George Monbiot

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George Monbiot

George Joshua Richard Monbiot (born 27 January 1963) is a journalist, columnist, author, academic, and environmental and political activist in the United Kingdom who writes a weekly column for The Guardian newspaper.


[edit] Family

Monbiot's father, Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot, was the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and Chairman of the National Convention, prior to becoming landlord of a North London pub.[1] His mother, Rosalie, the elder daughter of Roger Gresham Cooke, M.P.[2] is a Conservative councillor who led South Oxford district council for a decade.[3] George grew up in Henley-on-Thames, in ‘a large country house with a garden that backed onto Peppard Common[4] According to family legend, the Monbiots were originally called Beaumont, descendants of the Ducs de Coutard, who fled the French Revolution [5]

Monbiot lives in Machynlleth, Wales. He has one daughter.

[edit] Education and career

Monbiot was educated at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, where he won an Open Scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read Zoology. He has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics), and East London (environmental science). He is visiting professor of planning at Oxford Brookes University.[6]

On graduating, he joined the BBC Natural History Unit as a radio producer, making natural history and environmental programmes. He transferred within the BBC to the World Service, where he worked briefly as a current affairs producer and presenter, before leaving to research and write his first book.[7]

Working as an investigative journalist, he travelled in Indonesia, Brazil, and East Africa. His activities led to his being made persona non grata in several countries[8] and being sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in Indonesia.[9] In these places, he was also shot at,[10] beaten up by military police,[10] shipwrecked[10] and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets.[11] He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria.[12]

In Britain, he joined the roads protest movement, but was denounced as 'nothing but a bandwagoner' [13] and a 'media tart' [14]. He was attacked by security guards, who drove a metal spike through his foot, smashing the middle metatarsal bone. His injuries left him in hospital. Sir Crispin Tickell, a former British diplomat at the United Nations, who was then Warden at Green College, Oxford, made the young protester a fellow, so that he had an office to organise his campaign from [15]. He was an active member of the Pure Genius!! campaign and co-founded The Land is Ours, which has occupied land all over the country. Its first notable success was in 1997, when it occupied thirteen acres (five hectares) of prime real estate on the river in London upon which owners Diageo intended to build a superstore. The protesters beat Diageo in court, built an "eco-village" and held on to the land for six months.[6]

Among his best-known articles are his critique of David Bellamy's climate science,[16] his description of an encounter with a police torturer in Brazil,[17] his attack on libertarian interpretations of genetics[18] his discussion of the ethics of outsourcing,[19] and his attack on the politics of Bob Geldof and Bono.[20]

[edit] Solutions to control the climate

Monbiot believes that drastic action coupled with strong political will is needed to combat global warming. Monbiot has written that climate change is the "moral question of the 21st century" and that there is little time for debate or objections to a raft of emergency actions he believes will stop climate change, including: setting targets on greenhouse emissions using the latest science; issuing every citizen with a 'personal carbon ration'; new building regulations with houses built to German passivhaus standards; banning incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights, and other inefficient technologies and wasteful applications; constructing large offshore wind farms, replacing the national gas grid with a hydrogen pipe network; a new national coach network to make journeys using public transport faster than using a car; all petrol stations to supply leasable electric car batteries with stations equipped with a crane service to replace depleted batteries; scrap road-building and road-widening programmes, redirecting their budgets to tackle climate change; reduce UK airport capacity by 90%; closing down all out-of-town superstores and replacing them with warehouses and a delivery system.[21]

In the Guardian Monbiot wrote: ‘flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable, in terms of its impact on human well-being, as child abuse’.[22] Later he conceded that he did himself fly 'hypocritically or paradoxically, depending on your point of view'.[23] Accused of hypocrisy by Julie Burchill, Monbiot defended himself in a column, 'Hypocrites unite!' [24]

Monbiot says the campaign against climate change is 'unlike almost all the public protests' that came before it:

It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.[25]

Monbiot also thinks that economic recession can be a good thing for the planet: "Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened waste of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse? Surely the rational policy for the governments of the rich world is now to keep growth rates as close to zero as possible? " [26] [27] While he does recognize that recession can cause hardship, he points out that economic growth can cause hardship as well. For example, the increase in sales of jet skiis would count as economic growth, but they would also cause hardships such as water pollution and noise pollution.[28]

Monbiot purchased a Renault Clio (diesel) after moving to a small town in mid-Wales in 2007, leading to charges of hypocrisy.[29] Similarly he has also travelled through Canada and the United States, campaigning on climate change and promoting his book. He contends that this travel was justifiable as it sought to boost the case for much greater carbon cuts there.[30][31]

He is the patron of the UK student campaign network People & Planet[32] and appears in the film The Age of Stupid, set for release in February 2009.

[edit] Published works

George Monbiot's first book was Poisoned Arrows (1989), a work of investigative travel journalism exposing the transmigration programme funded by the Suharto government and the World Bank, and the devastating effects on both the migrants and the indigenous people of West Papua. It was followed by Amazon Watershed (1991) which documented expulsions of Brazilian peasant farmers from their land and followed them thousands of miles across the forest to the territory of the Yanomami Indians, and showed how timber bought in Britain was being stolen from indigenous and biological reserves in Brazil. His third book, No Man's Land: An Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania (1994), documented the seizure of land and cattle from nomadic people in Kenya and the Tanzania, by - among other forces - game parks and safari tourism.

In 2000, George Monbiot published Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. The book examines the role of corporate power within the United Kingdom, on both a local and national level, and argues that corporate involvement in politics is a serious threat to democracy. Subjects discussed in the book include the building of the Skye Bridge, corporate involvement in the National Health Service, the role of business in university research and the conditions which influence the granting of planning permission.

Monbiot at a Make Poverty History rally in Scotland

Monbiot's fifth book, The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order, was published in 2003. The book is an attempt to set out a positive manifesto for change for the global justice movement. Monbiot criticises anarchism and Marxism, arguing that any possible solution to the world's inequalities must be rooted in a democratic parliamentary system. The four main changes to global governance which Monbiot argues for are a democratically-elected world parliament which would pass resolutions on international issues; a democratised United Nations General Assembly to replace the unelected UN Security Council; the proposed International Clearing Union which would automatically discharge trade deficits and prevent the accumulation of debt; and a fair trade organisation which would regulate world trade in a way that protects the economies of poorer countries.

The book also discusses ways in which these ideas may be put into practice. Monbiot treads the path of a revolutionary, urging those who suffer the consequences of a global inequality predicated on developing world debt and subservience to utilise this debt and effectively hold the developed world to ransom. He posits that the United States and Western European states are heavily dependent on the existence of this debt, and that when faced with a choice between releasing the developing world from debt and the collapse of the global economy, their internal economic interests will dictate that they opt for the "soft landing" option. However, Monbiot emphasises that he does not present the manifesto as a "final or definitive" answer to global inequalities but intends that it should open debate and stresses that those who reject it must offer their own solutions. He argues that ultimately the global justice movement "must seek [...] to provide a coherent programme of alternatives to the concentrated power of the dictatorship of vested interests."

Monbiot's most recent book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, published in 2006, focuses on the issue of climate change. In this book, Monbiot argues that a 90% reduction in carbon emissions is necessary in developed countries in order to prevent disastrous changes to the climate. He then sets out to demonstrate how such a reduction could be achieved within the United Kingdom, without a significant fall in living standards, through changes in housing, power supply and transport. Monbiot concludes that such changes are possible but they would require considerable political will.

[edit] Honours

In 1995 Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement.[33] He has also won the Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize[citation needed] for his screenplay The Norwegian[citation needed], a Sony Award for radio production[citation needed], the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award[citations needed].[34] He has honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews and the University of Essex and an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University. In November 2007 his book Heat was awarded the Premio Mazotti, an Italian book prize. But he was denied the money given with the prize because he refused to travel to Venice to collect it in person, arguing that it wasn't a good enough reason to justify flying.

On 28 May 2008, Monbiot attempted to make a citizen's arrest of John R. Bolton at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Hay-on-Wye. The attempt was unsuccessful as Monbiot was grabbed and ejected by security men.[35]

[edit] Politics

He was involved initially with the Respect political party, but he broke with the organisation when it chose to run candidates against the Green Party in the 2004 election to the European Parliament.[36] He is a supporter of the magazine New Internationalist, which campaigns for social and environmental justice worldwide.

[edit] Miscellany

  • The pejorative political epithet "Moonbat" is often used by various political commentators to mock Monbiot.[37] Monbiot himself does not object to the epithet.[38]

[edit] See also

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Books

[edit] Articles

  • "Like oil, political courage seems to have peaked." [7] chinadialogue, 2008-26-02. Accessed 2008-07-28.
  • "The UK's new coal age." [8] chinadialogue, 2008-01-03. Accessed 2008-07-28.
  • "Fossil fuel free in 20 years?" [9] chinadialogue, 2007-07-12. Accessed 2008-07-28.
  • "Blind faith in oil growth." [10] chinadialogue, 2007-06-08. Accessed 2008-07-28.
  • "Turning up the heat." [11] chinadialogue, 2006-11-02. Accessed 2008-07-28.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Raymond Monbiot CBE, People, Conservative Party website
  2. ^ Marriages, p. 10, The Times, 9 December 1961
  3. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1996
  4. ^ Genevieve Fox, Independent, 9 May 1995
  5. ^ Live online: Q&A with George Monbiot, George Monbiot response, June 20, 1pm, 12:57pm Jun 20, 2007 GMT
  6. ^ a b About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006.
  7. ^ Monbiot CV on McSpotlight
  8. ^ "George Monbiot - short bio.". Penguin Books.,,1000047320,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-05-26. 
  9. ^ "In a globalised world of opportunity". The Sunday Times (UK). 2003-06-22. Retrieved on 2007-05-27. 
  10. ^ a b c George Monbiot, 1991. Amazon Watershed. Michael Joseph, London
  11. ^ George Monbiot, 1989. Poisoned Arrows: an investigative journey through Indonesia. Michael Joseph, London
  12. ^ George Monbiot, 1994. No Man's Land: an investigative journey through Kenya and Tanzania.
  13. ^ Green Anarchist 39, reproduced at!dead.htm
  14. ^ George Monbiot, 'The land is ours Campaign', in George McKay, DiY Culture, Party and Protest in nineties Britain, 1998, p 181
  15. ^ Genevieve Fox, Independent, 9 May 1995
  16. ^ "Junk Science" published in The Guardian 10 May 2005, accessed 9 March 2008.
  17. ^ "Hunting the Beast">[1]
  18. ^ "Libertarians Are the True Social Parasites">[2]
  19. ^ "The Flight to India">[3]
  20. ^ "Bards of the Powerful">[4]
  21. ^ The Guardian: Drastic action needed now [5]
  22. ^ Guardian, 29 July, 1999, reproduced at
  23. ^ ‘Environmental Feedback’, New Left Review, 45, May 2007, p 112
  24. ^ 'Guardian'Comment is Free site, 6 August 2008, reproduced at
  25. ^ Heat, London, Allen Lane, 2006, p. 215
  26. ^ Bird, Maryann (2008-04-10). "Debate: is economic recession good for the environment?". chinadialogue. Retrieved on 2008-07-28. 
  27. ^ Monbiot, George (2007-10-09). "Bring on the recession". Retrieved on 2008-07-28. 
  28. ^ Monbiot, George (2007-10-09). "Bring on the recession". Retrieved on 2008-07-28. 
  29. ^ Mr Green goes motoring, The Times, 3 June 2007
  30. ^ George Monbiot Canada tour 2006, November 2006
  31. ^ George Monbiot in Vancouver, 23 November 2006
  32. ^ People & Planet - Our Patron George Monbiot
  33. ^ Monbiot Profile on Global 500 Forum Accessed 10 November 2006.
  34. ^ About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006
  35. ^ [6] "" 28 May 2008 Accessed 28 May 2008
  36. ^ "Monbiot quits Respect over threat to Greens" The Guardian, 17 February 2004. Accessed 10 November 2006
  37. ^ The Guardian, 17 November 2003 "...with political theorist and global justice guru George "Moonbat" Monbiot (that's the nickname his rightwing critics give him)..." Accessed 14 November 2006
  38. ^ The Guardian, 17 November 2003 Accessed 1 December 2006

[edit] External links

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