I recall that George Monbiot was a warm proponent of Zimbabwe’s land reform program.
40% of the country’s wildlife has been lost to poaching since that time. An area the size of Luxembourg has been deforested by jobless woodcutters. The water catchment area of Harare has been destroyed by unmanaged grazing and deforestation within formerly commercial farms that safeguarded the river flow systems to Lake Chivero.
And still, despite all the evidence that what he advocated was implemented with disastrous results, George seemingly stands by how this “reform” was implemented and, moreover, would happily see this method of agriculture exported globally.
His attitude to Zimbabwe shows a few things:
George Monbiot has mastered the art of marketing his hatred of those more talented, more wealthy, and more fortunate than himself, as love of those less privileged than himself.
He holds up a thin intellectual veneer that masks base animal instincts of envy, greed and megalomania.
I take issue with the word “mastered.” Even the occasional read of his columns reveal him to be obvious, predictable, boring and not even remotely convincing.
I keep thinking that we have reached “Peak Sanctimony” but I am constantly dumbfounded by the ranks of the self-appointed “guardians of the planet”. They leap from absurdity to pomposity and on to hypocrisy as they constantly switch bandwagons to further their self-important and self-inflated virtue-signalling.
The Monbiots, and the Thunbergs of this world spew out ever greater self-contradictions, while poisoning humankind with their toxic hatred for their fellow-human beings. Like empty vessels proclaiming their own futility, they rattle away incessantly. A few people hear, but no one listens – it’s tuned out like any other objectionable background noise.
They are empty, pointless, miserable people, making empty, pointless, worthless noise. They waste their lives, making a career of the demonstration of pitiful ignorance.
No surprise that Mionbot’s home is the Guardian, media base for so many other wastrels.
If you fly around England using Google Earth you see an awful lot of golf courses. Perhaps they should be re-wilded first? Although there would be much resistance from a few people. Not easy being a guru is it?
as an avowed vegan, it is amazing Monbiot doesn’t feel more obligation to address his conflict of interest when claiming to talk in a balanced way about the merits husbandry versus cultivation. his lamb chop example has been proved to be rubbish, even by the BBC. he has never (to my knowledge) apologised. he is a whitened sepulchre. someone who has built his career on saying the “right thing” in a catchy way. it is depressing that show-offs like Monbiot are given the time of day and somewhat amazing that most of his fans were university educated. he damages the environmental cause by adopting such extreme and impractical positions that he alienates many of the people who are against industrial farming.
Perhaps George Monbiot should try farming instead of preaching, but then he might have to take responsibility. I wonder what he eats?
Cattle emit lots of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. But that methane fairly quickly gets oxidised back to CO2, which is absorbed by green plants and then eaten by (inter alia) cattle. It’s a closed cycle, which we used to learn about for O-levels, 50 years ago. So what am I missing?
Monbiot clearly knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Visited Woodchester Mansion this weekend where an informative guide told us that the cattle stir up the grass during the day, creating swarms of flying insects that the bats devour after dark …. there’s the wide world and there’s Monbiot’s narrow hobby horse
“The biggest population crisis is not the growth in human numbers, but the growth in livestock numbers”.
If that is true, it’s because the livestock numbers rise in proportion to human numbers !
The man’s a dolt. But that’s not news to me.
That is a cultural / habitual relationship, not a logical one. It only applies if the humans eat meat to the same or greater extent than they now do. (This may be changing at least in the West). I hold no brief for Monbiot’s views in general, although I WOULD like to see some areas, such as in the Scottish Highlands now solely used for shooting sports, rewilded. However he argues against widespread and increased meat eating for precisely this reason. Your accusation is therefore wide of the mark in this instance.
I own 7.5 acres of woodland that was used as grazing till 1960s. The trees are the product of leaving land ungrazed. This is rewilding. Half the trees are now dying from ash dieback, imported into the UK because the eu prevented biological controls on imports and the undercroft is becoming unpassable as brambles spread (unless they are cut back or sprayed). If I fenced it I could have used pigs to keep it clear, but that would mean excluding my fellow villagers from walking the paths that aren’t public FP.
Rewilding means letting land become unusable by humans, for farming or for human pleasure. Given Monbiot seems to hate both (farming and human pleasure), I’m not surprised he likes rewilding.
I appreciate your willingness for walkers to traverse your property. If you fenced your property for pigs but placed gates for walkers, could they be trusted to shut the gates? Ah but then you might have liability issues in case of pig – human conflict.
thanks for the post. I write as a smallscale livestock farmer (Sheep, goats, pigs, honeybees) on a no spray no chemical fertiliser farm. So. Farming like it was 1799.
I see several problems with bit George’s position and with yours. George first.
George wants to give large amounts of cash, granting and cheap land to the companies who have largely created the multilayered existential crisis we are currently in. The people who will implement the infrastructire, technology, who will deliver the product, and who will profit from it are largely the same food companies, chemical companies, and agri multinationals who, together with the deamnd for the prodice, have largely created the problems. Cargill, Nestle, Bayer, these wioll be the people hoovering up gvenrment money to solve the problems they have created.
Blaming farmers for this is a bit like coming down hard on the match and lighter manufacturers union because someone has set fire to your city and handing wads of cash to a bloke called Highburn Freehly who turns up stinking of petrol with scorched jumper sleeves and claims to know an awful lot about fire.
Don’t give all the money to people who have made immense profits from creating the problem. Don;t take all the money from the people who work on the assembly line.
Second problem. Buy in. George is a fan of massively ambitious projects implemening as yet unproven technologies that have not been tested to scale and involve massive life changes for large swathes of the generally poorer sections of society. The neclear powerplants he was backing ten years ago weren;t going to be built in Knightsbridge. The farmers who have to sell their land to pay debts accrued on businesses they are no longer allowed to have won’t typicall be absentee Scittish ebstate owners and agri multinationals. Additionally, food is identity, pleasure, culture and tradition. People are usually willing to sacrifice many pther things before they sacrifice identity and tradition. From Spanish Chorizo to Cumberland Sausages to American Barbecue. You have to pry identity from people’s cold dead hands. Buy in is an issue.
Farmer buy in is less of an issue. We are a weakening lobby with decreasing political, economic and popular power. Useful for large agri companies who will be looking for cheap land to but from broke farmers to grow large scale soy and corn crops on to feed the fermenters.
Geoirge is willing to take money and power from people who have little – farmers, leverage their key asset – land – and give all three to large companies, with unproven technologies, that have not been tested at scale. And despite the fact that this is largely their problem and has been their revenue model, will take it on faith that they have the solution and will help reengineer our whole society to accomodate them, furnishing them with immense public and cheap private resources to do so.
But there’s problems with Johns assertions too.
The scarcity of food. You talk about the potential futire scarcity of food like it will happen in the context we have now. And argue it;s a matter of distribution not production. First off. In 30 years time we won;t hve out current context. Our weather will be far less predicatable, our cultivateable area of land will be decreasing, our population will be larger, and modes of production will probably not be available. Our soils will be more degraded. Our biodiversity – and the agri benefits we net from that are likely to be undermined. Hope for the best John. But plan for the worst. I fear you hope for the best and you also plan for it. And leave it at that.
There’s also absolutely no doubt – and I say this as a livestock farmer – that we are a major part of the problem. And going organic won’t cut it. We do need more space for biodiversity. A lot more. Organis production currently is significantly reliant on conventional sources of NPK. It;s nt spread directly on the land as fertiliser. But manures and composts from conventional sources currently make up a large percentage or organic NPK inputs. And arguing that some organic on farm bodiveristy is better than some conventioanl farms biodiversity by 34% is meaningless. 34% beter than a Californian Almond farm or a 500 acre conventioal soy farm is…well. That’s frankly dreadful. It is slight. It’s nect to nothing.
Farming absolutely needs to change. It is part of the problem. It needs to lead in being a progressive, hard working, laser focused part of the solution. And conventional farming, and a large amount of organic farming isn’t. If we don’t lead, and lead with practical, hard headed and revolutionary solutions, we will be ;ead to change. By people like George. And other people who want to throw money rather than careful thpought at problems. We will suffer. We will be marginalised. And we will, quite possibly, cease.
Because the large food companies, chemical companies, multinational agri companies, will come with well funded, well marketed, off the shelf technological solutions. And farming will still be truculently stonewalling about herd sizes, traditional rights, landrace breeds of turkey, being here for 800 years, and how lovely a field of grass is. And the food companies will eat us alive.
Thank you for the inside perspective, very interesting.
Do cattle and sheep really bring an unprecedented amount of methane into the atmosphere? I wonder. Before the last few centuries, there were far more bison, buffaloes, deer, antelope, elephants, rhinos, hippos, etc. These are, I believe, all ruminants, just like the domesticated animals now blamed for ecological disaster. The wild species would, therefore, likely produce as much methane per unit of weight as the farm animals. I’ve wondered about this for some time now, and would appreciate an answer from someone more knowledgeable than myself. Thanks.
On another topic mentioned in the article: where would the bacteria in these soups get their own sustenance? For them to grow, they need to feed on something themselves. What exactly would that be in Monbiot’s farm-free future?
I live in West Sussex. What is striking is how little livestock grazes here. No dung, no insects, no birds. Modern regulation has made it impossible for a smallholder to keep a cow.
An unpleasant but environmentally sustainable idea popped into my head. If farm animals are not on the menu in the future, then surely tasty (but a bit sinewy) vegan eco warriors might fill the gap. I’ve got a slow cooker and this makes even the most unpalatable and opinionated fare quite tender. Don’t forget the casserole basics of carrots, onions celery and perhaps a splash of wine. Season generously and voilà!
Our county looks like farmland but a significant amount is for horsey pursuits and we don’t eat horseflesh.
In ‘the good old days’ we used to sell a lot to France, Exmoor ponies and the like. I presume that has now ceased?
Just lovely. Is he really such an idiot (Monbiot that is)?
Monbiot literally doesn’t understand shit.
Isn’t a chemical free hay meadow just as unnatural as a conventionaly farmed cornfield?
If only ‘natural’ will suffice, perhaps we should abolish clothing and dentistry while we’re at it. The question isn’t what’s ‘natural,’ it’s where the balance is struck between humans and the rest of the environment. And if there are win-win options, so much the better.
Yes, this is the problem with the theorist – it’s easy to see things in extremes, it’s simpler, and nicely matches the emotions.
It’s a bit like growing stuff in the backyard, you both aren’t as fussy as to the shape and appearance of the fruit or vegetable, and you don’t waste it as easily. I still find it easier to throw out food that I bought, because I just buy more, whereas I really annoy myself if I waste food that I bothered to grow!
Eventually life teaches compromise – food production won’t be 100% moral or 100% environmentally correct. We can only do our reasonable best. Before we set impossible standards we should look for the do-able improvements e.g. perhaps we don’t need to buy quite as many fresh flowers flown in from the other side of the world, just because we can.
I think you should be cautious, as you are at risk of boring a gaping hole in your cheek with your tongue.
Organic is considerably less productive than intensive agriculture, as the vast majority of studies find:
I think both Monbiot and Lewis-Stempel tend towards utopianism, although Lewis-Stempel has more practical experience of farming.
However, he really does set up the flimsiest of ‘straw men’ in his argument about re-wilding. Of course this can’t be done to any significant extent on farmed land, but I consider the prospect of re-introducing previously persecuted species in some areas as rather magnificent, and there are many opportunities. (The Knepp Estate is in Sussex!). Some people can be are nostalgic about the changes to the countryside in their lifetime, but of course have no experience of just how many species have disappeared – Monbiot is good on that ‘shifting baseline’ effect.
Land owners used to shoot birds of prey and mammals as a matter of course; some of this was practical but some had little reason behind it. I would like to think most people now do not consider themselves at war with nature in that way. There are huge areas of land that ARE suitable for rewilding projects. Many people would pay to see such species and parts of the Scottish Highlands now solely used for shooting sports, could well be suitable.
It seems to me that George Monbiot has been convinced that all science can be relied upon and that Nature can undo all the damage caused by the increasing human population and the way it is slowly destroying the natural world. Sadly he is wrong on all too many counts. I remember some excellent articles he wrote for the Guardian Weekly years ago but since then he appears to favour genetic engineering and even nuclear power with all their uncertainties. e should remember the law of unexpected consequences – and the problems already realised. To blame farming and even the poor cattle for all our ills is to forget the fact that our lives and our soils have been sustained by livestock. How many of the Vegan Activists owe their early lives to powdered milk – from the very dairy farms they wish to destroy? I fear that the constant attack on farms will trigger famine soon. My own time in farming was triggered by calls for greater food production to feed the starving masses around the world the 1960s but now I realise it was a con because politics causes starvation, even in Britain. Farming is not what it was and we should work with nature and stop deceiving the world into believing that the chemicals used are “safe” – they are not and, as one poisoned by them over 30 years ago, I can say with certainty that they are capable of causing the increasing serious illnesses in our population. That is not the fault of farming but of Goverment failure to regulate and ensure safety. It seems that the chemical companies control Government policy – and Mr Monbiot’s thoughts. Nuclear is not the answer to Global Warming – it heats the oceans and the air and the waste is deadly for thousands of years – energy USE is the problem.