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“What a Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into” – ‘Progress’ After Sixty Years of the Ecological Debate?

The environmental movement is very good at praising its efforts, but seldom does it actively probe its arguments and assumptions against the hardest test of all – the latest data on ecological collapse. This presentation seeks to test the assumptions of environmentalism, with perhaps uncomfortable results.

Title frame for “What a Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into”
download the slides from the presentation
(PDF file, 12MB)
For more information about my work, click here; or for my latest ‘introduction’ video click here.

Be it playing music or physical exercise, to become better and more proficient in our skill level we have to ‘consciously’ practise to improve – constantly pushing the boundaries of how we think or act in order to get better and discover our true potential.

From my years of experience in the environmental movement there is a widespread tendency not to do that – to accept debates or assumptions as they are, and not test those ideas against what the most recent objective research data demonstrates.

2022/23 represents the anniversary of many significant environmental works. To mark these auspicious anniversaries, this new presentation seeks to use the latest data on ecological change to test contemporary assumptions about the environment and ecological change, against the background those original texts presented 35, 50, or 60 years ago.

This presentation reflects upon some of my recent work, as well as using new information to create new insights that I will publish more on over the coming year. The sections below give links to background information on each slide:

Slides 1/2. ‘Introduction’

The title slide for this presentation may only be temporary… as hopefully will be the current government!

Cropped title frame meme for “What a Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into”

I’m not sure people appreciate (due to our compromised & uncritical mainstream media) just how ideological this current government is, the role of the ‘dark money’ lobby groups who now hold sway in Westminster politics and the media in this transition (centred on Tufton Street think tanks), and just how far those groups are willing to go in their effort to dismantle the environmental protections evolved over the last 40 years.

This presentation was conceived under Boris Johnson’s premiership. The scale of the shift to the right in British politics should concern everyone (even many ‘traditional’ Tories!). The resources below seek to make sense of that in relation to ecological issues, and the assault on that reality by the ideologies at the heart of the new government – and why the environmental movement simply have no plausible response because of their historic problems at accepting the objective evidence on ecological trends.

Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/14.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/14: ‘The Limits to Growth’ (1972)
Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/24.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/24: ‘This Land is Our Land’ (1987)
Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/21.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/21: ‘Food for Free’ (1972)
Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/18.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2021/18: ‘Diet for a Small Planet (1971)’
Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/19.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/19: ‘Silent Spring’ (1962)
Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/26.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/26: ‘Stone Age Economics’ (1972)

Slide 3. ‘2022/23 Anniversaries’

2022 and 2023 are a good time to reflect on where the movement has come from, and where it is heading, as they mark significant anniversaries in the creation of the movement – and thus a baseline to measure ‘progress’.

I have an extensive library, collated over forty years of working on these issues, and as part of my work I produce five-minute reviews of significant ‘old’ books. Too many of these book have slipped out of the contemporary ecological consciousness, and my hope is that these works will re-introduce people to their interesting ideas.

I’ve been publishing reviews of many of these books for their anniversaries, which can be accessed from the links on the right. Keep and eye on this blog as there will be more ‘anniversary reviews’ published over the rest of 2022 and into 2023.

Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/29.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/29: ‘Why the lights are going out on Britain’s asset-stripped nation’

Slides 4/5. ‘Energy in Britain’

These slides are from some recent work, which ultimately stretches back to the publication of my 2005 book, ‘Energy Beyond Oil’.

There is a detailed explanation of these slides, and the data they depict, in my recent video, ‘Why the lights are going out on Britain’s asset-stripped nation’ – which examines the policies of the new government against the background of the objective data that describe our situation.

Slide 6: ‘Social Movements & Social Consciousness’
‘The Swirl’ – an attempt to explain the inter-related nature of how social movements have evolved over the last century.

Slide 6. ‘Social Movements & Social Consciousness’

This slide represents some completely new work I am conducting as part of this presentation. It looks at the co-evolution of political and economic consciousness through the various social movements that emerged over the Twentieth Century – looking at a truly global comparison of the movements that emerged over this period, not simply the dominant narrative in the UK based on European/US social movements.

Screenshot from the film, ‘Winstanley’ (1975)
The ‘Meta-Blog’, no.9: ‘My Resignation’; or, ‘Long Walks & Anarcho-Primitivism’, 1st December 2020

A key part of this process is examining the social science research which demonstrates the narrow social spectrum which represents ecological issues in Western states, and why this not only fails to communicate these issues as a mass movement, but also why it fails to consider critical issues such as material and economic inequality as an ‘ecological’ issue. I wrote long blog post in late 2020 which extensively references the research on this issue, which will be updated as part of this new work.

Hopefully this work will be complete in the new year, and I'll likely publish a longer video at that point to explain these ideas in detail.

Title frame for WEIRD no.5: ‘Research for the End of Your 'Normal' Everyday Existence’.
WEIRD No.5: ‘Research for the End of Your 'Normal' Everyday Existence’
Title frame for WEIRD no.2: ‘Welcome the Extinction’.
WEIRD No.2: ‘Welcome the Extinction’

Slide 7. ‘Ecocide Long List’

The environment movement has become focussed on a single metric: Carbon. Any system of evaluation based upon a single metric is bound to ignore or misjudge the complex nature of human and natural systems. Most notably, think of how environmentalists criticise economists or politicians for reducing human progress to the single metrics of ‘money’ or ‘growth’.

The Free Range Network’s newsletter has two issues which look specifically at this evidence. Click the links on the right to access them.

Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/10.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/10: ‘The deeper meaning buried in the data on carbon emissions: A Data Blog’

Slides 8-11. ‘The Deeper Meaning Buried in the Data on Carbon Emissions: A Data Blog’

These slides look at the history of carbon emissions over the Industrial Revolution – in particular, why the effect of exponential growth concentrates most of the impact within the last two or three decades, meaning that any historical argument over pollution is pointless. It is what is happening right now which matters most.

The sources of this data and its interpretation is explained in detail in a video I produced in Spring 2022.

Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/1.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/1: ‘Winter Solstice Plus One’

Slide 12. Pivot slide

I use slides like this as a break, to recap, and then to set off on a new course.

This image is of a frosty dawn in Broughton Castle Park at the Winter Solstice, which you can see in a video I published at the beginning of the year.

Title frame for Ward 2016: ‘Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?’.
PLOS One: ‘Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?’, vol. 11(10) art. e0164733, 14th October 2016.

Slide 13. ‘Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?’

The basis of nearly all contemporary environmental policy is that – primarily via technological means (so that lifestyle change is unnecessary) – the impacts of economic growth can be ‘decoupled’ from ecological impacts. Every mainstream environmental organisation promotes this idea. Problem is, there is a growing body of research that shows this is not possible.

The decoupling issue should be investigated as a priority because it means much of what the environmental movement is telling the public today is simply untrue – there is no evidential basis to make those statements.

Jonathon Porrit slide from ‘Less is a Four-Letter Word’, 2007-2011.
‘Jonathon Porritt’ slide from
‘Less is a Four-Letter Word’, 2007-2011

Slide 14. ‘Less is a Four-Letter Word’

This new presentation is a re-creation of a presentation I ran from 2007 to 2011, ‘Less is a Four-Letter Word’. At that time the evidence for issues like decoupling, or the failure of proposed new technologies to break existing ecological trends, did exist – but it wasn’t ‘conclusive’.

In retrospect, we now know that the debate evolved by key figures in the environment movement, such as Jonathon Porritt, has no evidential basis. It is an assumption, but more importantly, an assumption designed to curry favour with power and politics in order to make policy change. That may have been a rational action at the time, but we now know it to be a false equivalence, and so we must urgently revisit this compromise and test its validity today.

Slide 15-17. ‘Climate, Emissions, and Economic Inequality’

Title frame for Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/4.
Ramblinactivist’s Video 2022/4: ‘Fuel Poverty, the Cost of Living Crisis, and Climate Change – A Data Blog’

These slides explain the relationship between carbon emissions and affluence at the global, EU, and national level – and thus the critical relationship between economic inequality and how we address environmental problems. This explains not only the flaws in the environmental arguments for change, this same data also demonstrates the flaws in the anti-environmental arguments which are ‘weaponised’ by right-wing lobby groups (like the people behind the current government) to stall radical change.

The data behind these slides was explained in a video I produced in February 2022.

Cartoon: “I Told You So!” (The hippies were right!)
The most critical thing to understand is that, from the senior management of eco-campaign groups to the offices of Tufton Street, when it comes to a radical explanation of the latest research evidence on ecological trends everyone involved is trying to deflect from a basic truth they cannot accept: “The hippies were right!”.

Slides 17-20. ‘Concluding slides’

The most important thing about this presentation is that it’s a ‘work in progress’ (both figuratively and literally!).

It updates work from nearly 20 years ago based on the most recent data – which confirms the trends being discussed at that time, and thus the urgency of changing how the environmental movement represents ecological change and the social and economic response to that.

For the environmental movement this poses some difficult and uncomfortable questions. But half-a-century on from the flourishing of ecological thought which gave rise to the movement, if we don’t have a discussion about it now then when? That, I hope, will be the result of promoting this work:

  • To objectively look at the history of what the movement has realistically achieved to prevent ecological Armageddon;
  • The reasons why there has been so little progress, and the assumptions and poor thinking which has given rise to that;
  • The ‘Elephant in the Room’, the narrow social and economic demographic who make-up the environment movement, and why that prevents the formation of a mass movement for change; and
  • Joining all of this as a comprehensive argument, the most up-to-date body of research evidence which not only points to these truths, but which also dismembers the case of many of the groups who oppose ecological change.

In early-mid 2023 I hope to produce a longer video encapsulating all these ideas. In the meantime, if you would like to host this presentation, and help to contribute to evolving this debate, please get in touch.

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