Rebelling Against Extinction – George Monbiot
Rebelling Against Extinction
19th October 2018 <www.monbiot.com/2018/10/19/rebelling-against-extinction/#>Share54 <www.monbiot.com/2018/10/19/rebelling-against-extinction/#>
When governments abandon us, we must step up
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 17th October 2018
It is hard to believe today, but the prevailing ethos among the educated elite was once public service. As the historian Tony Judt documented in *Ill Fares the Land* <www.penguin.com/static/pages/features/illfarestheland/>, the foremost ambition among graduates in the 1950s and 1960s was, through government or the liberal professions, to serve their country. Their approach might have been patrician and often blinkered, but their intentions were mostly public and civic, not private and pecuniary.
Today, the notion of public service seems as quaint as a local post office. We expect those who govern us to grab what they can, permitting predatory banks and corporations to fleece the public realm, then collecting their reward in the form of lucrative directorships. As the Edelman Corporation’s Trust Barometer survey <cms.edelman.com/sites/default/files/2018-01/2018%20Edelman%20Trust%20Barometer%20Global%20Report.pdf>reveals, trust worldwide has collapsed in all major institutions, and government is less trusted than any other.
As for the economic elite, as the consequences of their own greed and self-interest emerge, they seek, like the Roman oligarchs fleeing the collapse of the Western Empire <www.resilience.org/stories/2018-08-07/how-the-world-elites-are-going-to-betray-us-lessons-from-roman-history/>, only to secure their survival against the indignant mob. An essay by the visionary author Douglas Rushkoff this summer, documenting his discussion <www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/23/tech-industry-wealth-futurism-transhumanism-singularity> with some of the world’s richest people, reveals that their most pressing concern is to find a safe refuge from climate breakdown, economic and societal collapse. Should they move to New Zealand or Alaska? How will they pay their security guards once money is worthless? Could they upload their minds onto supercomputers? Survival Condo, the company turning former missile silos in Kansas into fortified bunkers, has so far sold every completed unit <www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/super-rich-buying-apocalypse-safe-bunkers-protection-natural-disasters-nuclear-attack-kansas-us-a7833641.html> .
Trust, the Edelman Corporation observes <www.edelman.com/research/2017-trust-barometer-global-results>, “is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function.” Unfortunately, our mistrust is fully justified. Those who have destroyed belief in governments exploit its collapse, railing against a liberal elite (by which they mean people still engaged in public service) while working for the real and illiberal elite. As the political economist Will Davies points out <www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/opinion/brexit-conservatives-boris-trump.html>, “sovereignty” is used as a code for rejecting the very notion of governing as “a complex, modern, fact-based set of activities that requires technical expertise and permanent officials.”
Nowhere is the gulf between public and private interests more obvious than in governments’ response to the climate crisis. On Monday, the UK’s energy secretary, Claire Perry, announced that <www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/10/14/uk-fires-starting-gun-race-zero-emissions-economy/>she has asked her advisers to produce a roadmap to a zero carbon economy. On the same day, fracking commenced <www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/15/fracking-protesters-blockade-cuadrilla-site-where-uk-work-due-to-restart> at Preston New Road in Lancashire, enabled by the permission Perry sneaked through parliament <www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jul/24/cuadrilla-gets-go-ahead-to-start-fracking-at-lancashire-site> on the last day before the summer recess.
She has justified fracking on the grounds that <www.independent.co.uk/environment/fracking-cuadrilla-lancashire-fossil-fuels-claire-perry-climate-change-a8462266.html> it helps the country affect a “transition to a lower-carbon economy”. But fracked gas has net emissions similar to <thinkprogress.org/methane-leaks-erase-climate-benefit-of-fracked-gas-countless-studies-find-8b060b2b395d/> or worse than <www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-led-study-solves-a-methane-puzzle>those released by burning coal. As we are already emerging from the coal era <www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/05/uk-coal-fired-power-plants-close-2025>in the UK without its help, this is in reality a transition away from renewables and back into fossil fuels. The government has promoted the transition by effectively banning onshore wind farms <www.independent.co.uk/voices/tories-onshore-wind-farm-production-turbines-climate-change-a8327966.html>, while overriding local decisions to impose fracking by central dictat <www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/06/uk-fracking-given-go-ahead-as-lancashire-council-rejection-is-overturned>. Now, to prevent people from taking back control, it intends to grant blanket planning permission <www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism> for frackers to operate.
None of it makes sense, until you remember the intimate relationship between the fossil fuel industry, the City (where Perry made her fortune <www.claireperry.org.uk/about-claire>) and the Conservative party, oiled by the political donations <www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/23/oil-bosses-have-given-390000-to-tories-conservatives-under-theresa-may> flowing from both sectors into the party’s coffers. These people are not serving the nation. They are serving each other.