24 Jul 2007

Enviro-Ethics as Caste Marker and Consumer Good

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Even George Monbiot (whose name is the source of the derisive term for an irrational leftist: moonbat) recognizes what chic and expensive environmental gestures by the haute bourgeoisie are all about.

Last week, for instance, the Guardian published an extract from A Slice of Organic Life, the book by Sheherazade Goldsmith – married to the very rich environmentalist Zac – in which she teaches us “to live within nature’s limits”. It’s easy. Just make your own bread, butter, cheese, jam, chutneys and pickles, keep a milking cow, a few pigs, goats, geese, ducks, chickens, beehives, gardens and orchards. Well, what are you waiting for?

Her book contains plenty of useful advice, and she comes across as modest, sincere and well-informed. But of lobbying for political change, there is not a word. You can save the planet from your own kitchen – if you have endless time and plenty of land. When I was reading it on the train, another passenger asked me if he could take a look. He flicked through it for a moment, and then summed up the problem in seven words: “This is for people who don’t work.” …

Ethical shopping is in danger of becoming another signifier of social status. I have met people who have bought solar panels and wind turbines before they have insulated their lofts, partly because they love gadgets but partly, I suspect, because everyone can then see how conscientious and how rich they are. …

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