Paul Kingsnorth


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A national day?

23 April 2007

Well, it's St George's day. It's not always easy to tell, as it's usually accompanied by a long silence and a few embarrassed coughs. However, if you know what you're looking for you can spot the telltale signs that England's national day has come around once more. Signs include:

1. No official celebrations anywhere, except for a few idiotic ones reluctantly arranged by idiots.
2. Quite a lot of unofficial celebrations, as ordinary English people choose to express their officially unapproved-of national identity.
3. Tiresome rightwing articles about political correctness gone mad.
4. Tiresome leftwing articles about how Englishness = gas chambers, and how we should all be celebrating Eid or St Patrick's Day instead because we're all global citizens you know and ... oh, sorry, did I nod off?
5. People pointing out that St George was Lebanese, actually, and that therefore all expressions of English identity are absurd and/or illegitimate and that anyway there's no such thing as English culture, the Victorians invented it all you know ... and then sitting back smugly as if they were the first idiot ever to have said this.

I'm not a great fan of St George myself - he's a bit of a silly saint and, since he never set foot on English soil, a rather inappropriate one. If we must celebrate our national days with Christian martyrs I'd rather go back to St Edward the Confessor, who was our original patron saint until St George was promoted over him during the thirteenth century. Edward was more peaceful, thoughtful and interesting and he had the added benefit of actually being English. St George took his place when post-Norman crusader kings promoted his cause on the grounds that he was good at kicking Muslims about (not dragons; that came later). Another good reason to demote him, in my view. It's just provocation.

But I am firmly in favour of celebrating English national identity, and am heartily sick of the weaselly, anti-English political establishment (the one run by Scots) telling us we must not do so. I am sick, too, of being told by dopey liberals that the English are uniquely racist and oppressive and that their culture is uniquely debased and sordid.

Celebrating your culture roots you to place and to history. It provides a bulwark against placeless corporate globalisation. It tells you who you are. It takes that culture back from the morons on the far right and extends it to all English people, regardless of their skin colour. It is A Good Thing.

For your St George's Day reading, I prescribe an interesting article here which suggests a reason why the English establishment might be so afraid of such a cultural resurgence. Also an older article here, by me, which explains in more detail why I think it matters. There's some wonderful stuff here about what makes up the fabric of England, literally and culturally. Finally, here is the Campaign for an English Parliament. If it's good enough for the Scots it's good enough for us. Personally I'm rooting for English independence . But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

An intriguing experiment

20 April 2007
One of the best eco-things in the media over the last few months, for my money, has been Newsnight's 'Ethical Man', Justin Rowlatt, trying to live a low-carbon, vaguely green life for a year. His reports managed to be many of the things that greenies often fail to be when they try and communicate with the public: succinct, witty, fun to watch and realistic. They also avoided being some of the things that greenies often end up being: smug, self-righteous, depressing, catastrophic.

Now I've come across his American equivalent, No Impact Man, who is going to spend the next year trying to save the planet. Why?

I can't stand my so-called liberal self sitting around not doing anything about it anymore. The question is: what would it be like if I took the situation (or at least my tiny part of it) into my own hands? I'm finding out.

For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets‚?¶

This is nonsense, right? The little man, or woman, can do nothing in the face of global capitalism, and turning off a few lights makes bugger all difference while China produces a billion new fridges every second.

In my darkest moments I certainly think so. But in my lighter ones, I think I'm probably wrong. No Impact Man doesn't plan to save the world, after all. He plans to do his bit, as do I. We can't do it all; we shouldn't expect to. And after everything, it is still conceivable that we are all doomed and that nothing can save us. But living lightly is not, anyway, about 'saving the world'. It's about saving yourself, and it is it's own reward. I don't grow my own vegetables to bring down capitalism or prevent climate change. I just want to. It makes me happy. It is a better way to live than going to Tesco.

So I salute anyone who takes a step back, away from the Machine. Saving the world is probably impossible. Saving yourself, and doing your bit, isn't. So there are no excuses.

Carrots after the Apocalypse

19 April 2007
This article is a thought-provoking read which I can recommend to anyone who, like me, dreams of escape.

"Consider, for instance, the idea of growing all your own food. It's clearly better than relying on food from thousands of miles away ' from our current industrialized food economy, which figures 'it's always summer somewhere‚?Ě and so orders take-out from that distant field every night of the year. Compared with that, an enormous garden and a root cellar full of all you'll need for the winter is virtue incarnate. But if you believe in many of the (entirely plausible) horror stories about what's to come ' peak oil, climate change ' then the world ends with you standing shotgun in hand above your vegetable patch, protecting your carrots from the poaching urban horde."


Missing the point in style

18 April 2007
Planted my maincrop potatoes yesterday, but still have far too much to do down on the plot. Life is currently entirely dominated by vegetables and books. Still, things could be a lot worse.

I could, for example, be the sort of rich idiot who takes advantage of this new service from Harrods.

Having said that, I wonder if they'd come and dig out all my bramble roots for a tenner? That really would help. Or twenty quid at a push. Or does anyone else out there want a job? You get to work outside all day and I'll provide free tea and biscuits.

Back to work. I'm on chapter 8 of 9. We're getting there.

Land writes

10 April 2007
I'm sorry, OK? What else can I say? I hope you can forgive my absence, and that you've managed to cope without me. I was on holiday for a week - in Yorkshire, before anyone starts bleating about carbon emissions. Then it was Easter. And now ... Well, now it's barely three weeks until the deadline for my book to be submitted to the publisher. Just writing that sentence brought me out in a cold sweat. And writing that one. And that one. Mother of God, does it never end?

So my posts here might be a bit infrequent for a few weeks, I'm afraid. I haven't even updated my website with new articles, and I've been meaning to do that for weeks. And send a newsletter out. I'm sweating again.

Deep breath. Slow. Steady. Calm. Here is a picture of an artichoke:

That's to remind me of the good things. It's April, you see! One of my favourite months. The month in which the soil comes alive again, and I can get down my allotment in the evenings; start planting and hoeing and messing about in the dirt (which, incidentally, is now officially/scientifically Good For You). This year's new experiments are going to include my first ever artichokes, plus a few new potato varieties, some heritage herbs, an amazing collection of rare beans from all round the world (you'll have to wait for my June Ecologist column to see where I got them...) and a path-and-bed system I am building from scratch so that I never have to walk on the soil again.

This last bit is part of my long-term plan to turn my allotment into a 'no-dig' zone. Like any sane human, I despise digging with a passion and I have sworn never to do after this year. I have been inspired by reading this excellent book by the highly-experienced Charles Dowding, who grows veg commercially and hasn't dug his soil for 25 years. This, I am convinced is the way forward. A new dawn has broken, has it not? Or it will have done, when I've got this bleeding book out of the way.

Back to the inky coalface. Don't be a stranger. I will be back.

All for your own good

20 March 2007

Apply for a passport NOW - more info at

I've talked about National Identity Cards and the accompanying central database here before. Amongst the many erosions of personal liberty enacted by this government, this is surely the worst, and it enrages me. The given reasons for the card and the database's introduction seem to change with the weather - terrorism, ID fraud, security, efficiency, or simply because other countries are apparently doing it. Actually, none of them are doing it on this scale.

The government wants - demands, actually - your name, fingerprints and at least fifty other pieces of personal information about you on the biggest centralised database the world has ever seen. This is bad enough, but you can bet your life that the database will be extended once it exists. 'Orwellian' is a word that's bandied around far too much, but in this case it's starting to look apposite.

The excellent No2ID have been fighting this pernicious scheme since its inception, and they have outlined various ways in which you can avoid, for as long as possible, getting your name and details on this database. They include:

Renew your passport now
. From next month, people applying for a new passport will have to attend interviews and have their details collected for the beginnings of the database. I've already renewed mine, which means I won't have to do this for 10 years. With any luck, by then this mad scheme will be dead and buried.

Write to your MP
and tell them to vote against this sinister nonsense.

Sign this petition.

Vote Conservative. Oops, sorry - that one just slipped out. To be honest though, I am so depressed about the situation that it has crossed my mind once or twice. The Tories, you see, oppose ID cards - for now, anyway. It's unlikely that I would be driven to such desperate measures, but I suppose anything is possible.

Take your photograph!
This one is quite fun, actually. Next Monday, 26th March, is the day that the first of the new ID interrogation centres opens. No2ID are dubbing it 'ID-Day' and are organising demonstrations across the country. They want you to text a photograph of your face, with which they will make up a massive collage of those who resist the scheme: those who are faces, not numbers. I've already sent them mine, which should put them off their breakfast. If you value your liberty, I suggest you get snapping.

Tractors! Glorious Tractors!

14 March 2007

[Scene: a Channel Four post-mortem into The Great Global Warming Swindle is underway]

Tabitha: Thanks for coming in, Martin. First of all, congrats on a super show! It completely rocked. Everyone's talking about it!

Jezza: Usually through gritted teeth‚?¶

Durkin: Thanks, Tab. Champagne all round, then? Celebrate really sticking it to those Marxist so-called environmentalist Nazis.

Jezza: Marxist Nazis? That's a new one.

Max: I thought you were a Marxist anyway?

Tabitha: Oh Max, keep up. That was years ago. The media won't touch Marx now. Martin's a brave crusading filmmaker these days.

Jezza: Brave is one word, I suppose.

Durkin: I'm sensing some hostility in the room.

Jezza: Listen, Durkin. When this idiot Max commissioned you, we all thought it was agreed that you would produce an in-yer-face piece of crusading journalism.

Durkin: Well there must have been some misunderstanding. That wasn't the point at all. The point was to stick it to the eco-Nazis by any means necessary.

Tabitha: Well listen, that's the point, Martin. We asked you to come in because ' well, we just have a few concerns, is all‚?¶

Jezza: We're concerned that you totally ballsed it up again, just like you do every time we let you near a camera.

Durkin: Are you trying to censor me?

Jezza: Read your contract mate. Every time you make a film you interview people under false pretences and then selectively edit their words so they end up saying something completely different‚?¶.

Durkin: So?

Tabitha: It's great TV!

Jezza: Shut up Tab. So, the last time you did it we had to broadcast a prime-time apology. Which is why, this time, you were contractually obliged not to bloody do it again.

Max: And you did, didn't you, Martin? Look, this professor you interviewed is all over the press saying that you lied to him about the programme and then edited him so he sounded like he agreed with you.

Jezza: And he's talking about legal action. What have you got to say for yourself?

Durkin: I knew this would happen. I find it outrageous that you should attempt to censor my brave dissenting views. It's just absolutely bloody typical of the risk-averse, woolly liberal, eco-Nazi establishment. You just can't stand having your smug little bubbles punctured can you?

Jezza: Don't give me that false victimhood schtick.

Max: Look, the thing is, Martin, if you're going to bravely challenge the consensus you need to kind of, you know ' get your facts right?

Durkin: Facts? This is Channel Four!

Jezza: And your science.

Max: And it helps if you could use contributors who aren't paid by oil companies. And who actually kind of work on climate change sometimes.

Durkin: The science is fine. Your science guy checked it all over before we broadcast.

[Everyone looks at Crispin, accusingly]

Crispin: Well, it looked all right to me. But it has been five years since I did my GCSE physics.

Durkin: Listen, I know what's going on here. You bunch of eco-gimps don't have the guts to champion human progress. How do you think we got to this point, eh? Industrialism, scientific progress, Shakespeare, the Groucho, primetime documentaries ‚?¶ these things are the pinnacle of human achievement. Achievement which would be denied to us all if the eco-Nazis had their way. Do you want that? Is that what you want? Are you going to deny the fruits of challenging documentary-filmmaking to the Third World? Are you? It's pathetic. It's beyond satire.

Jezza: Tankies can't do satire.

Tabitha: I'm not an eco-gimp! I've got a coat made of foxes!

Jezza: Look what the fuck is all this anyway? We commissioned you to make a film, not a bloody sermon.

Durkin: What's the difference? Look, we have to stop the Eco-Nazis any way we can! It's not tofu that's going to save us, it's tractors! Glorious tractors, belching out carbon dioxide across the motherland! Tractors, produced in unprecedented numbers by our world-envied factories in the Urals! Science, industry and Man, marching forward together! Nothing shall stand in our way! Not even scientific reality!

Max: Christ, he's lost it.

Jezza: He's regressing. I was worried this would happen if we pushed him too far.

Durkin: Kulaks! Kulaks everywhere! Destroy them, brothers! Requisition their grain! Stamp on their counter-revolutionary faces! Progress!

Tabitha: On the bright side, the ratings were good.

In your face, eco-hairies!

4 March 2007

[Scene: The Channel Four current affairs documentary team are holding a commissioning meeting]

Crispin: Christ, not more meerkats, Max. I'm sick to my bootcuts of fucking meerkats! They don't even make them talk or anything. They just sort of stand there on their back legs. In the desert! Who designed that place? The lighting is soo severe. Meerkats are completely 1998.

Tabitha: He's right, peeps. Come on ' it's 2007! We've got to be up there, ahead of the curve in the ballpark. We need the next big thing!

[Jezza enters the room, sniffing and rubbing his nose]

Jezza: Guys, guys, I just had the most fantastic idea on the bog. Listen up, right. We get Charlotte Church right, she just got up the stick with that rugby playing guy, right, so her agent's all over us. And we get Jade, right ' she'll pay us to be on the telly now. We get Paris Hilton, right, and we get, oh I don't know, Melvyn Bragg or something, you know, for the highbrow hit? And we put them all in a house, right, and we fill it with cameras, right? And what they've got to do, right, they've got to go to the country together, right, and do up an old property, right, and then they've got to cook a big meal in it, right, and it's got to be like, nutritious, yeah? You know, that organic shit, the advertisers lap that up. And every week, right, the viewer gets to vote on which meal they like, right, and we can have Nigella coming in as a surprise guest, yeah‚?¶?

Tabitha: Jezza, that ' that is fucking genius‚?¶

Crispin: We're really pushing the envelope here, people.

Tabitha: Yah, we are in a goood place‚?¶

Max: [disgruntled] Nah, that's bollocks Jezza. That is just so completely last season. You're trying to pass off Paul Smith as Marios Schwab, man. You're a cunt.

Tabitha: Whoah, guys, guys... ease back on the pedal, yeah?

Jezza: Got any better ideas, you little troll?

Max: Yah, as it happens. Listen up to this peeps, it'll blow your Blahniks off. Right what's, like, the biggest news story around? What's in all the papers all the time?

[Pinterian pause]

Tabitha: Er ‚?¶ Madonna's baby?

Max: Completely 2006.

Jezza: Britney's breakdown?

Tabitha: Man, that's so big. Isn't there any way we can get Britney‚?¶?

Max: No, you dumbfucks! Global warming!

Tabitha: Global what?

Max: Global warming! Don't you watch the news? The planet's heating up, right, because we're all using the wrong lightbulbs or something, and all the eco-hairies are jumping up and down saying it's the end of the world.

Jezza: So what's new?

Tabitha: Christ, yah, they are so tiresome. Only the other day, right, I was in the Good Mixer, right, and I was just eating this prawn bruschetta, and some guy with, like, hair and stuff, starts telling me I'm killing mangoes or something. He was like really in my face and I was just, like, yah, will you just, like, go away?

Max: Well, listen, that's the whole point. Nobody likes to listen to all these hippies telling us we can't go on holiday and we have to shit in a bucket and then grow our food in it, or whatever. So, we do a documentary about how there's no such thing as global warming. It'll annoy the tits off them, and they'll be so busy getting each other to write letters to us that they won't have time to propose any more stupid documentaries about trees or oil.

Crispin: That is totally weapon. But who's gonna do it?

Max: I'm totally on to it. Remember that series we did back in 1997? What was it called, Against Nature? You know, the one where we slagged off all the eco-hairies? Well, the guy who made that ' Martin Durkin ' basically wants to do it again, except with added climate change.

Jezza [smugly]. What a short memory you have, Max. That series was so completely full of shit that we had to broadcast the only on-air apology in our history. Oh, and we had to say sorry to all the eco-hippies we stitched up making it. Or were you still on work experience at the time?

Max: Listen, you little twat. You've got no idea of the first rule of marketing: make it controversial! The fact that Durkin is a complete bullshitter who can't get any of his facts right and doesn't know one end of the camera from the other is a fucking bonus man! Every other fucking outfit in the multichannel world has got documentary-makers who know what they're doing. It's a complete cliché man. Durkin's the dogs! The fact that he's knowingly wrong is what makes him brilliant! And he's got this fantastic coterie of bitter old Marxists around him, who'll say anything to get on the telly because nobody's listened to them since 1989. It's a surefire hit! We can call it The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Tabitha: Show of hands? OK, it's all agreed. Brilliant work everyone. Lunch at the Groucho to celebrate? Spiked is paying.

The reality-based community strikes back

2 March 2007
This really is great. You could waste hours on it. I shouldn't really tell you about it on a Friday, because that's probably exactly what you'll do.

But what the hell. I have just come across Conservapedia - a jawdropping new web resource from the American right. You've probably used Wikipedia (I'll let you into a secret: 90% of the references of all the non-fiction books published in Britain are nicked from this. Don't be fooled by those fancy little superscript numbers. Anyone can write a book. Except me, apparently. I procrastinate by writing blogs).

Anyway, I've got news for you: Wikipedia is a communist conspiracy! It's full of evil liberal, atheist propaganda, and is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American'. Conservatives cannot be doing with it. They need their own, politically acceptable version. Now it has arrived.

This is such a great idea! It's really helping to take us even faster towards the happy situation where everyone in the world can live in their own little bubble, and not have to deal with anyone who thinks differently - unless they're killing them for being Infidels! I just can't wait for Islamopedia, Enviropedia, SWPedia (quite proud of that one) and Neolibopedia. It's just going to be great. Who wants to be part of the 'reality-based community' when you can make your own reality? Isn't the Internet fab?!

Let me know of any particularly excellent entries you find on Conservapedia. Here are a few of my favourites:

Joseph Stalin was also one of the worst murderers in the history of the world. He starved about 20 million Ukrainians. Many youths were brainwashed in his "youth groups", telling them how great he was and how great communism was. Also, he persecuted all religious groups, destroyed houses of worship, controlled the press, and forced women to work in factories just like men.

Evolutionists have no real evidence that macroevolution occurs and there is no consensus on how it allegedly occurs ... Creationists can cite material showing that there is no real fossil evidence for the macroevolutionary position and that the fossil record supports creationism.

Global Warming
The theory is widely accepted within the scientific community despite a lack of any conclusive evidence ... It should be noted that these scientists are motivated by a need for grant money in their field of climatology. Therefore, their work can not be considered unbiased, though no more than any scientist in any other field . Also, these scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him.

As Atheism is part of a scientific worldview which is based upon observable evidence rather than dogmatic insistence upon the veracity of superstitious claims which are unsupported by evidence, it also discounts supernatural phenomena such as the afterlife, divine revelation, ghosts, psychics, fairies, and other such ideas.

Oops! I think someone infiltrated that last one. Alert! A Godless liberal has been changing the entries! That's the trouble with this wiki business. It lets facts interfere with your worldview, dammit.

How to make enemies, part 94

28 February 2007
Today, I will be mostly prodding at peoples' comfort bubbles, threatening their self-image and making them hate me, over on the Climate Denial blog.

The headline isn't mine, by the way. Though it's probably a little late for backtracking.

Tell me why etc etc

26 February 2007
It's Monday morning and you don't want to work and neither do I. So here's a good way to start the week that doesn't involve Andrew Marr. Watch this to remind yourself of why you need to get some perspective, and then make a special effort not to work very hard today. Your political idleness will be contributing to the implosion of the global economy, which in my book has to be a good thing.

post 5

26 February 2007
can't dup NilClass

Don't look down

23 February 2007
Writing a book is a real pain in the bum. I'm sure that if I worked out the figures I would find that it involves at least three hours of faffing about to every hour of actually doing some work. In particular, every time I have to start new chapter there are several days of displacement activity to get through before I can get started. It seems unavoidable. What you must never do at this stage is even idly wonder whether anybody's going to read the bloody thing at the end of it all. Do that, and you're really stuffed.

You'll have guessed that I'm at the new chapter displacement stage now, which is why I'm writing this. It is also why I've been banging on about cars again over on the Ecologist blog. It's also why I'm listening to a new Italian band I've just discovered called Amycanbe. They're rather excellent. That's the pleasurable bit about this particular period of procrastination. The rest is just woe.

Well, at least it's the weekend. I'll see if I can get something useful done before the end of the day at least. After I've walked the dog. Oh, and done the hoovering.

Things I am not outraged about

22 February 2007
The trouble with being an activist/campaigner type is that you spend your whole life being outraged by things. Or, to put it more honestly, you become an activist/campaigner type because you spend your whole life being outraged by things. That's why activist/campaigner types are all of a similar psychological makeup, and you wouldn't want to go down the pub with any of them. They're exhausting. Take it from me.

Fortunately, as I get older I am outraged by fewer things. In my 20s I could barely walk down the street without spitting rage at some kind of injustice. It was very tiring, and probably deeply self-righteous too. It was once said of George Orwell that he couldn't blow his nose without lamenting the fate of the Lancashire cotton industry. I imagine that was tiring too. He always looks cross in those old photographs.

Bloody dog! It's just an outrage.

Fortunately, Orwell didn't have a blog. Blogs magnify this tendency, because when you get cross about things you can simply sit down and bang away at your keyboard, then immediately broadcast your intemperate and ill-thought-through rants to the wider world, for which the wider world is no doubt extremely grateful. There are hundreds of thousands of new blogs being started every day, and I'll bet that at least 90% of them are filled with furiously irrational bile. Don't go looking for them though. If you want furiously irrational bile you're in the right place already.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, this process is so exhausting that you don't write another blog for a week. This being a case in point. So, as a psychological exercise in improving my mental health and well-being, I will today be listing all of the things in the world which I'm not outraged about. Not even a little bit. In fact, I don't give a jockstrap about any of them. Don't care. La la la. I'm not listening. I'm going to the pub. No, I'm not signing your petition. Not interested. Go away. Pint of Old Speckled Hen please. La la la.

The number of marriages in Britain is at a ten-year low
So? Who am I, Melanie Phillips? Don't care.

Prince Harry might be sent to Iraq
Prince Whohe? Could I be less interested?

Michael Meacher has entered the Labour leadership race

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, did I dribble on your shoulder there?

Italy is in political crisis
What, again? Must be Thursday.

Andy Murray is good at tennis
Oh, please. Don't try my patience.

The French presidential race is really hotting up
Quick, hold me down or I might start literally levitating with excitement.

Britney is in rehab
I can't even be bothered to hope she dies. That's how little I care.

The Home Office has been accidentally releasing illegal immigrants again
I'm enjoying this. Another pint, landlord!

That's probably enough for one day. Much more of this and I will become dangerously indifferent. Next thing you know I'll be shrugging my shoulders when Jeremy Clarkson is knighted, and we'll all know this has gone too far.

Blog the dog

16 February 2007
A couple of bits of good news for the weekend. Firstly, a rival petition has been set up on the Downing Street website for those who don't like petrolheads. Click here to sign up in support of a national road pricing scheme, with all the money raised spent on public transport, cycling and walking schemes.

Secondly, a picture of my new puppy. I should point out that one of you asked me to post this up here, so it's not just unwanted soppiness. She is extremely cute though. Her name is Quincy, and I am training her to attack Jeremy Clarkson on sight. You never know when that might come in handy. There are few miseries in the world that can't be cured by pooches in my experience, even if they do sometimes wee on the carpet.

Wind, power and landscape

15 February 2007


Today is apparently the day when planning permission is expected to be granted for the massive new windfarm on the Hebridean island of Lewis. I can't help feeling miserable about this.

I've never been to Lewis, though I do love the west coast of Scotland. I don't live there though, and as such, the appearance or not of a windfarm on the island, and its impact on the landscape, is not much to do with me. Or is it? This is the question: the big question, which greens have not really tackled in any rational or consistent manner.

The Lewis windfarm will be enormous. There will be 234 turbines, each 140 metres high. Each blade alone will be more than 80 metres across. The energy they generate will be carried to the mainland by 210 pylons, each 26 metres high. 104 miles of road and 9 electrical substations will be built to service it all.

And it's all to be built on wild, remote land - on, in fact, a remarkable and uncommon type of Highland peat bog. The RSPB is against it because of its potential impact on birdlife. The local community, while split, is largely against it too, despite the bribes being paid to them by its developers.

The best writing I have read about the Lewis windfarm is by Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is a wonderful writer on landscape, nature, beauty and wildness, and our often complex mental and spiritual relationship to it. The Lewis wind farm - which he calls a wind factory - is to him a desecration. The pointless destruction of a remarkable and irreplaceable place - a destruction that is all the more heartbreaking because it is done in the name of protecting 'the environment':
Here is a thought experiment. Imagine that it has been discovered that clean green energy can be provided by burning the great masterpieces of landscape art. Imagine that, to this end, the government has spent £1bn subsidising large companies to evacuate the vaults and hanging spaces of the UK's national galleries. Imagine that canvases by Constable, Ruskin, Turner (these burn especially well) and Stanley Spencer, and the sculptures of Hepworth and Goldsworthy are being lifted from walls and plinths, and tumbled into furnaces.

The consequent energy yield is not huge at present: perhaps 6% of the national annual need. But the government plans to extend its programme drastically over the next 15 years, burning ever greater numbers of masterpieces. What - this thought experiment asks - would be the reaction of the public and the liberal press to such an energy programme?

There is only one answer. The policy would be deplored as vandalism of the worst kind. Even given the urgency of the global-warming crisis, it would be seen as a deep and irresponsible wounding of British culture - far too great a price to pay for a young industry of uncertain effectiveness.

A parallel dystopia is currently playing itself out in Britain. It is not irreplaceable landscape art that is being hastily sacrificed in the name of clean energy, but irreplaceable landscapes.

I'm heartily in agreement with MacFarlane. The prospect of raping some of our last wild places in order to provide 6% of our energy - profiting large corporations in the process - is not something that anyone daring to call themselves an environmentalist should be supporting. Even if you believe that tackling climate change is such a vital issue that it should override all else, projects like this remain a drop in the ocean in any case, their negative impacts far outweighed by their benefits.

And yet I have had arguments with more than one environmentalist on this subject. I have met people who are members of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (which itself opposes the Lewis wind factory, incidentally) who have told me that those who oppose windfarms are NIMBYs in the pay of the oil industry, whose objections should be ridden roughshod over in the name of sustainability. I have met Green Party members, who claim to be in favour of local democracy, who are apparently not in favour of it for people who live near proposed wind farms.

I have argued with people who have spent years of their lives campaigning against destructive infrastructure projects, from roads to power stations, imposed on local populations without their consent, who somehow believe that it is acceptable to do the same thing, with the same impact, in places like Lewis simply because it is done in the name of 'the environment'.

This kind of thing, to me, is a real test for the Green movement. If you believe in local democracy, you believe in local democracy. What is happening in Lewis is a travesty of local democracy. If you believe that massive and destructive infrastructure projects should not be imposed on people and places by governments and giant corporations, then that is what you believe - you can't change your mind about it when a project you like comes along. And you can't call yourself an environmentalist of any kind if you are willing to countenance the destruction of wild beauty in the name of human development.

Because that's what this is really about. The Lewis wind factory is not going to prevent climate change. It is, however, going to destroy something unique, and make a lot of money for a lot of developers in the process of doing so. It is a disgrace, and a disgrace which is all the more frightening for being done in the name of 'sustainability'.

There is nothing sustainable about this, either physically, environmentally, or spiritually. I became an environmentalist, if that's what I am, precisely because places like this moved me, and because I believed they had an intrinsic value beyond that which humans placed upon them. Those who advocate their destruction in the name of human desires or needs are not 'environmentalists' in any way in which I understand the word.

When I walk in the last wild uplands of Europe, I want to see skylarks not turbines. I want there to be places where Man's footprint is light or non-existent. To see them ravaged in some pathetic attempt to clean up a mess we have made elsewhere is not only heartbreaking, it is pointless. Anyone who cheers today when that planning permission is granted may be many things - but they're not any shade of green.

Step Away From The Vehicle!

13 February 2007
More on cars today, as we poke about in the underbrush of opinion on the subject. And in fairness I have to admit that, however much I hate the petrolheads, it's not all sweetness and light out there in road-pricing land.

This is because the scheme that the government is piloting would involve satellite tracking of every car in the country, allowing the powers that be to track your every move. And that's just while you're driving. When you get out of the car they can find you via their shiny new centralised national database, complete with copies of your DNA, fingerprints, current address, job and favourite sleeping position. For those of us who bother ourselves about such trifling things as civil liberties, this is something of a problem.

In other words, the principle behind road pricing is excellent but - as usual with this government - the practice looks like being a cockup before it's even started. John Vidal, the Guardian's environment editor, even go so far as to suggest that road pricing could be Labour's poll tax. I'm not sure about that, but others have suggested to me that whacking up petrol duty by 100% or so would have much the same effect as a complex, intrusive national pricing scheme.

As you can tell, I haven't really made my mind up. I am convinced of two things, though. Firstly, something radical needs to be done to curb car culture in this country, before it eats us all alive. And secondly, I still really hate the petrolheads. Hell, I could vaguely sort of see myself standing with them - or at least not spitting so much bile at them - if they were campaigning against road pricing on civil liberties grounds. But we all know this is not what it's about. If the government doubled petrol duty, you can bet your life they'd be out on the streets lowing about that instead.

Still, on this note, Tom Atkins has cheered me up by pointing me towards this video of Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond nearly getting killed by rednecks in America. Funny, I thought Clarkson was the defender of all things reactionary and comically right wing. Put him in with the big boys, though, and it seems he can't keep up. It's really very disappointing.

More motoring morons

12 February 2007
Continuing our thread about moronic petrolheads (and once you've got me started, it's hard to stop me) I direct your attention to an important petition, which you must sign today in order for it to be of any use.

You'll have read, no doubt, about the million-signature petition on the Downing Street website, knocked up by idiot drivers who want to stop road tolling in its tracks before it even begins. These are the same fuckwits who complain about speed cameras because they prevent them from driving at 70 miles an hour in 20 mile an hour zones, thus interfering with their constitutional right to kill as many children as they like, at whatever speed, wherever they like.

These people are morons. There is no better word for them, though there are many considerably ruder ones. They believe that they have a right to drive their stupid cars anywhere they stupidly like, whatever the stupid consequences. They are donkeys. I would seriously challenge their right to even vote, let alone to dictate the news agenda and national policy decisions on climate change and road safety.

I mean it. Give these retards an inch and they'll take a mile - at top speed, probably in a dragster, the twats. And then they'll expect sympathy when they crash. The next thing we know they'll be campaigning to ban zebra crossings, ambulances and traffic lights on the grounds that they slow them down unacceptably on their journey from their pointless house to their pointless job, during which the pretence that they are Michael Schumacher is the only thing that prevents them from the desperate, miserable unmourned suicide they should have undertaken years ago.

Anyway, Newsnight is tonight running a report on the dodginess of all this. The morons have made much of the fact that a million people have signed their petition. ' That's democracy', they drivel. 'The government should listen to the people, and scrap road pricing!' Well, the last I heard, there were 60 million people in this country, from which we could fairly extrapolate, if we so chose, that 59 million of us think road pricing is great.

Newsnight is running its own poll, to highlight this spurious nonsense. The more people sign it, the less ammunition the Jeremy Clarkson Fan Club has. I reproduce Newsnight's text here. If you don't sign, you only have yourself to blame when they run over your dog and then sue you for slowing them down.

More than a million people have signed the online petition, hosted by Downing Street's website, against plans to introduce road pricing in the UK. But are these "unprecedented" numbers not quite as remarkable as they appear? In tonight's programme Newsnight will be asking how good an indicator of public opinion such petitions really are.

And by way of illustration, we're giving you the chance to support a petition that was reportedly rejected by the Downing Street website because it was outside the remit of the Government.

Submitted by "Tez Burke of Gun-totin' Badgers for Jesus", the proposed petition read:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to sing "We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line" through a megaphone while standing in a barrel of custard outside Parliament.

Our own version is somewhat simplified, and won't require you to leave your name or other personal details - a one-click "yes" or "no" vote via our website is all that's required.

Click here to vote.

When will you die?

6 February 2007
Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry. When I saw this I didn't know whether to vomit myself inside out with incandescent rage or cackle until I needed a transplant.

Those wacky lads at Top Gear have been at it again, apparently. I say 'apparently' because I would rather eat the rotting bowel contents of a long dead caribou than actually watch it. Here's the story:

'The handling of Richard Hammond's return to Top Gear has been branded "insensitive" and "insulting" by a charity for people with brain injury ... At the start of Sunday's show, Mr Clarkson asked Mr Hammond if he was mental, while James May offered him a tissue in case he started dribbling.'

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I would have thought that Top Gear was perfect for people with brain injuries. Surely they constitute the majority of the studio audience? Not to mention the presenters. Anyone who enjoys watching a gaggle of ageing tools creaming themselves over shiny cars and revelling in their status as scourge of the politically correct by making cracker jokes about 'mentalists' has to be, well, something of a mentalist themselves. At the very least, they are unlikely to have a girlfriend.

Which reminds me. I am sick to the back teeth of all this bullshit about Richard bloody Hammond. The tit has a stupid crash in a stupid car and suddenly he's a national icon. I saw a bloody article about him on the front page of the Mirror the other week, which referred to him as 'hero Hammond'. If future historians would like an evidential indication of the spiralling decline of 21st-century society, they could do worse than use this as an example. There was a time, not so long ago, when to be called a 'hero' you had to do something, er, heroic. Defend an imperial outpost against thousands of furious Zulus, rescue a baby from a burning building; that sort of thing. These days you just have to have a bloody car crash.

I would be interested to know whether this makes the hundreds of thousands of other people in Britain who have car crashes every year heroes as well. What about the ones who die? Should they get the Victoria bloody Cross? Should Hammond and Clarkson be drafted in to pin the medals on the cold, twisted corpses, since they're up there on the telly every week encouraging us all to smash speed cameras and drive like teenagers with straining ball sacks?

Clearly, if there was any justice in the world, Richard bloody Hammond would have been pasted into oblivion along with his stupid dragster. In fact, if there was any justice at all he would have crashed into Clarkson. Obviously there is none. Tell me something I don't know.

Sea level rise of up to 8cm by 2100 killed the radio star

2 February 2007
It seems that our discussions on this blog have been picked up by the media. Tonight at about 5.20 I'll be on Radio London with my friend and sparring partner Mark Lynas, discussing whether climate change campaigners are being honest about climate change and whether we are, after all, all doomed. I expect I shall make a tit of myself, but it passes the time. You can listen to it here.

Meanwhile, there'll be some more climate-change related droning from me over on the Ecologist blog later today. Next week I promise that we will move on to other topics of discussion. I am, as always, open to suggestions as to what I should write about, as it saves me from having to think of something myself.

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