One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

I’m the last person to want to leap to the defence of that lying, murdering cunt Blair – but in the spirit of contrarianism I shall grit my teeth and try.

He’s started back peddling now…but he’s recently got himself into trouble by saying that climate change won’t be reversed by individual sacrifices like telling people not to fly on holiday.

He’s right, isn’t he?

Yes, airliners are vastly more polluting per passenger mile than other forms of transport. But their overall impact pails into insignificance against the number of passenger miles travelled by car. And then there’s the road miles travelled by goods. And not to forget the sea miles propelled by inefficient, polluting, lo-tech marine engines (including the freight carried between coastal container distribution centres around the coast of Europe. New cars carried from port to port around Britain are a significant carbon source).

And then there’s stuff like using low-energy lightbulbs and not leaving the TV on standby overnight. All very laudable, but even they are pissing against the wind when one considers:

  • The inefficiency of manufacturing and distribution processes.

  • The necessity for growth within our economic system. (Basically, if capitalist economies lose speed, they collapse).

  • The understandable desire of emerging economies to match 1st world standards of living.

So Michael O’Leary of Ryanair* is right, isn’t he?. All this focus on air travel simply serves to make the public feel guilty about weekend breaks while the rich continue to afford their high-carbon, jetsetting lifestyle (leaving aside the fact that much budget airline traffic consists of East European labour we import to keep our economy up to speed). And trivia like lightbulbs pass guilt from industry and consumers. And we’re meant to feel guilty about driving along gridlocked motorways from areas of affordable housing to wherever our employers decide to base their industrys. And the third world had better feel guilty about the way they’re stopping us from fixing the atmosphere that we’ve been fucking up for 100** years (that is – if we were fixing it).

No, Blair’s right, on this one surely? It’s not bottom-up effort that’s needed. Even Green Consumerism isn’t going to change industry. Let's face it, if they pump it out cheap enough, we’ll buy it. The EC has been talking about a ‘new industrial revolution’. That’s about right, isn’t it?

But let’s have a think about the last industrial revolution. It didn’t come about through individuals’ desire for smelted iron, steam transport, mechanised weaving, etc. etc. It was part of an economic process. The definitive description of this process and the resultant pain is here. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad to be a privileged member of a modern, affluent society – but it’s that process that’s killing us, isn’t it? So agreed, big solutions are needed***. And by its nature, capitalism can’t deliver. Can we have a new industrial revolution without a revolution?

* O’ Leary has an interesting but highly successful attitude to customer care which can be summed up (and I think he has summed it up) as “If you don’t like it, fuck off.” His continued profitability is evidence that customers don’t care about the pollution emitted by his aircraft.

** "A hundred years of transportation whoopee." Kurt Vonnegut: A Man Without A Country.

*** By the way – assuming that, as James Lovelock thinks, we’ve passed the tipping point, these solutions will need to go waaaay beyond cutting down on energy use.

The Curse of the Bonobo

I'm a regular visitor to the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre - a little-known treasure consisting of a number of warehouses 'round the back of an industrial estate where a nice lady called Pauline will show you neolithic stone balls and stuffed weasels or pull paintings and drawings out of massive storage racks to order. Last week I got her to pull out a sketch of Scooby Doo and Shaggy by their creator, Iwao Takamoto. And now - bugger me! - he's dead!*

Moral: Never offer to show me your etchings.

* What with Joe Barbera, this is the second creator of Scooby Doo I've killed in a fortnight. I'd have got Hannah too, if it wasn't for those pesky, meddling kids.


Dan Goodman said...

I think you're right - individual action can't save the planet and some, but not all green campaigners are missing the point on this in a fairly big way.

psychocandy said...

I still don't think individual action is a bad idea, though. I'd like to think I'm at least a teensy part of the solution, as well as part of the problem.

Re: killing off cartoonists- does this extend to anyone other than artists? If so, do you take requests?

Edward said...

not all green campaigners are missing the point on this

Absolutely, Dan. And you lot on the anarchist fringes have theb right idea. I just wonder how we're going to dismantle capitalism first?

I'd like to think I'm at least a teensy part of the solution, as well as part of the problem.

Welll...I doubt you were ever imtentionally part of the problem. It's hard to opt out of a capitalist society. And survive. But it seems to me that much energy is being expended on trivial green consumerism. Its effect on the problem (ie capitalist economy) and hence on climate change is analgous to that of a pushing motion on string.

Not that I'm proposing any solutions, you notice. Cassandra the Bonobo.