George Monbiot argues for unemployment again
In his own inimitable style, George Monbiot argues in The Guardian today to allow car firms to go to the wall. Most of the article is quite rightly a condemnation of the car industry for failing to up its green game despite demanding subsidies. He is also right to attack governments for failing to require improvements in the industry. But it seems illogical (not to say heartless) to then argue:
It’s a fair guess that European car makers will still fail to meet their environmental targets, even if they get the money they’re demanding. The greenest thing governments could do is to allow these foot-dragging, planet-eating spongers to go under.
Chucking hundreds of thousands of ordinary workers and their families onto the dole and into hardship just as a very deep recession looms is to repeat the old false dichotomy between the well-being of workers and the well-being of the environment. Many unions used to hold this view (unlike Monbiot they opted for the jobs over the environment) but they are more sophisticated now and recognise that a well-planned, socially just and forthright shift to a low carbon economy will actually generate many decent jobs. See, for example, the recent Touchstone pamphlet on a ‘just transition’.
Monbiot, of course, has form on this arguing last year that a major global recession was just what was needed to cut carbon emissions. He contradicted himself some months later when he argued that a recession would push environmental policies off the political agenda. He might also have added that if prominent environmentalists also argue for that recession, they do incalculable harm to the political credibility of the environmental cause.