George Monbiot

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George Monbiot in 2005

George Joshua Richard Monbiot (born 27 January 1963) is a journalist, author, and environmental and political activist in the United Kingdom who writes a weekly column for The Guardian newspaper.



  • [I]f we truly value coral reefs, we must stop travelling around the world to see them, for long-haul flights are rapidly becoming one of the major sources of global warming. Why is it that tourism always seems condemned to destroy that which it most loves?
  • To own a national newspaper or a television or radio station you need to be a multimillionaire. What multimillionaires want is what everybody wants: a better world for people like themselves. The job of their journalists is to make it happen. As Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Mirror, confessed, "I've made it a strict rule in life to ingratiate myself with billionaires." They will stay in their jobs for as long as they continue to interpret the interests of the proprietorial class correctly.
  • 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.
  • If you travel to Worth Matravers - the chocolate-box village in Dorset in which 60% of the houses are owned by ghosts - you will not find hordes of homeless people camping on the pavements in cardboard boxes. The market does not work like that. Young people from the village, unable to buy locally, have moved away, and contributed to the housing pressure somewhere else. The impacts of the ghost market might be invisible to the purchasers, but this does not mean they aren't real. Second-home owners are perhaps the most selfish people in the United Kingdom.
    In England and Wales there are 250,000 second homes. In England there are 221,000 people classed as single homeless or living in hostels or temporary accommodation. (These desperate cases comprise about 24% of those in need of social housing.) I am not arguing that if every underused house were turned back into a home the problem of acute homelessness would be solved. I am arguing that homelessness has been exacerbated by the government's failure to ensure that houses are used for living in.

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.
  • Our task is not to overthrow globalisation, but to capture it, and to use it as a vehicle for humanity’s first global democratic revolution.

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.
  • Nobody ever rioted for austerity. (p. 96)
  • Faced with a choice between the survival of the planet and a new set of matching tableware, most people would choose the tableware.


  • If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
  • [T]he most devoted member of her 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".
  • 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.
  • [On the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from Working Group 1 of the w:IPCC Fifth Assessment Report] What the report describes, in its dry, meticulous language, is the collapse of the benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other lifeforms depend. Climate change and global warming are inadequate terms for what it reveals. The story it tells is of climate breakdown.
  • [T]he only effective means of preventing climate breakdown is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Press any minister on this matter in private and, in one way or another, they will concede the point. Yet no government will act on it.
  • Before examining the wider picture, let's stick with the shooting theme for a moment, and take a look at the remarkable shape-shifting properties of that emblem of Downton Abbey Britain: the pheasant. Through a series of magnificent legal manoeuvres it can become whatever the nation's wealthy want it to be.
  • The pheasant's properties of metamorphosis should be a rich field of study for biologists: even the Greek myths mentioned no animal that mutated so often. In the treatment of pheasant and grouse shoots we see in microcosm what is happening in the country as a whole. Legally, fiscally and politically, the very rich are protected from the forces afflicting everyone else.
  • Trump's [cabinet] appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
  • 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.
  • 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 Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us" (2018)[edit]

"The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us" The Guardian (14 November 2018).
  • [T]he 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.
  • 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.


  • 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...
  • Climate change requires the end of capitalism, full-stop. Capitalism has three innate characteristics that drive us towards destruction, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of capitalism it is, whether it’s Keynesian, whether it’s neo-liberal capitalism, whether it’s corporate capitalism, or whether it’s crony capitalism. The problem is not with the adjective, but with the noun.
    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.
  • 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 bigger and more established an organisation becomes the more timid and conformist it seems to get, until it's almost indistinguishable from the interests it should be confronting. In this age of environmental crisis and collapse, of government lies and corporate power, we need our nature defenders to rise like lions after slumber. Instead, they queue at the abattoir gate like sedated lambs.
  • All of Earth’s systems are complex, which means they do not respond to change in linear and steady ways. They absorb stress up to a certain point, then suddenly collapse. If one goes down, it can trigger the collapse of others: during previous mass extinctions, collapse seems to have cascaded from one ecosystem and Earth system to the next.
  • If you are holding a virtual gun to someone's head, you need to know exactly what you are demanding and whether they can deliver it.
  • Our demands are – and have to be – more complex than any that have gone before.
  • Fascism has been famously described as "a counter-revolution against a revolution that never took place". You don't have to succeed in generating a new movement committed to a campaign of violence to create a monster much bigger than you are: a monster that will close down the last chance of saving Earth systems. If you are going to take a physical shot at capitalism, you had better not miss.
  • I cannot say that Malm is wrong, and that non-violent action is more likely to succeed. After all, none of us have been here before. But if you are pushing other people towards decades in prison while risking a backlash that would close down the last possibility of success, you need to be pretty confident that the strategy will work. I have no such confidence.
  • As the impacts of our consumption kick in thousands of miles away, and people come to our borders desperate for refuge from a crisis they played almost no role in causing – a crisis that might involve real floods and real droughts – the same political forces announce, without a trace of irony, that we are being "flooded" or "sucked dry" by refugees, and millions rally to their call to seal our borders.
  • In some cases, the cycle plays out in one place. Florida, for example, is one of the US states most prone to climate disaster, especially rising seas and hurricanes. But its governor, Ron DeSantis, is building his bid for the presidency on the back of climate denial.
  • According to Google's news search, the media has run more than 10,000 stories this year about Phillip Schofield, the British television presenter who resigned over an affair with a younger colleague. Google also records a global total of five news stories about a scientific paper published last week, showing that the chances of simultaneous crop losses in the world’s major growing regions, caused by climate breakdown, appear to have been dangerously underestimated. In mediaworld, a place that should never be confused with the real world, celebrity gossip is thousands of times more important than existential risk.

Quotes about George Monbiot[edit]

  • On December 12, 2015, official delegates and observers gathered in the plenary hall of COP21. It was there that the Paris Agreement was announced. The end result of decades of work, world leaders hailed it as a great success. "The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet," UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon tweeted immediately after the closing gavel fell. Many environmental groups praised the outcome as well…Not everyone agreed. Joining Michael Brune on Democracy Now!, British journalist and author George Monbiot countered, "What I see is an agreement with no timetables, no targets, with vague, wild aspirations. It's almost as if it's now safe to adopt 1.5 degrees centigrade as their aspirational target now that it is pretty well impossible to reach. I see a lot of backslapping, a lot of self-congratulation, and I see very little in terms of the actual substance that is required to avert climate breakdown." Monbiot wrote, "By comparison to what it could have been, it's a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it's a disaster."
    • Amy Goodman Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2017) p 248

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