Doublethink Drinking Game

Not really but, really, you could.

Was listening to George Monbiot on Radio 4’s Inside Science earlier, and for once he was optimistic (or at least pretending to be) about the prospects for real action on the climate because the pandemic had shown how willing people were to change their behaviour. For years we’ve been told, he argued, that action on climate was impossible because people wouldn’t wear it. Look no closer to home than fuel duty, which has been frozen in successive budgets for years now, because the government is running scared of the motoring lobby. And yet, here we are under lockdown, with 70% less traffic on the roads. It’s a shame that those on the roads tend to be mostly speedfreak sociopaths, but you can’t have everything.

But then the presenter pushed back to Monbiot, saying, well, but you can’t take people’s right to take a cheap flight to Dubrovnik for a beach holiday, it wouldn’t be democratic. Which was your usual BBC woolly thinking, of course, because, duh, if we voted for it, then, yes, you could bloody well take the ‘right’ to take cheap-but-environmentally-expensive flights away from people.

Still, it was there wasn’t it, in a nutshell, the thing we’ve all been noticing. No amount of warnings about our impact on the planet and its climate would change peoples’ behaviour, but give them a pandemic to worry about, and they’re very compliant, no matter what it does to the economy in terms of jobs.

Just a few headlines from today: Amazon potentially being allowed to buy Deliveroo because the latter is about to go under; Debenhams, shit retailer with shit management*, in receivership; farmers who probably voted for Brexit having to fly in workers to pick their crops: colour me shocked; newspapers circling the drain; government throwing money at the fishing industry. And, over and above, the economy of China actually shrinking.

And yet, many of these disaster narratives could be seen differently, through the Monbiot lens of optimism. As economic growth is unsustainable and incompatible with preventing climate disaster, isn’t a shrinking economy a good thing? I mean, what else would it look like to tackle the climate problem? Stores would have to close, people would have to consume less, we in richer countries would have to have less stuff. And fishing? Wouldn’t it be fucking brilliant for fish stocks if nobody did any fishing for a year?

But never let it be said that people weren’t weirdly capable of all kinds of doublethink. Every time somebody worries about economic growth, drink. Every time someone argues that it’s ‘not the time’ to think about the climate problem, drink. Every time someone talks about the airline industry suffering, or car manufacturers, or oil producers, drink.

I don’t really believe George Monbiot is optimistic. But I guess he’s hopeful that if you remind people of how they were willing to change their behaviour, they might think again. Still, as long as this lockdown is likely to be, it has an end coming. And as long as we live, the climate is always a problem without a beginning or an end.

*I mean, they’re management and they’re British, so they must be shit.

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