George Monbiot

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George Monbiot (born 27 January 1963) is a British writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) and Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (2008). He is the founder of The Land is Ours campaign, which campaigns peacefully for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom.[1] In January 2010, Monbiot founded the website which offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of former British prime minister Tony Blair for alleged crimes against peace.[2]


Among his best-known articles are his critique of David Bellamy's climate science,[3] his description of an encounter with a police torturer in Brazil,[4] his attack on libertarian interpretations of genetics,[5] his discussion of the ethics of outsourcing,[6] and his attack on the politics of Bob Geldof and Bono.[7] In January 2011, in response to widespread claims that he is a millionaire, Monbiot took the unusual step of publishing an account of his assets.[8] In the interests of transparency, explained Monbiot that he earned £77,400 a year, gross, from publishing contracts and rents, and urged other journalists to follow suit. [9]

He has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), University of Bristol (philosophy), University of Keele (politics), Oxford Brookes University (planning), and University of East London (environmental science).



Climate change

Monbiot believes that drastic action coupled with strong political will is needed to combat global warming.[16] Monbiot has written that climate change is the "moral question of the 21st century" and that there is an urgent need for a raft of emergency actions he believes will stop climate change, including: setting targets on greenhouse emissions using the latest science; issuing every citizen with a 'personal carbon ration'; new building regulations with houses built to German passivhaus standards; banning incandescent light bulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights, and other inefficient technologies and wasteful applications; constructing large offshore wind farms; replacing the national gas grid with a hydrogen pipe network; a new national coach network to make journeys using public transport faster than using a car; all petrol stations to supply leasable electric car batteries with stations equipped with a crane service to replace depleted batteries; scrap road-building and road-widening programmes, redirecting their budgets to tackle climate change; reduce UK airport capacity by 90%; closing down all out-of-town superstores and replacing them with warehouses and a delivery system.[17]

Monbiot says the campaign against climate change is 'unlike almost all the public protests' that came before it:

It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.[18]

Monbiot also thinks that economic recession can be a good thing for the planet: "Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened waste of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse? Surely the rational policy for the governments of the rich world is now to keep growth rates as close to zero as possible?"[19][20] While he does recognize that recession can cause hardship, he points out that economic growth can cause hardship as well. For example, the increase in sales of jet skis would count as economic growth, but they would also cause hardships such as water pollution and noise pollution.[20]

Monbiot purchased a used diesel Renault Clio after moving to a small town in mid-Wales in 2007.[21] He has travelled through Canada and the United States, campaigning on climate change and promoting his book. He contends that this travel was justifiable as it sought to boost the case for much greater carbon cuts there.[22][23]

He is the patron of the UK student campaign network People & Planet[24] and appears in the film The Age of Stupid in animated form, in which he says "The very fact that the crisis is taking place within our generation, it's happening right now, means that we are tremendously powerful people. So this position of despair and "I can't do anything" and "there's no point" is completely illogical, it's exactly the opposite".[25][26]

Monbiot once expressed deep antipathy to the nuclear industry.[27] He finally rejected his later neutral position regarding nuclear power in March 2011. Although he "still loathe[s] the liars who run the nuclear industry",[28] Monbiot now advocates its use, having been convinced of its relative safety by what he considers the limited effects of the 2011 Japan tsunami on nuclear reactors in the region.[28] Subsequently, he has harshly condemned the anti-nuclear movement, writing that it "has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health ... made [claims] ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong." He singled out Helen Caldicott for, he wrote, making unsourced and inaccurate claims, dismissing contrary evidence as part of a cover-up, and overstating the death toll from the Chernobyl disaster by a factor of more than 140.[29]

Debate with Ian Plimer

Monbiot harshly criticised the book Heaven and Earth by climate change skeptic Ian Plimer, saying that "Since its publication in Australia it has been ridiculed for a hilarious series of schoolboy errors, and its fudging and manipulation of the data".[30] Plimer challenged Monbiot to a public debate on the issues covered in the book. Monbiot agreed on the condition that Plimer first answer a series of written questions for publication on the website of The Guardian, so there would be a factual basis to the discussion.[31] Plimer refused and Monbiot labeled Plimer a "grandstander" with a "broad yellow streak" who has nowhere answered the accusations of serious errors in his Heaven and Earth book, and accused him of trying to "drown out the precise refutations published by his book's reviewers".[32] Plimer then reversed his decision, and agreed to answer written questions in return for a live debate.[33] Monbiot's response on receiving Plimer's contribution was one of disappointment, on the grounds that Plimer's response "so far consists not of answers, but of questions addressed to me."[34] Monbiot told Plimer that he is not qualified to answer Plimer's questions (although Gavin Schmidt of NASA did answer them).[35] On September 2, 2009, Monbiot published another column in The Guardian asking: "Is Ian Plimer ever going to answer my questions?" and suggested that Plimer was evading the questions by using the "Chewbacca defense" (use of red herrings and bafflegab).[36] A debate was subsequently held on 15 December, while Monbiot was in Copenhagen, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline programme, moderated by Tony Jones.[37]

Attempted arrest of John Bolton

Monbiot made an unsuccessful attempt to carry out a citizen's arrest of John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in May 2008. Monbiot argued that Bolton was one of the instigators of the Iraq War, of which Monbiot was an opponent.[38]

Political parties

He was involved initially with the RESPECT political party, but he broke with the organisation when it chose to run candidates against the Green Party in the 2004 election to the European Parliament.[39] In an interview with the British political blog Third Estate in September 2009, Monbiot expressed his support for the policies of Plaid Cymru, saying "I have finally found the party that I feel very comfortable with. That’s not to say I feel uncomfortable with the Green Party, on the whole I support it, but I feel even more comfortable with Plaid.”[40]

In April 2010, he was a signatory on an open letter of support for the Liberal Democrats, published in The Guardian.[41]

Indigenous rights

Monbiot has been associated with the cause of indigenous rights, and has sought to denounce threats to tribal people, at the face of corporate interests.[42][43] He contributed to the 2009 book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples,[44] which explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying both its diversity and the threats it faces. Other contributors included Western writers Laurens van der Post and Noam Chomsky. The royalties from the sale of the book go to the indigenous rights organization Survival International.[45]

Published works

Monbiot's first book was Poisoned Arrows (1989), a work of investigative travel journalism exposing what he calls the "devastating effects" of the partially World Bank-funded transmigration program on the peoples and tribes of Papua and West Papua in Indonesia. It was followed by Amazon Watershed (1991) which documented expulsions of Brazilian peasant farmers from their land and followed them thousands of miles across the forest to the territory of the Yanomami Indians, and showed how timber sold in Britain was being stolen from indigenous and biological reserves in Brazil. His third book, No Man's Land: An Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania (1994), documented the seizure of land and cattle from nomadic people in Kenya and the Tanzania, by – among other forces – game parks and safari tourism.

In 2000, he published Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. The book examines the role of corporate power within the United Kingdom, on both a local and national level, and argues that corporate involvement in politics is a serious threat to democracy. Subjects discussed in the book include the building of the Skye Bridge, corporate involvement in the National Health Service, the role of business in university research and the conditions which influence the granting of planning permission.

His fifth book, The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order, was published in 2003. The book is an attempt to set out a positive manifesto for change for the global justice movement. Monbiot criticises anarchism and Marxism, arguing that any possible solution to the world's inequalities must be rooted in a democratic parliamentary system. The four main changes to global governance which Monbiot argues for are a democratically elected world parliament which would pass resolutions on international issues; a democratised United Nations General Assembly to replace the unelected UN Security Council; the proposed International Clearing Union which would automatically discharge trade deficits and prevent the accumulation of debt; and a fair trade organisation which would regulate world trade in a way that protects the economies of poorer countries.

The book also discusses ways in which these ideas may be put into practice. He posits that the United States and Western European states are heavily dependent on the existence of this debt, and that when faced with a choice between releasing the developing world from debt and the collapse of the global economy, their internal economic interests will dictate that they opt for the "soft landing" option. However, Monbiot emphasises that he does not present the manifesto as a "final or definitive" answer to global inequalities but intends that it should open debate and stresses that those who reject it must offer their own solutions. He argues that ultimately the global justice movement "must seek [...] to provide a coherent programme of alternatives to the concentrated power of the dictatorship of vested interests."

Monbiot's next book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, published in 2006, focuses on the issue of climate change. He points out that the public-opinion campaign to cast doubt on the reality of climate change is funded by fossil-fuel companies (primarily Exxon-Mobil), and traces the "network of fake citizens' groups and bogus scientific bodies" campaigning to discredit climate science to origins in a campaign by tobacco companies to create a facade of science to cast doubt on the link between cigarette smoking and disease.[46] He argues that a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions is necessary in developed countries in order to prevent disastrous changes to the climate. He then sets out to demonstrate how such a reduction could be achieved within the United Kingdom, without a significant fall in living standards, through changes in housing, power supply and transport.


He has honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews and the University of Essex, and an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University.[47]

In 1995, Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement.[48] He has also won the Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize[49] for his screenplay The Norwegian, a Sony Award for radio production, the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award.[50] In November 2007 his book Heat was awarded the Premio Mazotti, an Italian book prize. But he was denied the money given with the prize because he refused to travel to Venice to collect it in person, arguing that it was not a good enough reason to justify flying.


  • Poisoned Arrows: An Investigative Journey Through Indonesia (1989, Abacus) ISBN 0-7181-3153-3
  • Amazon Watershed (1991, Abacus) ISBN 0-7181-3428-1
  • Mahogany Is Murder: Mahogany Extraction from Indian Reserves in Brazil (1992) ISBN 1-85750-160-8
  • No Man's Land: An Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania (1994, Picador) ISBN 0-333-60163-7
  • Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000, Macmillan) ISBN 0-333-90164-9
  • Anti-capitalism: A Guide to the Movement (2001, Bookmarks) ISBN 1-898876-78-9 contributor
  • Europe Inc.: Regional and Global Restructuring and the Rise of Corporate Power (2003, Pluto Press) foreword by George Monbiot, ISBN 0-7453-2163-1
  • The Age of Consent (2003, Flamingo) ISBN 0-00-715042-3
  • Manifesto for a New World Order (2004, The New Press) ISBN 1-56584-908-6
  • Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (September 2006, Allen Lane) ISBN 0-7139-9923-3 U.S. edition (April 2007,South End Press) ISBN 978-0-89608-779-8
  • Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (March 2008, Atlantic Books) ISBN 978-1843546566

See also

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Fox, Genevieve. Enter the clean-shaven adventurer hero. The Independent. 9 May 1995.
  3. "Junk Science" published in The Guardian 10 May 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  4. "Hunting the beast"
  5. "Libertarians are the true social parasites"
  6. "The flight to India"
  7. "Bards of the powerful"
  8. "Another one bites the dust"
  9. "Registry of interests"
  10. National Council, Internet Archive (2006), accessed June 26, 2008.
  11. Journalist Advisory Committee, The Real News, accessed March 17, 2008.
  12. Messengers,, accessed December 12, 2011.
  13. Artists Project Earth Who, organizational web page, accessed April 5, 2012.
  14. Climate Outreach Information Network People, organizational web page, accessed April 15, 2012.
  15. Environmental Law Foundation Patrons & Advisory Council, organizational web page, accessed January 1, 2013.
  16. "Time to speak up for climate-change science." (Mar 2005). Nature 434 (7033): 559. doi:10.1038/434559a. 
  17. "Drastic action needed now". The Guardian.
  18. Heat, London, Allen Lane, 2006, p. 215
  19. Bird, Maryann (2008-04-10). "Debate: is economic recession good for the environment?", chinadialogue. Retrieved on 2008-07-28. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Monbiot, George (2007-10-09). "Bring on the recession", Retrieved on 2008-07-28. 
  21. Mr Green goes motoring, The Times, 3 June 2007
  22. George Monbiot Canada tour 2006, November 2006
  23. George Monbiot in Vancouver, 23 November 2006
  24. People & Planet - Our Patron George Monbiot
  25. George Monbiot in The Age of Stupid
  26. Extended interview with Monbiot from The Age of Stupid
  27. George Monbiot "The nuclear winter draws near", The Guardian, 30 March 2000
  28. 28.0 28.1 Monbiot, George (21 March 2011). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power", The Guardian. Retrieved on 22 March 2011. 
  29. Monbiot, George (4 April 2011). "Evidence Meltdown", The Guardian. Retrieved on 17 April 2011. 
  30. Monbiot, George. "Spectator recycles climate rubbish published by sceptic. The Guardian. 9 July 2009
  31. George Monbiot. "Let battle commence! Climate change denialist ready for the fight", London: The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-08-10. 
  32. George Monbiot. "Why can't the champion of climate change denial face the music?", London: The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-08-10. 
  33. George Monbiot. "Let battle commence!", London: The Guardian UK. Retrieved on 2009-08-06. 
  34. Plimer resorts to attack as the best form of defence, George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 12, 2009
  35. RealClimate: Plimer’s homework assignment. Retrieved on 2009-09-02.
  36. Monbiot, George (2 September 2009). "Still moving Heaven and Earth to get answers from Plimer", London: Retrieved on 2009-09-02. 
  37. Plimer, Monbiot cross swords in climate debate. Retrieved on 2009-12-24.
  38. Adams, Stephen. John Bolton escapes citizen's arrest at Hay Festival, The Daily Telegraph, May 28, 2008.
  39. "Monbiot quits Respect over threat to Greens" The Guardian, 17 February 2004. Accessed 10 November 2006
  41. "Lib Dems are the party of progress". The Guardian. 28 April 2010.
  42. Call for napalm bombing of 'savages' wins Survival racism award. Survival International (2009-08-26). Retrieved on 2009-11-25.
  43. In Bed With the Killers - George Monbiot
  44. ‘We Are One: a celebration of tribal peoples’ published this autumn. Survival International (2009-10-16). Retrieved on 2009-11-25.
  45. Survival International - We Are One
  46. George Monbiot, "The Denial Industry", (excerpted from Heat); The Guardian 19 September 2006 (accessed 27 October 2010)
  47. About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006.
  48. Monbiot Profile on Global 500 Forum Accessed 10 November 2006.
  49. The Orwell Prize - George Monbiot profile
  50. About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006
  51. True Nature Foundation Team, organizational web page, accessed November 18, 2019.

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By George Monbiot

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