by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 4
February 2021
Reaction
11:00

What Roger Hallam gets right — and wrong

Talking to Tories is a good thing, but the activist should also to listen to them
by Peter Franklin

Swampy is back. The environmental campaigner, famous for digging tunnels to disrupt road building projects, is now targeting HS2. This time, he’s been joined underground by his 16-year-old son. How time flies.

There’s nothing quite so conservative as a family tradition, nevertheless environmentalism does retain a Left-wing, counter-cultural image. Wisely, some greens are trying to challenge that perception — and I don’t just mean green Tories like Zac Goldsmith.

Roger Hallam, for instance, is a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion — and describes himself as being broadly of the radical Left.  Certainly, he’s not the sort of campaigner who gets invited to tea at Downing Street. If he does find himself in elevated company it’s more likely to be during his appearances before the beak (for acts of civil disobedience).

And yet, in a remarkable interview with UnHerd, he explicitly reaches out across the political divide — and not only the Left-Right divide. Skipping across the trenches of the culture war, he makes an appeal directly to social conservatives.

It is, he argues, our patriotic duty to join the resistance against climate change. The risks we’re running with the environment are of such an enormous scale that they threaten everything that traditional Tories hold dear.

Even if the probability of ruin (as opposed to serious, but manageable damage) is quite small, Hallam believes we simply don’t have the right to take that chance on behalf of future generations. In that, he appeals not only to the small-c conservative aversion to systemic risk, but also to Burkean ideas about what different generations owe to one another.

I’d love to have seen Hallam in conversation with another Roger — the late Roger Scruton. In many ways, they’d have more in common with one another than with the ‘conference environmentalism’ of the global elite (of which Hallam takes a dim view).

As it is, I hope he continues to talk to Tories — but also to listen to them. There are at least two respects in which deep greenery could do with getting bluer.

Firstly, in recognising that there can be no sustainable move toward simpler, less consumerist lifestyles without a return to a stronger sense of family, community and nation — all of which have been weakened by liquid modernity.

Secondly, there needs to more credit given to the role of enterprise and innovation. In making the case for civil disobedience, Hallam argues that (non-violent) disruption has been necessary agent of change throughout history. However markets can be disruptive too — and sometimes, in just the right way. In recent years, we’ve seen green technologies up-ending the (short-term) economic case for pollution. Advances in wind and solar power aren’t out-competing fossil fuels because they’re more virtuous, but because they’re cheaper.

The price mechanism cannot be disregarded entirely. Though it shouldn’t be allowed to trump the things that matter more than the bottom line, market forces can be harnessed for the common good. This is a reconciliation that the statist Left doesn’t see as achievable and that the individualist Right doesn’t see as desirable. For proper conservatives, however, it is both achievable and desirable.

Deep greens should at least consider the possibility that the true blues are right.

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Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

A case in point
https://www.telegraph.co.uk

As a deep green Conservative myself, I recognise that the national body is in a better position to steward the national ecology rather than a global technocratic body.

If all nations gave enough regard to their national ecological footprint, assisted by global cooperation, then the global ecology and biosphere would be fine.

And as you say, strong families and strong communities would be very much part of this strategy, along with market innovations.

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago

Good article.

Just one point:

Even if the probability of ruin (as opposed to serious, but manageable damage) is quite small…..

If you are a third world farmer, whether in a fertile river delta where rising sea levels are putting your land under water, or one of the tens of millions in Africa who are seeing farmland turn into desert – not in thirty years time but NOW – then the damage is not “manageable”, it’s life-changing and may actually kill you and your family. You end up as refugees. And actually, if you own property close to sea level in the UK (and everywhere else), the effect of rising sea level is pretty disastrous.

ChrisK Shaw
ChrisK Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

Pls quote your sources. I am not aware of any of the man-induced changes you reference

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisK Shaw

Absolutely right.

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisK Shaw

If you aren’t aware of rising sea levels, try Google. NASA measurements are one (of many).

John Dowling
John Dowling
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

You will see that sealevel rise has not accelerated since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid 1800s. It varies; in Alaska due to isostatic rebound sealevels are dropping, whist nearer the equator they are somewhat above the average. Look out for the change from coastal site to satellites; satellite measurements are twice most coastal sites. I wonder why………….

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dowling

Make up your own science.

Any views on the coronavirus? or vaccines? I expect they are a liberal plot too? And don’t forget that evolution is a myth spread by atheistic liberals.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisK Shaw

You will notice that whenever ‘man-induced’ comes in the question, the answer always pretends it isn’t there.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

The population of Bangladesh has doubled since the 1970s to around 160m despite the threat of sea level change (and previous flooding episodes). The Sahel bordering the Sahara has seen a net greening since the 1980s.

Of course environmental change happens and humans have to adapt, but sea level rise is 3.3cm per decade – a house brick every 30 years. Local coastal effects like subsidence, silting, storm damage or human development are likely to have a bigger impact on local conditions.

It’s more useful to see acceleration in sea level rise as one of primary tests for catastrophic climate change theory. To get towards the more dramatic predictions – ie increases higher than 1m by the end of the century (currently on track for 33cm per century), the annual rise in sea level would need to jump up substantially – at least by a factor of 3. Up to now no dramatic change in rate has happened in the quarter of a century since climate change became a political issue – instead remaining broadly linear (see NASA for graphs).

We can decarbonize rapidly if the will is there to move to nuclear power. Dilly-dallying around with solar and wind is slowing our time to action.

papillonconsulting
papillonconsulting
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

Is it known that this 3.3cms per decade increases linearly? (Or could the increase accelerate?) Just asking.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

The models say the rate should increase, and it has a little, but not the high acceleration that would be a tell for more catastrophic change. Nasa has an easy to read couple of graphs: https://climate.nasa.gov/vi

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

I did reply, but this forum doesn’t like links. Google for Nasa’s sea level page with two clear charts of rise since the 90s and since the turn of the last century. There has been a small uptick in rate, but, so far, not the dramatic step change in rate that would be a tell for a coming catastrophe

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

Islands in the Maldives are disappearing under the water. Farmers in river deltas see their land disappearing in storms, after salinification caused by rising sea levels.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

River deltas are some of the most dynamic environmental systems around – constantly affected by tides, melt waters, monsoons and storms. Staying the same is impossible for them.

Read further on atoll creation for the Maldives – again these are dynamic structures with a tendency to grow as sea level rises (also remember sea levels are rising slower than the catastrophic forecasts would require). Since I can’t add links have a look for

EVIDENCE OF RESILIENCE IN REEF ISLANDS IN RESPONSE TO RISING SEA LEVEL ON HUVADHOO ATOLL, MALDIVES

John Dowling
John Dowling
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

No islands are disappearing. In fact, on balance the area of Islands like the Maldives are increasing. So much unsubstantiated alarmism…

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dowling

Not the view of the Govt of the Maldives.

But what would they know about it? – they haven’t consulted an echo chamber website where it’s also claimed that Trump won the election.

Dan Martin
Dan Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

Desertification in Africa has been in process for hundreds of years.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Martin

Caused, I reckon, by people who keep goats.
Consider the difference in the way they tear up
the whole plant whereas sheep, cattle, etc just
nibble the tops. The goat-owners are unlikely to
change the composition of their flocks because
they represent wealth.

John Dowling
John Dowling
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris C

There is nowhere in the world that the slow rate of sealevel rise is having any effect on communities eg Bangladesh is increasing in size due to sedimentation, Maldives increasing in surface area. Contrary to desertification, due to the stimulus given to plant life by rising CO2 levels the planet is greening.

Chris C
Chris C
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dowling

That’s probably news to Bangladesh river delta farmers losing their land to salinification and then flooding as sea levels rise, turning them into landless labourers. Or people on the Maldives whose islands have been flooded, forcing them onto the remaining islands.

You are clearly living in a different universe. But then some people do believe that Donald Trump had more spectators at his inauguration than Obama did, because Kellyanne Conway claimed it as one of her “alternative facts”.

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago

market forces can be harnessed for the common good

They can. I always thought it was a shame more effort wasn’t made to push Britain as a green technology nation, not just because it would be a good thing to do, but because getting ahead of the curve on this would have been a massive economic advantage.

Instead it seems that team blue and their international allies have usually been too invested in the fossil-fuel status quo to engage with such a vision.

Rónán Davison-Kernan
Rónán Davison-Kernan
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

never mind the fact that green technology will make you more strategically independent as you don’t need to burn foreign fossil fuels.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

You cannot construct a wind turbine without steel, which requires the use of coal. You cannot build an electric car battery without some serious mining for the requisite minerals, which is not a particularly green enterprise. This fantasy of no “need” for fossil fuels, foreign or otherwise, remains a fantasy.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You almost got that right – I think it should be

Beware of Greens bearing gifts

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
1 year ago

The biggest crisis facing humanity appears to be the size of humanity itself. It appears all the problems boil down to the pressure on our planet and every problem is rising from that. Modern medicine has allowed unprecedented intervention in the death cycle and allowed runaway population growth. Yes , medicine has eliminated many of the sufferings too but in doing so, we are now dealing with crisis after crisis . There have never been so many people living on the planet and changing the course of nature so dramatically ever before. So what can we do? We can’t eliminate all these people! But we CAN individually behave in a much more responsible manner. Instead of nitpicking on energy, trade , economics etc, the solution has to be – BE RESPONSIBLE! That goes for poor or rich . I do feel that attention to the matter is urgent but it does not have to be militant, nor alarmist . So while I agree with the principles of XR I do not agree with SOME of the methods .

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago

“Firstly, in recognising that there can be no sustainable move toward simpler, less consumerist lifestyles without a return to a stronger sense of family, community and nation” all of which have been weakened by liquid modernity.”

This makes a fundamental mistake. Neither a family, nor a ‘nation’ are types of ‘community’. A ‘community’ is a group set up with identical aims and rules, such as ‘a golf club’; ‘an historical society’; a ‘sect’; a ‘Church’; a retreat such as a ‘Monastery’; a ‘religion; etc. etc.

Membership of a community is voluntary, and depends on the acceptance of the rules and beliefs of the community, which is in every case set up for a particular purpose : to promote and play golf, to promote the study of history, to exclude non-believers, to maintain a separate cloistered group which may be entirely self-sufficient, and lastly to worship God and educate into a ‘faith’ respectively.

Neither a family’s nor a nation’s members are voluntary. Both are, to larger or lesser extent compulsory and neither organisation is set up by agreement for a particular, limited purpose. The members have not made or ‘agreed to’ the ‘rules’ in detail and further each adult member is accountable legally and may be punished by the state for actions done which contravene the laws of the state, even though individual ‘subjects’ might find individual laws ridiculous or absurd. And the normal way to counter such disagreement is by legally-recognised state-wide methods e.g. elections, petitions to Parliament etc. A golf club cannot imprison someone for breaking the rules.

The current leftist domination of ideas by the idea that countries, governments, families and politics generally are for people who are treated, without being once asked, as a ‘community’ who are required to hold identical beliefs and understandings of the purpose of all these non-particular organisations and activities is thus illegitimate and anti-liberty. Their attempt to make all private voluntary communities conform to state Laws where these state laws are meant to be universal and impersonal and not related to the otherwise innocent, rule-based activities of particular groups and purposes e.g. to compel all-male (or female) clubs or any other group to accept women (or men) against their will is also a form of injustice.