May 4, 2011

Intellectually Bereft

One hates to kick an adversary when he's down. Especially down from his own candid assessment.

But George Monbiot, the lefty at Britain's leftiest newspaper is doing a little soul searching:

Let's face it: none of our environmental fixes break the planet-wrecking project
[Simon Farlie's] article exposes a remarkable but seldom noticed problem: that most of those who advocate an off-grid, land-based economy have made no provision for manufactures. I'm not talking about the pointless rubbish in the FT's How To Spend It supplement. I'm talking about the energy required to make bricks, glass, metal tools and utensils, textiles (except the hand-loomed tweed Fairlie suggests we wear), ceramics and soap: commodities that almost everyone sees as the barest possible requirements.

Are people like Fairlie really proposing that we do without them altogether? If not, what energy sources do they suggest we use? Charcoal would once again throw industry into direct competition with agriculture, spreading starvation and ensuring that manufactured products became the preserve of the very rich. (Remember, as EA Wrigley points out, that half the land surface of Britain could produce enough charcoal to make 1.25m tonnes of bar iron -- a fraction of current demand -- and nothing else.) An honest environmentalism needs to explain which products should continue to be manufactured and which should not, and what the energy sources for these manufactures should be.

Did I mention that Monbiot was not a big liberty advocate? The autocratic paternalism is stunning. But move beyond that and appreciate the honesty of the piece. Even if two guys are willing to tell the entire United Kingdom what they may manufacture and purchase, it still doesn't work! None of their plans do any good!

Then, an admission that none of my Facebook Friends will make (well, except for Brother jg):

The problem we face is not that we have too little fossil fuel, but too much. As oil declines, economies will switch to tar sands, shale gas and coal; as accessible coal declines, they'll switch to ultra-deep reserves (using underground gasification to exploit them) and methane clathrates. The same probably applies to almost all minerals: we will find them, but exploiting them will mean trashing an ever greater proportion of the world's surface. We have enough non-renewable resources of all kinds to complete our wreckage of renewable resources: forests, soil, fish, freshwater, benign weather. Collapse will come one day, but not before we have pulled everything down with us.

None of their predictions have come true, none of their plans offer any long term help, and even were this not the case, nobody wants them anyway.

Honesty. Candor. Kick.

Hat-tip: Walter Russell Mead

UPDATE: In completely and totally unrelated news, the BBC reports "Six Scottish windfarms were paid up to £300,000 to stop producing energy, it has emerged."

Environment Posted by John Kranz at May 4, 2011 10:45 AM

Let me restate this (the UPDATE): Private wind energy companies were paid tax dollars not to operate the equipment they were given tax dollars to build? Damn, I guess Lord Keynes was right after all.

Posted by: johngalt at May 4, 2011 2:52 PM

In related news (to the main story that of "the planet's real nightmare: not too little fossil fuel – but too much") the planet also seems to have too much food, too much comfort and too much biological diversity. [Coincidence?] We're constantly reminded that we are overweight, underworked and... whatever happened to all of that oil BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico last summer?

Posted by: johngalt at May 4, 2011 3:16 PM | What do you think? [2]