Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet | George Monbiot

Growth must go on and its destroying the Earth. But theres no way of greening it. So we need a new system, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

Everyone wants everything how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.

But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced in this case by the media.

With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.

Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunas, portable watermelon coolers and smartphones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes tothe PancakeBot: a 3D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa, theTaj Mahal, or your dogs bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you dont have room for it. For junk like this, were trashing the living planet, and our own prospects ofsurvival. Everything must go.

The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who dont. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.

Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had relatively small benefits.

I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings ahundredfold. Ive come to believe thatthe recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people theyvegone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.

None of this means that we should not try to reduce our footprint, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes ofthe system. It is the system itself thatneedsto change.

Research by Oxfam suggests that the worlds richest 1% (if your household has an income of 70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?

By decoupling, the economists tell us: detaching economic growth from our use of materials. So how well is this going? A paper in the journal PlosOne finds that while, in some countries, relative decoupling has occurred, no country has achieved absolute decoupling during the past 50 years. What this means is that the amount of materials and energy associated with each increment of GDP might decline but, as growth outpaces efficiency, the total use of resources keeps rising. More important, the paper reveals that, in the long term, both absolute and relative decoupling from the use of essential resources is impossible, because of the physical limits of efficiency.

A global growth rate of 3% means thatthe size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.

Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the worlds people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 (84) of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.

When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the worlds treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever lessrelation to general welfare.

Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all areillusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, basedon private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation areone beast with two heads.

We need a different system, rootednot in economic abstractions butin physical realities, that establishthe parameters by which we judgeits health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, aworld of private sufficiency and publicluxury. And we must do it beforecatastrophe forces our hand.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/22/black-friday-consumption-killing-planet-growth

Trump’s day of doom for national monuments approaches

Created by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Cascade-Siskiyou monument protects Oregons extraordinary biodiversity, from butterflies to trout. But a Trump review threatens to open the landscape to the timber industry

Dave Willis, a grizzled woodsman and backcountry outfitter, has spent decades laboring to protect the mountains of south-western Oregon, one of the most beautiful, biodiverse regions in the country.

Through grassrootsactivism, Willis and his conservationist allies have won the support of two US presidents. In 2000, Bill Clinton created the roughly 52,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou national monument, proclaiming it an ecological wonderland. Located just outside of Ashland, it was the first such monument established solely for its extraordinary species diversity. Its a place that harbors rare lilies and endemic trout, Pacific fishers andgoshawks, black bears and a stunning array of butterflies.

During his final week in office, meanwhile, Barack Obama added about 48,000 acres to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument, nearly doubling it in size.

Now, the Trump administration is threatening to undo it all. In April, the White House announced its intent to review 27 different national monument designations, as the Interior Department looks for commercial opportunities for the oil, mining and timber industries on American public lands. And the Cascade-Siskiyou preserve is on the list.

All the signs indicate that were in the crosshairs, says Willis, as his horses drift through 10-storey trees during a recent ride through the monument. We could lose it all.

With the monument review due to the president on Thursday, conservationists like Willis are on edge. Ryan Zinke, the swaggeringMontana native who is the secretary of the interior and is leading the effort, has already unveiled some of his recommendations. They include shrinking the Bears Ears national monument in Utah, a 1.3 million-acre monument created by Obama to protect Native American antiquities. Zinke said six monuments should be left alone, which leaves 20 including the Cascade-Siskiyou at risk of being reduced in size, eliminated or opened to industrial uses.

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Ryan Zinke, whos overseeing Trumps review of 27 national monuments, has said only six should be left alone. Photograph: Steve Marcus/AP

In late July, Zinke, visited Cascade-Siskiyou; he met with monument opponents and supporters. He hasnt yet publicly signaled the direction he is leaning in. But since his arrival in Washington, Zinke has been remaking the interior department by filling senior positions with representatives from extractive industries and rightwing advocacy groups.

At its core, the monument review is an attempt to weaken the Antiquities Act, one of Americas oldest public-interest conservation laws. Backing the review are some of the most powerful conservative factions in Washington, including organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Prosperity, all heavily financed by dark-money funds tied to wealthy Republican donors.

The debate over Cascade-Siskiyou presents a snapshot of the cultural and economic conflict that so often characterizes public land management in the American west. Its a conflict that regularly pits scientists, conservationists and the burgeoning outdoor-recreation economy against the industrial interests that have dominated the region for well over a century. The struggle is about power and wealth and culture who gets to decide how the publicly owned mountains and mineral deposits and timberlands are managed.

The underlying issue, across the west, says Steve Pedery, the conservation director at Oregon Wild, is that oil, gas, mining, grazing and logging interests are angry because 20 years ago they ruled public lands, and today they dont.

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president is authorized to unilaterally declare any federally owned object of historic or scientific interest a national monument and preserve it in perpetuity for all Americans. Every president since Theodore Roosevelt, save Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush, has used it, and this country now has a grand total of 129 such monuments. The 27 monuments now under review were set aside over the past three decades by Clinton, George W Bush and Obama. Donald Trump is the first president to consider undoing the designation of monuments by his predecessors.

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Bill Clinton, flanked by Al Gore, designates the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Photograph: Doug Mills/AP

In 2000, when Clinton initially established the Cascade-Siskiyou monument, he described it as a biological crossroads the interface of the Cascade, Klamath and Siskiyou eco-regions, in an area of unique geology, biology, climate and topography. The monuments extraordinary species diversity includes a vast selection of birds and furbearers, of wildflowers and ferns and fungi, much of it undisturbed by industrial activity or real estate development.

In 2011, however, local scientists came together and concluded that the monument did not sufficiently protect the full range of species diversity in the landscape. They published a report that urged the Obama administration to expand it and began a campaign to make the Cascade-Siskiyou monument bigger.

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A cascade within Sucker Creek inside the Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon. Photograph: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

The Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, chaired by Dave Willis, along with a slew of other environmental groups, led the charge. They did the slow grassroots work that conservation work often requires, from lobbying federal representatives to taking people into the backcountry to see the landscape for themselves. Oregons governor, both its senators and numerous state legislators backed the expansion. The nearby Klamath Tribes were behind it, too.

In mid-January, they largely prevailed when Obama agreed to expand the monument.

But the opposition was significant. The expansion would permanently withdraw as much as 45,000 acres of land from most commercial timber production though many of these had already been set aside for conservation purposes. Greg Walden, the states powerful Republican congressman opposed the expansion. The governments of all three counties containing the monument, as well as seven Oregon state legislators and two California members of Congress, also were against it. The most vigorous foes, though, were members of the timber industry.

The economic impacts [of the monument expansion] would be devastating, says Travis Joseph, president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, or AFRC, a timber industry trade group. Joseph says neighboring counties would forever lose revenue for public safety, health and roads, asserting that those acres could support or create a few hundred jobs.

In March, the AFRC filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that Obamas national monument expansion wasnt just economically harmful but also fundamentally illegal. The suit relies on a little known law called the the Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act (known as the O&C Act) of 1937. The law declares that these lands are to be managed for permanent forest production to provide timber, protect watersheds and contribute to local economic stability.

In its lawsuit, AFRC claims that Obamas monument expansion violated the 1937 law by banning most commercial logging. A few other parties, including a regional wood products manufacturer called Murphy Company and an alliance of county governments, filed similar lawsuits last winter.

While this fight is about timber production on public lands, it also reflects the sense among some people that the federal government is an overweening bully trying to snuff out the economic and cultural heritage of rural westerners. Colleen Roberts, for instance, a Jackson County commissioner, sees the monument expansion as a top-down designation that will stifle local authority.

Another concern I personally have is just a continuation of federal land-grabbing, she says, sitting in front of an American flag in her Jackson County office. Constitutionally I dont know if that is what the federal government was supposed to do, to own all of our land and control it.

A similar mentality was on display last February, in what might be the Cascade-Siskiyous most Bundy-esque moment. For one day, a caravan of big pickups descended on the area for an anti-monument rally meant to protect culture, heritage and livelihoods. Scores of protesters drove to the Green Springs Inn, a small restaurant and hotel located on private property inside the Cascade-Siskiyou area and whose owners are ardent monument advocates. The rally featured a hodgepodge of members of interest groups from militia supporters to motorized vehicle proponents, who stood outside the inn and held signs reading New Endangered Species: Rural American and Quit Closing Roads.

We really need to stick up for our culture, said Ryan Mallory, a local marketing consultant who helped organize the rally, during a radio interview in February. And in a way I feel like this is an attack on a culture, a culture of people that has been here for more than 150 years.

Diarmuid McGuire, one of the Green Springs Inns proprietors, says the monument has helped business and put us on the map. But it has also inflamed raw divisions.

You have two cultures with two totally different value systems and two different political agendas and in our community everyone is sort of amalgamated, McGuire says. It is a culture war, really, and when you organize a political rally around it, you get the anti-monument people, you get the gun people … and then you get the anti-government militia mixed in, and we had them all here across the street. He points to his neighbors property across the street, displaying a sign in block letters: NO MONUMENT OUR LAND OUR VOICE.

Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild says the forest products industry and its allies are trying to return Oregon to some long vanished golden era of timber riches. The industry, after all, has declined immensely in the state, from a peak of having nearly 90,000 direct payroll jobs in the 1950s to roughly 31,000 today.

All the while, the outdoor recreation industry has blossomed, currently employing more than 140,000 people in Oregon, according to a report from the Outdoor Industry Association.

In February and March, conservation groups like Oregon Wild, Williss Soda Mountain Wilderness Council and some of their collaborators, fearing that the Trump administration might settle with the timber industry, lawyered up and intervened in the court cases in an attempt to defend the monument.

Willis is troubled bythe lawsuits and Trumps monument review, but he and his allies have battled what he calls the timber-county industrial complex for years. Its been a hard slog to prevent timber sales, buy out grazing permits, limit off-road vehicle access and otherwise preserve and restore this place. Willis, who lost both feet and his fingers to frostbite during a Denali ascent decades ago, is a determined man. And no matter what transpires now, no matter what the secretary of the interior says or a distant judge declares, hell keep fighting to protect the landscape he loves.

Love where you live, he says, riffing on a conservationist slogan. Defend what you love.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/20/national-monuments-review-may-limit-environment-protection-