George Monbiot: Extinction’s Collaborators

This Stinks    Our rivers and seas are being transformed into open sewers by greedy business and useless governments. What’s remarkable is not that a water company knowingly and deliberately poured billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea to cut its costs. What’s remarkable is that the Environment Agency investigated and prosecuted it. Every day, water companies pour tonnes of unprocessed filth into England’s rivers and seas, and the government does nothing.

Even in the wake of the sentence last week, under which Southern Water was fined £90m, the company’s own maps show a continued flow of raw filth into coastal waters. Same shit, different day. The only occasions on which water companies are allowed by law to release raw sewage are when “exceptional rainfall” overwhelms their treatment works. But the crap keeps coming, rain or no rain.

The prosecution, in this land of lions led by donkeys, was driven above all by one official at the Environment Agency, Stephen Bailey, who managed to stick with the case, breaking through layers of water industry deception and raising, within his organisation, a stink about the stink. Even so, though this was a deliberate and long-lasting crime, though “very serious widespread criminality” was established, though Southern Water obstructed the investigation, no executive is being prosecuted. The fine will be swallowed by its gigantic profits like a stone thrown into a settling tank.

As the court documents show, the company knew it ran the risk of big fines, but calculated that they would cost less than upgrading its plants and treating the sewage. Even now, this calculation may have been vindicated. Hiding its discharges saved it more than £90m in penalties, even before the huge savings it made by failing to upgrade its infrastructure are taken into account. So while the £90m fine and the £126m penalty imposed by the Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat, were heralded as “massive” and explained as “deterrents”, I don’t see them as either. The occasional prosecution, which holds an amorphous thing called the corporation – rather than any human being – liable, seems to be treated by water companies as a business cost....

Extinction’s Collaborators How the media stoked the climate crisis.

Yes, we should rake over the coals. And the oil, and the gas. Democratic accountability means remembering who helped to stoke the climate crisis. We should hold the fossil fuel companies to account. In 1979, an internal study by Exxon concluded that burning carbon fuels “will cause dramatic environmental effects before the year 2050”.In 1982, as the Guardian’s Climate Crimes series recalls, an Exxon memo concluded that the science of climate change was “unanimous”. Then it poured millions of dollars into lobby groups casting doubt on it.

They didn’t call themselves lobby groups, but “thinktanks” or “research institutes”. Across the world, the media took them at their word.

So scientists and environmental campaigners found themselves fighting the oil companies at one step removed, and with one hand tied behind their backs. When some of us were pitched against a “thinktank” in the media, if we tried to explain that it was not what it claimed to be, or asked it to reveal its funders, we were accused of being “conspiracy theorists”, or of “playing the man not the ball”. But if we didn’t, its false claims about climate science were given equal or greater weight. After all, who were we, a threadbare bunch, beside those respectable-sounding institutes with offices in Washington or Westminster?

When we criticised the media for its determined naivety, we were frozen out. Before long, the thinktanks and trade associations had a clear run. They were the serious, sensible people, to whom the media turned to explain the world. And still turns....

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