George Monbiot

George Monbiot
George Monbiot
Born George Joshua Richard Monbiot
27 January 1963 (1963-01-27) (age 48)
Residence Machynlleth, Wales
Nationality British
Education M.A. in zoology
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Occupation Writer, political activist
Parents Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot and Rosalie Cooke
Awards United Nations Global 500 Award (1995)

George Joshua Richard Monbiot (born 27 January 1963) is an English writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He lives in Machynlleth, Wales,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]


Early life

George Monbiot grew up in Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, in a house next to Peppard Common.[4] Politics was a the heart of family life—his father, Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot, is a businessman who headed the Conservative Party's trade and industry forum,[2] while his mother, Rosalie—the elder daughter of Conservative MP Roger Gresham Cooke[5]—was a Conservative councillor who led South Oxford district council for a decade.[6] His uncle, Canon Hereward Cooke, was the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Norwich City Council between 2002 and 2006.[7] Monbiot was educated at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, an independent school, and won an Open Scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford.


After graduating, he joined the BBC Natural History Unit as a radio producer, making natural history and environmental programmes. He transferred to the BBC's World Service, where he worked briefly as a current affairs producer and presenter, before leaving to research and write his first book.[8]

Working as an investigative journalist, he travelled in Indonesia, Brazil, and East Africa. His activities led to his being made persona non grata in several countries[9] and being sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in Indonesia.[10] In these places, he was also shot at,[11] beaten up by military police,[11] shipwrecked[11] and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets.[12] He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria.[13]

In Britain, he joined the roads protest movement and was often called to give press interviews. He was denounced as "nothing but a bandwagoner"[citation needed] and a "media tart"[14] by groups such as Green Anarchist and Class War. He was attacked by security guards, who allegedly drove a metal spike through his foot, smashing the middle metatarsal bone. His injuries left him in hospital. Sir Crispin Tickell, a former British diplomat at the United Nations, who was then Warden at Green College, Oxford, made the young protester a fellow, so that he had an office to organise his campaign from.[15] He was an active member of the Pure Genius!! campaign and co-founded The Land is Ours, which has occupied land all over the country. Its first notable success was in 1997, when it occupied thirteen acres (five hectares) of prime real estate on the river in London upon which owners Diageo intended to build a superstore. The protesters beat Diageo in court, built an "eco-village" and held on to the land for six months.[16]

Among his best-known articles are his critique of David Bellamy's climate science,[17] his description of an encounter with a police torturer in Brazil,[18] his attack on libertarian interpretations of genetics,[19] his discussion of the ethics of outsourcing,[20] and his attack on the politics of Bob Geldof and Bono.[21] 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.[22] 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. [23]

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

Monbiot lived in Oxford, UK, for many years, but in 2007 moved with his wife, writer and campaigner Angharad Penrhyn Jones, and daughter Hanna to a low emissions house in the mid-Wales market town of Machynlleth. The couple split up shortly thereafter.[24]


Climate change

Monbiot believes that drastic action coupled with strong political will is needed to combat global warming.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]

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?"[28][29] 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.[29]

Monbiot purchased a used diesel Renault Clio after moving to a small town in mid-Wales in 2007.[30] 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.[31][32]

He is the patron of the UK student campaign network People & Planet[33] 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".[34][35]

Monbiot attended the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen.

Monbiot once expressed deep antipathy to the nuclear industry.[36] 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",[37] 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.[37] 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.[38]

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".[29] 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.[39] 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".[40] Plimer then reversed his decision, and agreed to answer written questions in return for a live debate.[41] 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."[42] Monbiot told Plimer that he is not qualified to answer Plimer's questions (although Gavin Schmidt of NASA did answer them).[43][unreliable source?] 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.[44] 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.[45]

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, when the latter attended the Hay Festival to give a talk on international relations in May 2008. Monbiot argued that Bolton was one of the instigators of the Iraq War, of which Monbiot was an opponent.[46]

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.[47] 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.”[48]

In April 2010, he was a signatory on an open letter of support for the Liberal Democrats, published in The Guardian.[49]

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.[50][51] He contributed to the 2009 book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples,[52] 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, Noam Chomsky and Claude Lévi-Strauss, and indigenous writers Davi Kopenawa Yanomami and Roy Sesana. The royalties from the sale of the book go to the indigenous rights organization Survival International.[53]

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.

Monbiot at a Make Poverty History rally in Scotland

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.[54] 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.[16]

In 1995, Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement.[55] He has also won the Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize[56] for his screenplay The Norwegian, a Sony Award for radio production, the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award.[57] 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.


See also


  1. ^ Smith, Emma (3 June 2007). "Mr Green goes motoring". The Times (London). 
  2. ^ a b Fox, Genevieve. Enter the clean-shaven adventurer hero. The Independent. 9 May 1995.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Andy Beckett. Occupying the Moral High Ground. Independent. 12 May 1996
  5. ^ Marriages, p. 10, The Times, 9 December 1961
  6. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1996
  7. ^ Times Online.Obituary: Canon Hereward Cooke. Times Online. 7 January 2010.
  8. ^ Monbiot CV on McSpotlight
  9. ^ "George Monbiot - short bio.". Penguin Books.,,1000047320,00.html. Retrieved 2007-05-26. 
  10. ^ "In a globalised world of opportunity". London: The Sunday Times (UK). 2003-06-22. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  11. ^ a b c George Monbiot, 1991. Amazon Watershed. Michael Joseph, London
  12. ^ George Monbiot, 1989. Poisoned Arrows: an investigative journey through Indonesia. Michael Joseph, London
  13. ^ George Monbiot No Man's Land: an investigative journey through Kenya and Tanzania, 1994
  14. ^ George Monbiot. "The land is ours Campaign", in George McKay DiY Culture, Party and Protest in Nineties Britain, 1998, p181
  15. ^ Genevieve Fox. Independent. 9 May 1995
  16. ^ a b About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006.
  17. ^ "Junk Science" published in The Guardian 10 May 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  18. ^ "Hunting the beast"
  19. ^ "Libertarians are the true social parasites"
  20. ^ "The flight to India"
  21. ^ "Bards of the powerful"
  22. ^ "Another one bites the dust"
  23. ^ "Registry of interests"
  24. ^ Crewe, Bel (7 September 2008). "Moving house from the city to the country". The Times (London). 
  25. ^ Monbiot, G.; Lynas, M.; Marshall, G.; Juniper, T.; Tindale, S. (2005). "Time to speak up for climate-change science". Nature 434 (7033): 559. doi:10.1038/434559a. PMID 15800596.  edit
  26. ^ "Drastic action needed now". The Guardian.
  27. ^ Heat, London, Allen Lane, 2006, p. 215
  28. ^ Bird, Maryann (2008-04-10). "Debate: is economic recession good for the environment?". chinadialogue. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  29. ^ a b c Monbiot, George (2007-10-09). "Bring on the recession". Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  30. ^ Mr Green goes motoring, The Times, 3 June 2007
  31. ^ George Monbiot Canada tour 2006, November 2006
  32. ^ George Monbiot in Vancouver, 23 November 2006
  33. ^ People & Planet - Our Patron George Monbiot
  34. ^ George Monbiot in The Age of Stupid
  35. ^ Extended interview with Monbiot from The Age of Stupid
  36. ^ George Monbiot "The nuclear winter draws near", The Guardian, 30 March 2000
  37. ^ a b Monbiot, George (21 March 2011). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  38. ^ Monbiot, George (4 April 2011). "Evidence Meltdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  39. ^ George Monbiot (August 2009). "Let battle commence! Climate change denialist ready for the fight". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  40. ^ George Monbiot (July 2009). "Why can't the champion of climate change denial face the music?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  41. ^ George Monbiot (August 2009). "Let battle commence!". London: The Guardian UK. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  42. ^ Plimer resorts to attack as the best form of defence, George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 12, 2009
  43. ^ "RealClimate: Plimer’s homework assignment". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  44. ^ Monbiot, George (2 September 2009). "Still moving Heaven and Earth to get answers from Plimer". London: Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  45. ^ "Plimer, Monbiot cross swords in climate debate". Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  46. ^ Adams, Stephen. John Bolton escapes citizen's arrest at Hay Festival, The Daily Telegraph, May 28, 2008.
  47. ^ "Monbiot quits Respect over threat to Greens" The Guardian, 17 February 2004. Accessed 10 November 2006
  48. ^
  49. ^ "Lib Dems are the party of progress". The Guardian. 28 April 2010.
  50. ^ "Call for napalm bombing of 'savages' wins Survival racism award". Survival International. 2009-08-26. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  51. ^ In Bed With the Killers - George Monbiot
  52. ^ "‘We Are One: a celebration of tribal peoples’ published this autumn". Survival International. 2009-10-16. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  53. ^ Survival International - We Are One
  54. ^ George Monbiot, "The Denial Industry", (excerpted from Heat); The Guardian 19 September 2006 (accessed 27 October 2010)
  55. ^ Monbiot Profile on Global 500 Forum Accessed 10 November 2006.
  56. ^ The Orwell Prize - George Monbiot profile
  57. ^ About George Monbiot George Monbiot's biography on Accessed 10 November 2006

External links

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