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.
"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."
[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‚?¶.
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
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.
[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?
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 clich√© 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.
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.
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.
'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.