George Monbiot tweeted recently that anyone claiming he and other leading environmentalists did not do enough to stop the climate crisis must not be familiar with his work. That’s a haughty claim.
Fact: George Monbiot, like many prominent environmentalists who framed what “protecting the environment” meant over the last few decades – a time crucial for saving many in the future from the climate and related crises – ignored and thereby decoyed people away from the most effective solution: Treating every child’s right to an ecosocial Fair Start in life as the first and overriding human right, one that overrides property rights.
Instead he chose to privilege his own biological children, relative to the scores of children dying in infancy in the Global South, the children whose climate now threatened by the system George upheld. Family planning entitlements could have avoided that. In practice George is anthropocentric, nor ecocentric.
George has long opposed family reforms that would ensure children are readied for the future, and instead chooses to use his platform to talk about food. He’s misusing his platform, doing what many vegan funders do – choosing to convert a miniscule fraction of the world to diets while benefiting from the growth that on balance does much more harm to animals.
He just assumed that family planning policies – all based on parental autonomy – were part of a menu of choices governments could use to improve outcomes. He never realized that no government is legitimate if it is not empowering its people, and that word “empowerment” is not rhetoric – it means something and is measurable. George may be an environmentalist relative to conservatives – but that is not the standard by which he should be judged. The Children’s Convention – or who we should be – is the standard, and George never advocated for ensuring all children birth and development conditions that comply with it – a move that would have blunted the worst of the climate crisis.
Unless someone is willing to claim that people should not be empowered equally to control the rules under which they must live, then they must admit they made a critical mistake by not using that baseline (seeing creation of persons as the first human border of human power and freedom, or compliance with the Children’s Convention that ensures minimum levels of welfare, equity, biodiversity through climate restoration, and participatory democracy) in the past, a mistake that harmed many.