Saturday, August 04, 2007

Eco-Socialists hate flying

This is my problem with green politics at its most eco-socialist: I don't think they're doing what any attempt at forming environmental policy should be doing - trading off expected costs to climate change against the costs of stopping us doing the things we love. They don't love the things we do.

They hate flying:

"Except there's a catch. The truth is, I don't feel I'm making any sacrifice at all. Because I hate flying."


"Even before kids came along, I hated flying. Irrational, I know, but I find it frightening: the loss of control, the sheer helplessness up in the sky. I can make my palms sweat just thinking about it."

Now, do we believe that when Jonathan Freedland makes the case for increased taxation on aviation he is thinking "while it isn't to my taste I understand that other people enjoy flying, what a shame we have to cut down to save the environment"? Or, do we think he has "Good. Bloody planes" running through his head?

I reckon it's the latter and I don't think Freedland is alone. They don't like planes, cars and the rest of modern, industrial life. They don't possess the humility to accept that others do. Green politics provides an excuse to push lifestyles in a direction their hippy movement has been pushing for decades.

That's why they'll ignore that, for example, trains aren't better than planes for the environment if they go at a decent speed (as the one pictured in Freedland's article does). From an article by Monbiot of all people:

"Though trains traveling at normal speeds have much lower carbon emissions than airplanes…. energy consumption rises dramatically at speeds above 125 miles per hour…. If the trains are powered by electricity, and if that electricity is produced by plants burning fossil fuels, they cause more C02 emissions than planes."


Colin Campbell said...

As somebody who used to fly regularly when I was based in Singapore, I am very grateful that it was pre terrorism and 9/ll. I used to just rock up about half an hour before the flight and head off to wherever. I cannot say that flying was enjoyable, despite what the Singapore Airlines Commercials say. I never worried too much about the safety aspcts. It was just part of my job and a means to an end.

I cannot comprehend living like that now that I have a family and the hassles of making simple domestic flights, which I do very rarely.

So flying you can keep it.

Also I think of my Grandparents whose one big luxury in their life was their annual holiday in the sun for two weeks. Depriving them of that would have been very mean.

Meg said...

Hi Matt!
I gotta admit that while I agree that the guy you quoted sounds like a bit of an ass, I'm kind of at a loss for what your overall point is, and I'm wincing at the extension of that judgment to cover all (or even a lot) of green activists. I mean, it's an awful lot like taking an example of a Tory MP who shows contempt for the homeless and extending that to "see, conservatives only want to lower taxes for welfare because they hate poor people" or any of a myriad of other examples.
And even if it is a lot of greens who are just not "humble" enough about their beliefs, is this a big problem? Assuming you're not a Kantian, one's motives in trying to help the environment shouldn't be as important as the fact that you're working to help the environment at all. If there motives would cause them to go too far then sure, it's something to be wary of, but there's not exactly a danger of us all being forced to abandon high-tech lifestyles in favor of Amish-ness.
So I guess I'm just wondering... what is it about this guy or the people like him that makes them worth getting riled up about?

Hope you're doing well, by the way :)

Matthew Sinclair said...

Meg, you're absolutely right. Freedland just pissed me off.

However, I do think there's a particular link between a socialist movement that advocated much the same things before and after global warming hit the stage and the worst aspects of green politics.

Dave Cole said...

I'd like to see UK plc becoming a leader in green technologies. Some judicious tax-breaks and government grants could push the technologies along a bit more quickly. The problem is not insurmountable.

As to his point about trains; trains can be powered electrically; we just hook 'em up to renewable generation. If we had more trains with regenerative braking, we'd save on the amount of power needed for them. Planes have to take their fuel with them at least until someone comes up with an extension cord that will reach to 30,000 feet. Assuming we want to keep flying, we can make carbon savings elsewhere.

Btw, George Monbiot objects to nuclear power on the basis that nuclear waste would have to be disposed of geologically. He supports carbon capture and storage from coal-fired power plants; unfortunately, the carbon dioxide would have to be disposed of... geologically.


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