Friday, November 09, 2007

Seven Reasons Why The Campaign Against Climate Change Is Good For A Laugh

[or, Selected Notes from a Mass Meeting, with Panel, held at Friends House on November 8th.]

1. It made consumerism feel like a sort of black magic. At one point in the floor session, John Sauven's reply to a questioner included the words 'We mostly exceed our fair carbon ration even if we don't fly, and I won't embarrass you by asking if you do fly...' Total Heroes moment there, hand gesture and all. Flying, for Christ's sake, what could be more magical than that? We were told, in a variety of different ways, that emissions in the developing world are not increasing and ours are not decreasing, that we're merely outsourcing our own consumption - having the things we use made on the other side of the world, where it will create even more inefficient mess. (The Moonbat helpfully added that we wipe our asses on trees shipped over from Brazil). I own more books and more changes of clothing than any medieval queen, you know? And when Sauven said all advertising is pornography and that industry should be ended...we're dipping back to before economics, back to objects with moral dimensions, back to magic as if we never left.

At the CCC's heart is the belief that this way of living is going to radically change our world, probably destroy vast swathes of it. The government's target is for a 60% cut in emissions by 2030; apparently this target was pegged not by science, but by the CBI - science suggests that to avoid runaway warming we need to cut emissions by 90% as soon as we possibly can.

2. The Moonbat. The Moonbat! He's a lovely voice - even pronounces 'solution' correctly, and vanishingly few people can do that without sounding like an utter twat. I wrote down some of the things he said;
"As an environmentalist I quite like pain. We all thrash ourselves with nettle leaves in the morning before breakfast."

"I don't care very much about trawlermen."

"I was a great supporter of the Stern Report, until I read it."

"Microgeneration requires ambient energy, and people avoid living in places with high ambient energy - the tops of mountains, the middle of the Sahara desert, or several hundred miles offshore..."

"There are only three questions [about stopping climate change] left; if not now, then when? If not here, then where? If not us, then who?"

[as with almost all nicknamage, I call him the Moonbat because I love him, really I do.]

3. Everything they were talking about - about shutting down Drax again, about supergluing people to the Shell HQ, about taking to the streets on December 8th, about building a mass movement, about the failure of the million-strong Stop The War campaign - is directly tied to the meaningless of civic life in the UK. These people, driven people who know their science, who know what has to be done, who care so deeply about the preservation of life and of wellbeing and even of our crazy magic economy - cannot do anything to influence the course of events other than by putting a tick in a box once every five years, and by supergluing themselves to Shell and maybe writing a few letters here and there. Meanwhile, government climate targets are set by the CBI.

This is why we need to move towards direct democracy as soon as we possibly can.

[addendum: a recent Moonbat piece on this very subject.]

4. The repeated allusions to 'total war'. If stopping cimate change were the overriding priority of our society, we would, as happened in the USA right after Pearl Harbour, rapidly turn our entire economy towards that priority. (The Moonbat in particular was confident that we haven't lost this one yet, and he firmly believes that Europe, if Europe so wanted, could be generating all its power from renewable sources within a few years.)

Could we? Would we? That was sixty years ago. That was a world ago. That was back when we actually made things here, back before we substituted real economic growth for the City boom, back when such efforts didn't require renationalisation and imported labour, back when dissent was a different beast. It's really weird, from here in the magic carpet world, to listen to people harking back to long-gone efforts as if it could ever be the same again.

5. The confidence in carbon rationing. It's the only fair way of making cuts, sure. It also wouldn't work, wouldn't last, wouldn't be secure, and would be extremely morally iffy.

There were 600 people in Friends House that night, some there because they cared, some there because it was free and interesting. Given carbon rationing, how would we have 'paid' for the lighting and ventilation? Would the organisers bear the burden, or would all the attendees share in it? How about other public events - bonfires, for instance. And who picks up the tab for your copy of the Metro? These are tiny things, but they add up - would rationing only cover large indiscretions like food miles and flight? Or would it cover everything? If the government builds a new hospital, who covers its power use? Patients, taxpayers, who? For individual consumers, out there going places and buying things, rationing would work. Consider it on a social, community level and it shatters.

We're used enough to chip and pin, right? But there's always the odd granny out there who doesn't get it; people who don't use cards, or don't know their PINs, even some who can't use them due to disabilities. My teenage brother has only just got his first one, and still goes to the bank counter because he's shy of ATMs. Carbon rationing would have to be used by everyone; it would have to be simple enough and secure enough for, at the very least, everyone in Europe to be able to use it, no getouts for disability or incomprehension or unwillingness.

And what happens if someone urgently needs something - a meal, an ambulance, a morning after pill, a ride home - and finds they have no carbon ration left?

And then it has to be secure, and those who calculate the carbon costs must be accurate. I'm not even going to go there.

6. Crowd demographics. I'll tell you a secret; I'm tired of gender. I'm fed up of it, it's exhausting me, I'd like to see it abolished, and I wish I could put it down, but I can't, because it has no intention of putting me or anyone else down, and that's the fault of people like the CCC, and just about everything else I walk into.

There were, we were told, 600 people at the meeting; all but perhaps a dozen were white. I'd hazard that the gender split was dead even. Where that got interesting was when the floor was opened at the end (nb: not like that, though the reference is appropriate) - of those, we'll call it 20 people, who raised their hand to put forward a question, I counted only three women, and only two not-white men.

Even on the far left, political discussion is still all about Mr Special White Guy.

Why? Why the crap do vast numbers of women enter that political space as listeners, and then not even attempt to contribute? And why - even after being challenged about this last year at Conway Hall, by a fantastic black lady from the floor - do the CCC organisers seem oblivious to the whole race/gender thing? They were speaking of building mass movements, of the pressure from the street that had brought social changes in the past - how the heck are they going to get that if they've come up with a way of having meetings that gives access [almost] only to Mr Special White Guy?

No, it's not their fault - it seemed to be like any other white boys' club, with questions taken from men they knew, men with clipboards, men from thinktanks, men of science, men with opinions, men who knew other men. It's interesting how the gender split among the organisers (all white, except the West London rep lady) worked out; there were three male panellists - two campaigners (the CCC head and the Greenpeace head) and a writer - while the compère, the Climate Camp (ie. direct action) head, at least half of the local London organisers, and (as far as I could see) all the people carrying microphones around were women. As if the boys are meant to talk about the big ideas while the girls do all the work. I've heard this one before. It's not the CCC's fault, but it's their problem and they haven't a hope in hell of building any kind of popular movement without fixing things so they have a room that at least looks like London and sounds like London.

(The unbearable whiteness is echoed on the other side of the same coin, in the UK's new religious movements - not the same thing as the green movement, but there's a hefty overlap. I touched on that a little bit here, not that that post is recommended reading, being as long and rambly as it is, but hey.)

7. John Sauven. He's a really special white guy. He even started a sentence with 'The cost purely from an American perspective -' (No, of course he's not American, and I doubt he's ever lived or worked there, he's just making shit up). He also said 'Money isn't a problem - the world is awash with money.' No, really, who the fuck are you and what planet are you from?

A lot of suggested emissions cuts are based on European metropolitan privilege; the Moonbat cheerfully announces that the Sahara gets 15 hours of sunlight a day so we could just go run a 4500-mile DC power line to it and - Maybe he's forgotten that it's not his desert? (I actually doubt it has escaped his mind - more likely he thinks it would enrich the region, because the oil markets have totally proven how that works - but it wasn't something he touched on). Individual cuts also work for us but not them; while we develop ever more fuel-efficient cars, our secondhand gas guzzlers, like so much of our secondhand clothing, get shipped to Africa and sold on to people who've never had cars before, people who really benefit from having cars.

People like John Sauven need reminding that not everyone can be Mr Special White Guy like he is.

I've every intention of continuing to support the CCC, and I'll likely be outside the US Embassy with a placard on December 8th, but they remain in blissful single-issue obliviousness to their place in the world.

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