English writer and political activist
- If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
- "The Self-Attribution Fallacy", 7 November 2011.
- People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smart phone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility. Forests are felled to make “personalised heart shaped wooden cheese board sets”. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.
- "The Gift of Death", The Guardian, 11 December 2012.
- [About the Paris Agreement:] By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.
- While we call ourselves animal lovers, and lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals that are just as capable of suffering. The hypocrisy is so rank that future generations will marvel at how we could have failed to see it.
- "Goodbye – and good riddance – to livestock farming", The Guardian, 4 October 2017.
- The most devoted member of (Ayn Rand's) inner circle, was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business—even builders or Big Pharma—he argued, as 'the "greed" of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.' As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a 'superlatively moral system.'"
- Quoted in Paul Ryan’s Biggest Influence: 10 Things You Should Know About the Lunatic Ayn Rand, Jan Frel, AlterNet, (11 April 2018)
- Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity.
- "Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it", The Guardian, 25 April 2019.
- Of all the varieties of media bias, the deepest is the bias against relevance. The more important the issue, the less it is discussed.
- "Stop eating fish. It’s the only way to save the life in our seas", The Guardian, 9 May 2019.
- The power of consumerism is that it renders us powerless. It traps us within a narrow circle of decision-making, in which we mistake insignificant choices between different varieties of destruction for effective change. It is, we must admit, a brilliant con. It’s the system we need to change, rather than the products of the system. It is as citizens that we must act, rather than as consumers. [...] Only mass political disruption, out of which can be built new and more responsive democratic structures, can deliver the necessary transformation.
- "The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me", The Guardian, 9 October 2019.
- There are two ways this could go. We could, as some people have done, double down on denial. Some of those who have dismissed other threats, such as climate breakdown, also seek to downplay the threat of Covid-19... Or this could be the moment when we begin to see ourselves, once more, as governed by biology and physics, and dependent on a habitable planet. Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life...
- Covid-19 is nature's wake-up call to complacent civilisation, The Guardian, 25 March 2020
- Capitalism has three innate characteristics that drive us towards destruction… firstly, that it generates and relies upon perpetual growth... (Second:)…the idea that our right to own natural wealth equates to the amount of money that we’ve got in the bank or we can borrow. So, you can take as much natural wealth away from other people as you like.... The third characteristic is the one that really ensures that people go along with capitalism, the idea that everyone can pursue — and can expect to find — private luxury.
- Quoted by Lee Camp, Pandemic is Not Just a Crisis, It’s Also a Gift, Consortium News, (23 April 2020)
- During the pandemic, many of us have begun to discover how much of our travel is unnecessary. Governments can build on this to create plans for reducing the need to move, while investing in walking, cycling and – when physical distancing is less necessary – public transport. This means wider pavements, better cycle lanes, buses run for service not profit. They should invest heavily in green energy, and even more heavily in reducing energy demand – through, for example, home insulation and better heating and lighting. The pandemic exposes the need for better neighbourhood design, with less public space given to cars and more to people. It also shows how badly we need the kind of security that a lightly taxed, deregulated economy cannot deliver.
- Let’s have what many people were calling for long before this disaster hit: a green new deal. But please let’s stop describing it as a stimulus package. We have stimulated consumption too much over the past century, which is why we face environmental disaster. Let us call it a survival package, whose purpose is to provide incomes, distribute wealth and avoid catastrophe, without stoking perpetual economic growth. Bail out the people, not the corporations. Bail out the living world, not its destroyers. Let’s not waste our second chance.
The Age of Consent (2003)Edit
- Everything has been globalised, except our consent. Democracy alone has been confined to the nation state. It stands at the border, suitcase in hand, without a passport.
"Campaigning for Austerity" (2005)Edit
- Nobody ever rioted for austerity.
- Faced with a choice between the survival of the planet and a new set of matching tableware, most people would choose the tableware.
- While there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle.
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (2006)Edit
- We are the most fortunate generation that has ever lived. And we are the most fortunate generation that ever will.
- No political challenge can be met by shopping.
The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us, 2018Edit
- The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us, 14 November 2018, The Guardian.
- Climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse.
- It was a moment of the kind that changes lives. At a press conference held by climate activists Extinction Rebellion last week, two of us journalists pressed the organisers on whether their aims were realistic. They have called, for example, for UK carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025. Wouldn’t it be better, we asked, to pursue some intermediate aims? [...] Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.
- Public figures talk and act as if environmental change will be linear and gradual. But the Earth’s systems are highly complex, and complex systems do not respond to pressure in linear ways. When these systems interact (because the world’s atmosphere, oceans, land surface and lifeforms do not sit placidly within the boxes that make study more convenient), their reactions to change become highly unpredictable. Small perturbations can ramify wildly. Tipping points are likely to remain invisible until we have passed them. We could see changes of state so abrupt and profound that no continuity can be safely assumed. Only one of the many life support systems on which we depend – soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the pattern of winds and currents, pollinators, biological abundance and diversity – need fail for everything to slide. [...] I don’t believe such a collapse is yet inevitable, or that a commensurate response is either technically or economically impossible.
- The problem is political. [...] The oligarchic control of wealth, politics, media and public discourse explains the comprehensive institutional failure now pushing us towards disaster. Think of Donald Trump and his cabinet of multi-millionaires; the influence of the Koch brothers in funding rightwing organisations; the Murdoch empire and its massive contribution to climate science denial; or the oil and motor companies whose lobbying prevents a faster shift to new technologies. It is not just governments that have failed to respond, though they have failed spectacularly. Public sector broadcasters have systematically shut down environmental coverage, while allowing the opaquely funded lobbyists that masquerade as thinktanks to shape public discourse and deny what we face. Academics, afraid to upset their funders and colleagues, have bitten their lips. Even the bodies that claim to be addressing our predicament remain locked within destructive frameworks.
- Those to whom we look for solutions trundle on as if nothing has changed. As if the accumulating evidence has no purchase on their minds. Decades of institutional failure ensures that only “unrealistic” proposals – the repurposing of economic life, with immediate effect – now have a realistic chance of stopping the planetary death spiral. And only those who stand outside the failed institutions can lead this effort. Two tasks need to be performed simultaneously: throwing ourselves at the possibility of averting collapse, as Extinction Rebellion is doing, slight though this possibility may appear; and preparing ourselves for the likely failure of these efforts, terrifying as this prospect is. Both tasks require a complete revision of our relationship with the living planet.
- Because we cannot save ourselves without contesting oligarchic control, the fight for democracy and justice and the fight against environmental breakdown are one and the same. Do not allow those who have caused this crisis to define the limits of political action. Do not allow those whose magical thinking got us into this mess to tell us what can and cannot be done.