Interview with George Monbiot  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

George Negus has an interview with George Monbiot on SBS's Dateline program - Interview with George Monbiot (video).

GEORGE NEGUS: George, it is good to see you again. We definitely want to talk to you about the link that you draw between the volcano drama, as it were, and other things, but I can't have you there as a British commentator without asking you about what they are calling here, 'Clegg mania'. What the heck is going on that suddenly, out of the blue, there's this guy that has shot from practically nowhere, in our terms, to potentially Number 10?

GEORGE MONBIOT, COLUMNIST, 'THE GUARDIAN': Well, the world's most boring election seems to have been turned on its head, and there really does seem to be a possibility of a very serious upset indeed here in the United Kingdom. My God, many of us are thinking "It's about time". We have had this 2-party system for a very long time. It feels very stale, very old fashioned, there's very little dividing Labour and the Conservatives. Suddenly, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats seems to be steaming forward. The party which has always been in third place now looks as if it has a genuine chance of coming at least second, and even possibly first - according to some opinion polls. And he's got Labour and the Conservatives really worried here. ...

GEORGE NEGUS: A little bit of Obama about it, George?

GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, you know, it has been greatly exaggerated. It's not an Obama effect really. It's not as if Nick Clegg is this fantastic, charismatic world-striding leader figure. It is just that the other two are so dull and hopeless. ...
GEORGE NEGUS: It is going to make for a very interesting couple of weeks that is for sure. George, we got you here really to talk about, if you like, another kind of volcanic explosion. We have got one with Nick Clegg, and that's the worst play on words I am going to make tonight, you've drawn this amazing link between the volcanic catastrophe, whatever we would like to call it, and the airlines, and in fact, the banking crisis and the whole GFC. Now, is that the longest bow you have ever drawn? What do you actually mean when you say that a link can be made between the GFC, the banking crisis, and what has happened in Iceland and the airlines this week with the volcanic eruption?

GEORGE MONBIOT: I think what both the airlines issue, the volcanic issue, and the banking crisis show us is that society becomes so complex that it effectively becomes unmanageable and a small disruption - the butterfly's wing over the Atlantic - can throw the whole thing into meltdown. Now, this is what we saw with the banking crisis, where the impoverished mortgage defaulters in the United States effectively brought down, or very nearly brought down, the whole world's financial systems. Because everything was so interlinked and so complex and so hard to understand and there was so a little give in the system, that a small disruption like that could create an enormous effect. Now, we saw the same with the ash cloud that we have become so dependent on aviation, which was previously a very small component of our economy, and aviation is so susceptible, it's so vulnerable to disruption for a number of reasons - partly because of climatic and physical changes, but also because of its enormous energy demands and its very high cost.

GEORGE NEGUS: You actually said, "Over the past few days, living under the flight paths, people have seen the future, and they like it." Are you suggesting that we just have to pull back?

GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, the party is going to end one way or another - not least because of the prospect of peak oil, where the supplies of liquid transport fuels are just not going to be available to the same extent that they are today. So, we either recognise that and try to forestall the tremendous disruption that will be caused by engineering a soft landing, or we wait like rabbits in the headlight for the truck to run us over. Or rather, for the truck not to be able to move down the road at all because there is no petrol in it! ...

GEORGE NEGUS: In the last few days you have been called a few things I imagine like a volcano worshipper, was one that I saw, but this quote I would like you to react to: "These crazy green, anti-humanist types, have celebrated the volcano as scoring a long overdue victory by nature over us horrible humans :with all our nasty civilisation and progress, such as air travel." What I guess he is writing you off as, George, as a doomsdayer?

GEORGE MONBIOT: It is precisely because I care about what happens to humans that I am interested in these questions. Many people try to create this false dichotomy between caring for the environment and caring about humanity, but the most anti-human position you can possibly have is not to give a stuff about the environment because human beings are totally dependent on that environment. It is this sort of ultra-right-wing attempt to defer and to deny the problem by trying to cast this as some opposition between environment and humanitarian concerns. The two concerns are one.


Monbiot channels the living Tainter

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