A short interview with George Monbiot

George Monbiot

After a missed interview with the President of Maldives, I finally managed to interview George Monbiot -thanks to Hanshenrik-. Well known journalist and ecological activist, he writes regularly for the Guardian. I wish I had time to ask sharper questions but I promise, I will do better and longer next time. It gives us his rough impressions of the bankruptcy already announced from COP15.

First of all, what is your opinion of the COP15 talks?

It has been a complete wash out to be honest… It is absolutely hopeless. Cutting each other rather than bidding each other up, which is what they should have been doing, and just producing weaker and weaker proposals every day, as times have gone by. Some countries have done alright. The UK government has not been bad at all but the European Union has just disappeared off the face of the Earth. During the Kyoto talks in 1997 it was the EU who was really pushing it. This time they are nowhere to be seen. The real hero of the talks seems to be Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese delegate who has really pushed the wealthy nations to pay attention to what the science is saying. It is ironic that it takes someone from one of the poorest nations on Earth to tell the rich nations who commissioned and paid most of the science themselves to tell them what the science actually says.

George Monbiot

Do you think that your view of the COP process has changed during this couple of weeks? Were you more hopeful at the start?

I was never bursting with optimism, because I knew what the constraints were. We also have to remember that hanging over everything is the fact that the US Senate hasn’t made a decision yet, and is unlikely to make a decision that reflects the gravity of the situation. Until the Senate sings everything else is a dead letter really. But I have to say that even my fairly gloomy outlook doesn’t match the full scale of the uselessness of those cretins who are so far utterly failing to produce anything resembling a sensible agreement.

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Do you think it is time for a all new political process?

Yes, I do. I think one of the things that is very striking to me is how little has changed in 150 years. The faces round the table are different, there are people from many more countries of the world than during the old negotiations when European powers took a map of the world and drew lines across it and divided it up between them. But there are simply no engagements with people outside those national governments. It’s just not happening. There is no process by which the people can feed their views into the process. We have got to move on from this model, where national governments who were elected for totally different reasons than the negotiations taking place here and assume a mandate to speak on behalf of all the people of the world without any reference to the people of the world. That has to change. The process is corrupt, it is exclusive. There is a complete wall between those who claim to represent us and the people, and it’s hardly surprising really that it’s produced so far nothing of substance.

Indeed, but don’t you think that it’s very difficult for governments to have any kind of public participation when actually a lot of the policies which they might propose may be very unpopular?

That is definitely one of the problems, I’m no champion of the UK government normally, but it is ahead of the people, unfortunately. You’d like to believe that it is the people pushing the people, but in the case it’s the government pulling the people, and it’s saying we are taking a relatively firm position on climate change, doesn’t go far enough but a relatively good position on change, because we believe this is the right thing to do and it’s saying we are taking a relatively firm position on climate change – doesn’t go far enough but a relatively good position on climate change because this is what we think is the right thing to do and is what our scientific advisors are telling us we ought to do. But we don’t see that massive groundswell of popular opinion saying these are the climate policies we want – deliver or else we’ll boot you out at the next election. It is a real shame. We should be seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. This is after all the most important meeting that has ever taken place or it should have been because it is about the most important issue, about the biggest challenge humankind has ever faced. So where is everyone?

Supposing that it does collapse and nothing or a very weak deal comes out of it. How do we galvanize civil society and the public to gather energy together and focus on the issue once again? Is there not a risk that people forget about it and see it all as a complete waste of time after this?

That is the real danger once the excitement is over, the red carpet has being rolled up and the cutlery has all been cleared away then people forget about it and it loses momentum, the talks lose their thrust. And I believe that those people who are really committed to see action taken on climate change, we must get much more confrontational. I want to see a series of big confrontational non violent direct action across the world against the most carbon intensive industries, against coal mines, against tar sands, against oil refineries, against the banks and investors making these things happen. We need to see people thrusting this much more into the public mind and you do that by taking action rather than just by saying things.

What kind of links you see between the social movements and the Nation States?

The Nation States must be part of the process but there has to be a way by which civil society and the citizens can deliver their views to the Nation States and formulize what they should do. That is why I believe we need a world parliament but of course we are not going to get that between now and the next set of talks.

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