Environmentalists debate rationing

In: Uncategorized

21 Jun 2007

A debate between two leading growth sceptics in New Left Review on how best to tackle climate change. Clive Hamilton, a leading Australian environmentalist, attacks George Monbiot for, among other things, over-emphasising moral exhortation: “At times Monbiot is drawn into the most dangerous trap for environmentalists, the recourse to holier-than-thou moralizing.” Instead Hamilton argues that: “Insisting on a collective response to a collective problem is far more politically practical and environmentally responsible than a politics of guilt.”

Monbiot replies that, if anything, there needs to be moral emphasis on moral exhortation: “Is it true that I over-emphasize people’s failure to do more to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions? I think, if anything, I understate it.” He goes on to conceded – judiciously covering his own back – that: “We are all stinking hypocrites”.

What this really seems to represent is a debate about the best way to achieve rationing. Hamilton implies the state must play a direct role – presumably this is what he means by “a collective response” – while Monbiot stresses the need for individual moral exhortation. It is a debate about tactics and emphasis rather than principles. Both of them are hinting at what they see as need for drastic cuts in the standard of living of the developed world.

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