George Monbiot on recycling, consumption, population growth, China and just about everything that matters
There are some arguments that we just never win at TreeHugger; whether recycling is bullshit or that Growing consumer consumption is a bigger problem than growing population. It just goes against the conventional wisdom.
In what I think is one of the best articles I have read from George Monbiot or anybody else in a very long time, the Guardian columnist and author takes on the conventional wisdom and just nails it in Let's stop hiding behind recycling and be honest about consumption. It is a must-read that starts at a party in London:
At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded: "Oh I agree, the environment is so important. I'm crazy about recycling." But the real problem, she explained, was "people breeding too much".
He responds by noting that the rate of population growth is slowing just about everywhere, and that the real problem was increasing consumption.
As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to others: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.
Monbiot goes on to note that one of the reasons that China is building so many power plants and burning so much coal is that we have all offhsored our production, and our pollution and our carbon footprints, to them. How we are not willing to even discuss it.
The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.