Wednesday, July 20, 2016

George Monbiot - Brexiters will grind our environment into the dust

The more urgent the environmental crisis becomes, the less we hear about it. It exposes the economic policies of all major parties – whether neoliberal or Keynesian – as incompatible with the times in which we live. To remark on what we are doing to the living planet is to fall into cognitive dissonance. It is easier to ignore it.

This is the spirit in which our new prime minister has engaged with our greatest predicament. Climate change clashes with the economic model, so let’s scrub itfrom the departmental register. Wildlife is collapsing and, at current rates of soil erosion, Britain has just 100 harvests left. So let’s appoint an extreme neoliberal fiercely opposed to constraints on industry as secretary of state for the environment. When the model is wrong, adjust the real world to make it fit.

I do not see the European Union as a lost Avalon. It brought us much that is good, such as directives that enable us to hold our governments to account for their environmental failures. But the good things it has done for the living world are counteracted – perhaps much more than counteracted – by a few astonishing idiocies. They arise from remote, unresponsive authority that is accessible to corporate lobby groups but not to mere mortals. In some respects the Brexit campaigners were right – though generally for the wrong reasons.

One of these policies is the rule that only bare land is eligible for most farm subsidies. This perverse incentive for destruction has obliterated wildlife and natural beauty across hundreds of thousands of hectares. It threatens millions more. The failure of politicians and environmental groups to campaign against this perversity – or even to mention it - is both mystifying and shameful.

Then there is the European insistence that much of our transport fuel be replaced by biodiesel. I’ve been inveighing against the manufacture of biodiesel from crops since 2004, and have often been mocked for it. Now we know not only that it causes much greater greenhouse gas emissions than the fuel it replaces, but also that it’s a major cause of perhaps the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century so far: the mass obliteration of the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, driven in large part by palm oil production… read more: