbiot Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable. Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be […]

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Political Barbed Wire

Why are 97% of our rivers shut to the public? A millionaire minister’s amazing conflicts of interest give you a clue. by George Monbiot Nowhere in Britain is power more concentrated than in the countryside. Some people claim we have the second lowest distribution of land in the world, after Brazil. Because (thanks to the resistance of the landlords) there is no comprehensive record of who owns what, we can’t […]

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Smart Phones, Dumb Companies

17 years, and the phone companies still haven’t sorted out the issue of conflict minerals. by George Monbiot If you are too well connected, you stop thinking. The clamour, the immediacy, the tendency to absorb other people’s thoughts, interrupt the deep abstraction required to find your own way. This is one of the reasons why I have not yet bought a smartphone. But the technology is becoming ever harder to […]

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Frozen Assets

Why are we exploiting unconventional gas when we can’t afford to burn existing supplies? by George Monbiot Click for larger view There’s only one way of knowing whether or not governments are serious about climate change: have they decided to leave most of their fossil fuel reserves in the ground? We have already discovered far more carbon than we can afford to burn, if we are not to commit the […]

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A Great Corporate Cock-up

Take a ringside seat as a giant company beats the living daylights out of itself. by George Monbiot “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” The current answer to Alexander Pope’s question is the power company Électricité de France (EDF). It is suing 21 climate change activists for £5m as a result of their week-long occupation of its power station at West Burton in Nottinghamshire. In doing so it has […]

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