Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monbiot gives up on governments

"Greens are a puny force by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments and the natural human tendency to deny what we don't want to see. To compensate for our weakness, we indulged a fantasy of benign paternalistic power – acting, though the political mechanisms were inscrutable, in the wider interests of humankind. We allowed ourselves to believe that, with a little prompting and protest, somewhere, in a distant institutional sphere, compromised but decent people would take care of us. They won't. They weren't ever going to do so. So what do we do now?

"I don't know. These failures have exposed not only familiar political problems, but deep-rooted human weakness. All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialise and start facing a political reality we've sought to avoid. The conversation starts here."

- George Monbiot, "Climate change enlightenment was fun while it lasted. But now it is dead".

Perhaps the UK's best known writer on ecological issues, George Monbiot has now given up on a sane institutional response to climate change. This is more or less the same discussion as back here.

My response would still be to say that I agree with Monbiot insofar as expecting governments and other institutions to respond in ways that solve or largely dodge the problem has for some time been wishful thinking, however, it remains the case that their actions over the coming months and years will make significant differences to the lives of millions as we face increasingly difficult situations.

One example of this concerns whether city governments prevent or allow further development on flood plains. Another, whether remaining biodiversity is respected and preserved or trashed for short term gain. Such examples can be multiplied many times over. Even if the cumulative response still falls well short of what is required to prevent very bumpy times ahead, such decisions still make a significant practical difference one way or the other.

To use another (partial) analogy: if I receive a terminal diagnosis and become convinced that nothing can be done to save my life, do I go out and squander my goods (either in a hedonistic spree or on far-fetched miracle cures), or do I make sure that I have a generous and thoughtful will drawn up, and seek to use my remaining days to bless others?
I also agree that part of a healthy response at this stage is to build resilience at whatever levels we can (certainly including, though not limited to, local resilience) and I will say more about this in coming posts. Some call this building lifeboats (or I heard a paper at a Christian Ethics conference recently that called it "ark building"). There are some serious problems with the metaphor, but the basic idea is sound.


fpteditors said...

Liberal to-do list:
1. give up on govmt's - check
2. stop feeding trolls - in progress
3. stop spreading gloom
4. realize that for the poor apocalypse is here already
5. join the free transit campaign

byron smith said...

Comment I came across recently expressing the despairing hedonist response:

Eat, drink and be merry.
For tomorrow we fry.