The Monbiot Effect Series

Part 2 of 3:

George Monbiot's Feral Debunked

Part 1 of 3: George Monbiot Goes Off the Deep End with His Obesity Article in the Guardian
Part 2 of 3: George Monbiot's Feral Debunked
Part 3 of 3: George Monbiot's Rewilding Soul

By: Shawn Alli
Posted: October 8, 2015

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*All individuals and organizations receive 3 full days of pre-publication notice.


*Disclosure: I am NOT funded by any private interest groups (NGOs, foundations, industry or political entities).


* For George Monbiot's view on climate change please see Part 6 of 8: Environmental Journalists - George Monbiot.

 

This article is the second installment of an ongoing series to critically examine the influence of George Monbiot's work.

 

 

George Monbiot's Feral is supposedly about reconnecting with nature and respecting its existence. Unfortunately it's a mismatch of ideologies that only breeds confusion.

 

I'm going to slowly unpackage the ludicrous claims that Monbiot makes in this book, along with the usual tangents. If you'd like to read a puff piece review of this book I suggest you look to mainstream media book reviews.

 

Intentionality

Even before the introduction, the inside front flap of the book is problematic:

Making use of some remarkable scientific discoveries, Feral lays out a new, positive environmentalism, in which nature is allowed to find its own way. [1]

 

On the surface, there's nothing wrong with this statement. But after reading Feral and almost all of Monbiot's articles in the Guardian I can assure you that it's problematic.

 

The reason is because of intentionality, namely, nature's intentionality. To "allow nature to find its own way" implies that nature has intentionality. That it's a conscious being.

 

I have no problem with this ideology because I believe that nature is/has consciousness and that the planet is "her" (subjective pronoun) body.

 

Most intellectuals, scientists and atheists will issue the charge of anthropomorphism. But it's an unfair charge because it's an unfalsifiable claim. And all unfalsifiable claims lie in the realm of philosophy not science (not exclusive, but generally speaking).

 

Of course, if the current scientific method does change to include non-physical processes (mind, thought, intentionality and desire) then it would belong to science as much as it does to philosophy.

 

But let's get back to the issue. Is Monbiot claiming that nature has intentionality to find its own path? In an email request for comment I ask him:

1. Do you believe that nature has/is consciousness endowed with intentionality?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

Moving on.

 

Politics & Nature

Monbiot starts off the introduction with confusing statements:

The oil curse which has blighted so many weaker nations has now struck in a place which seemed to epitomise solidity and sense. [2]

 

The oil curse? You mean the Industrial Revolution? Umm...without the Industrial Revolution almost every person on the planet who's alive today wouldn't have been born. Does Monbiot regret being born? While such a question is rhetorical, there are many environmentalists, atheists and scientists that see humanity as a curse on this planet.

 

Monbiot, like any good environmental journalist, solicits the help of First Nation communities to be against resource development:

The direct action by the First Nation peoples [Idle No More] who lead this movement, in defense of both the living planet and their own patrimony, remind the rest of the world that the Canadian government does not represent the will of all its people. [3]

 

At first glance, this statement appears to make sense; but in reality it's a loaded statement that needs to be unpackaged.

 

The Idle No More movement is a political movement to address the lack of government support for Aboriginals in Canada. And what's the result? It depends on who you talk to. Some call it a success while others call it a failure. But I'm sure that Aboriginals in Canada will make their voices heard in the upcoming Canadian federal election in October 2015.

 

And living in isolated Aboriginal communities in the Northwest Territories, Canada I can definitely say that Aboriginals (and anyone for that matter), are capable of enjoying the benefits of both traditional and modern living.

 

Monbiot mentions that the term "living planet." While the planet is of course alive, is he referring to the general Aboriginal perception of nature having intentionality? Or is he describing his perception of the planet? The question is similar to the first email request for comment, which Monbiot doesn't respond to.

 

The last part of this statement is about the nonsensical idea that governments actually represent the will of all (or even the majority) of its people.

Does the UK government represent Monbiot's will? In an email request for comment I ask him:

2. Does the UK government represent your will?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

A few pages later, Monbiot talks about the extinction of species due to unethical or incompetent human actions.

 

But it's worth asking the question. If a species dies out naturally does it mean that nature is evil? If not, why does that connotation apply when humans are the cause? In an email request for comment I ask Monbiot:

3. If a species dies out naturally does it mean that nature is evil? If not, why does that connotation apply when humans are the cause?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

Still in the introduction, Monbiot gets into the beauty of nature:

For those who appreciate natural beauty and understand ecosystem processes, it must feel like living in a country under enemy occupation. [4]

 

Is Monbiot implying that nature "feels" imprisoned by human activities/occupation? In an email request for comment I ask him:

4. Do you believe that nature feels imprisoned by human activities/occupation?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

If so, then again, that implies intentionality. And I'm fine with Monbiot implying that nature has intentionality, that's what I believe. I just wish he'd stop dancing around the issue and just admit his ideologies in the open.

 

In the next sentence Monbiot makes some unusual claims about Canadians:

It must also be intensely embarrassing. Canada is becoming a pariah state, whose name now involves images formerly associated with countries like Nigeria and Congo. [4]

 

Canada as a pariah state? Associated with Nigeria and Congo? What is Monbiot smoking?

 

People would kill to become a Canadian citizen. Though I criticize the Canadian government in previous articles (and will continue to do so in the future), I still consider it a great privilege to be born in Canada.

 

I'd rather be born in Canada instead of the colonial, pedophile and surveillance capital of the world called the United Kingdom.

 

And while the Conservative government has pushed Canada's military role in various countries (which is conflicting for most Canadians), no Canadian would associate Canada with Nigeria or the Congo.

 

Monbiot's next sentence is quite disheartening:

Canadian friends joke that they stitch US flags onto their rucksacks when they go abroad. [4]

 

I only have one thing to say to such Canadians...don't come back to Canada.

 

Just from reading the introduction Monbiot touts himself as an environmental and social guru know-it-all living off the land. A common trait with environmental activists and environmental journalists.

 

Moving on.

 

Junk Ideologies

Monbiot starts off Chapter 1 with a story of his experiences in Brazil. While the story is worthy of being in a fiction book, it annoys me when authors start off books or chapters with long fiction-like stories to captivate the reader. Just write a fiction book. If it's non-fiction don't waste the reader's time trying to set the mood.

 

In this chapter Monbiot makes an unusual claim about the state of nature for humans:

There was no state of grace, no golden age in which people lived in harmony with nature. [5]

 

This statement is completely false. While there are many people who don't "favorably" adapt to nature, that's only due to ideologies. If you believe that nature is a machine-like organism pumping out resources for the benefit of humanity you're unlikely to "connect" with nature.

 

There have been numerous groups of people who worship nature or respect it's consciousness as being sacred and work in balance with it. The Aboriginal people in Canada, prior to residential schools, are an example.

 

The brutal and unforgiving Hobbesian state of nature for humans is completely false. It's just garbage ideology from a philosopher who believes that monarchs have the divine right to rule to save humanity from themselves (which I'm sure Monbiot is against).

 

Moving on.

 

Perception

Monbiot talks about settling down and being "ecologically bored" in his predictable lifestyle. [6] I'm sorry but it's not nature's job to pick you up when you feel bored. If you're bored then that's your problem. Don't bring nature into it.

 

Along the same lines, in Chapter 6 Monbiot says that:

Whenever I venture into the Cambrian Desert I almost lose the will to live. It looks like a perpetual winter. [7]

 

I'm sorry but this is merely a problem of perception. I'm sure some people believe the scenery is beautiful. Again, the problem isn't nature, it's Monbiot's perception of what nature "should" look like.

 

Rewilding

Back in Chapter 1 Monbiot mentions his ideology on rewilding:

Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way. [8]

 

I don't have a problem with this ideology. I'm just confused. Does Monbiot believe that nature has intentionality to find its own way? If he responded to the first question in the email request for comment we would have our answer.

 

The confusing claims continue in the next few pages:

Rewilding has no end points, no view about what a 'right' ecosystem or a 'right' assemblage of species looks like. It does not strive to produce a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef. It lets nature decide. [9]

 

Again, the problem is the same as the previous question.

 

A few pages further, Monbiot presents a contradictory view on rewilding:

Rewilding, paradoxically, should take place for the benefit of people, to enhance the world in which we live, and not for the sake of an abstraction we call nature. [10]

 

It doesn't get any more contradictory than this. You can't have it both ways. Either rewilding is geared towards nature or to humans. While it can work for both, one will take higher priority than the other.

 

And Monbiot's claim of nature being an "abstraction" is contradictory to his earlier claim about "letting nature find its own way."

 

Love

Another quandary is Monbiot's use of the term "love."

Rewilding is not about abandoning civilization but about enhancing it. It is to 'love not man less, but Nature more'. [11]

 

In Chapter 7 he mentions the term love a second time:

When he [Alan Watson Featherstone, a rewilding friend] returned to Scotland, he went to live at Findhorn, where he worked in the foundation's gardens, coming to believe something that I find hard to accept: that 'plants flourish in an atmosphere of love'. [12]

 

Atheist scientists and atheist environmental journalists don't usually use the term love because it represents that which they don't believe in...an eternal feeling that transcends time and space.

 

To them, love is just neurochemicals: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. Nothing more.

 

In an email request for comment I ask Monbiot:

5. Do you believe that love is an eternal feeling that transcends space and time? Or do you believe that love is neurochemicals that create the illusion of affection?

6. Do you feel eternal love towards people?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

The reason why I ask question # 6 is because of what Monbiot says in Chapter 14:

I stared at the sea, cursing myself. I had thought I had grown out of this kind of ideology. I could scarcely believe that I had lured myself into such danger. I thought of the duty I owed to my daughter and my partner. [13]

Take note of the words Monbiot uses: "duty," instead of love.

 

I don't know any father stupid enough to risk their life to see a fish when they have small children to take care of.

 

Personally, I believe that a life without eternal love is quite sad.

 

And I would go one step further and ask the question, why would you take advice about life from someone that doesn't believe in eternal love?

 

Chapter 2 is about Monbiot's experiences catching fishing and overfishing.

 

Chapter 3 is about bird watching and evolutionary behavior.

 

Genetic Memories

In Chapter 3 Monbiot makes a curious remark in passing:

I believe, though I have no means of showing that this proposition is true, that both cases I was experiencing a genetic memory...

...These genetic memories - these unconsidered urges - are printed onto our chromosomes, an irreducible component of our identity. [14]

 

In Chapter 5 he makes another remark regarding this mysterious genetic memory phenomenon:

Perhaps they [large beasts] reawaken old genetic memories of conflict and survival, memories which must incorporate encounters - possibly the most challenging encounters our ancestors faced - with large predatory cats. [15]

 

Currently, there is no scientific theory of "primal memories" being encoded in our DNA. You can take it a step down to "information," but actual memories from our primitive ancestors would be considered an ideological theory. Nonetheless, it's still a fascinating theory.

 

I feel that Monbiot is forcing this ideological theory into the genetics box because there's no other scientific mechanism to explain it (currently).

 

I see this from many atheist scientists and atheist environmentalists. They force their ideological theories to fit into a currently accepted scientific one so it makes sense to them. They do so because of the uncomfortable alternatives...new age/spiritual theories. This is a place they definitely don't want to go because it would detract from their blind faith in science.

 

Scientific Hegemony

Though Monbiot correctly mentions society's cultural hegemonic problem in the book, he doesn't apply it to his scientific ideologies. Aside from cultural hegemony (social, political and economic ideologies being seen as correct by the dominating authority), scientific hegemony is very much alive.

 

While many Western-European scientists may believe that scientific hegemony doesn't exist, they're living in a dream world. Simply put, scientific hegemony can be defined as scientific ideologies being seen as correct by the dominating authorities. And as I mention so many times in previous articles, eugenics is the best example of this.

 

Another example of scientific hegemony is the US government's past claim of cholesterol being the harbinger of death, causing heart disease, obesity and cancer. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] Such thinking is due to junk ideological science.

 

In February 2015 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee strikes out this junk science in their recommendation to the US dietary food guide. [21]

 

Do you know what this means?

 

It means that the US government (through the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health & Human Services) recommends junk ideological science for almost 40 years.

 

So let's recap. It takes almost 100 years for Western-European scientists to recognize eugenics as junk ideological science, and another 40 years for the cholesterol boogeyman to bite the dust.

 

If it takes 40-100 years for Western-European scientists to recognize their scientific hegemonic claims...then it's going to be a slow development for humanity.

 

And the final example of scientific hegemony is climate change. The idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant (like industrial chemical ones) is powerfully nonsensical (despite the US Supreme Court's 2007 ruling). The idea that an environmental apocalypse will soon come to pass because of too much carbon dioxide is due to an environmental ideology that sees human existence as the problem.

 

Climate change cult believers should pay special attention to scientific hegemony. But I'm sure that most CO2 cult believers will respond with, if the science was wrong we would have found out by now.

 

The fact that the Western-European climate change movement imposes this hegemony on everyone on the planet (especially developing countries) is truly disgusting. Like eugenics, they condition vulnerable school children to accept it as a "fact" for almost half a century.

 

Hopefully, also like eugenics, they'll see their scientific hegemonic ways and remove these "facts" from their textbooks and their minds.

 

I find it odd that Monbiot doesn't see the scientific hegemony of the climate change movement. The idea that it's "objective" science is only true to incompetent liberals that have blind faith in mainstream science.

 

I hope that Monbiot gets over his fear of stepping beyond his current scientific ideologies and take a leap of faith. In regard to genetic memories, I recommend that he look into Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance theory [22]

 

Chapter 4 is about his experiences in Kenya.

 

I'm curious to know whether Monbiot tries any psychedelic plants in his Brazilian and African experiences.  In an email request for comment I ask him:

7. Have you ever tried any psychedelic plants in your Brazilian and African experiences? If so, what were the results? A change in perception or ideologies?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

Animal Nature

Chapter 5 is about the search for a panther in Britain and the belief in the supernatural.

 

In this chapter Monbiot creates nonsensical ideological associations:

He [Raoul Moat] has burst from his enclosure and gone feral, and in doing so he appears to have unleashed the desires of people who feel trapped in their lives? [23]


Gone feral because they're trapped by their lives?

 

Seriously?

 

This is complete ideological nonsense. Based on this logic, someone who gets out of prison and converts to Buddhism or Christianity is suppressing their natural animal urges. Or is their nurture aspect overcoming their nature aspect?

 

Intuition in Nature

In Chapter 6 and 7 Monbiot really gets into rewilding. And while I agree that the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995 is a great decision, it's based on ideological science. Not one scientist back then has a scientific theory that explains all of the great ecological effects (that we now see), due to the presence of wolves.

 

In these chapters Monbiot mentions something offhand:

More importantly he [Ritchie Tassel, a rewilding friend] has an engagement with the natural world so intense that at times it seems almost supernatural. [24]

 

There are many people that are "connected" or "in-tune" with nature and able to understand it better than others. Of course this doesn't mean that others can't learn. I believe that the key is to understand your own ideologies and perception of yourself and the world around you.

 

I believe that Monbiot wants to have this connection but his scientific ideologies are preventing him from doing so.

 

Later on in the chapter Monbiot says:

I had a feeling in my gut: this land is calling out for help. Calling out to us. The feeling was there with me for years. [25]

 

This tells me that Monbiot wants to have a genuine intuitive connection with nature, but his evidence-based scientific ideologies are getting in the way.

 

The current scientific method doesn't take into account intuition because there is no mechanism of action that fits with current scientific ideologies.

 

Intuition doesn't utilize an evidence-based approach because it's based on a "connection" between one consciousness and another. It's too "new agey" for most intellectuals, scientists and environmental journalists.

 

I believe that Monbiot is battling two fronts: the desire to connect with nature and the desire to uphold environmentalism based on scientific evidence.

 

A 2009 article in the Guardian by Monbiot sheds some light on the problem:

This doesn't mean that we have to be motivated by the science. My environmentalism arises from both a deep love of the natural world and a strong sense of the injustices done to vulnerable people: it's an emotional impulse, in other words.

But we must at all times be informed by it. There is no room for wishful thinking. What is the point of dedicating your life to campaigning, only to discover that you have wasted it because the facts don't support you? There is a subtle difference between sticking to your principles - justice for the living and the unborn, the defence of a healthy biosphere, for example - and sticking to your beliefs. We must doubt everything, question everything, believe nothing until it has been demonstrated, and even then subject it to continued scepticism and enquiry. Above all, we must never allow ourselves to imagine that we are finally and definitively right about anything.

The great majority of alternative medicine, by contrast, relies to some degree on wishful thinking. Indeed, as the admirable Ben Goldacre keeps showing, such efficacy as it might possess is largely due to a deep and subtle variety of wishful thinking known as the placebo effect. [26]

 

Does Monbiot intend to apply that skepticism and forever questioning attitude to climate change? I highly doubt it. Hence, the usual environmental double-speak.

 

The placebo effect is a phenomenon that the current scientific method is unable to take into account. Western-European scientists today are able to quantify it in a very limited manner through drugs trials (sugar pills). But there is no scientific theory that describes the mechanism of a non-physical belief changing a physical biochemical process in the body.

 

Only incompetent people would underestimate the placebo effect and see it as just "wishful thinking."

 

And the idea that there's "no room for wishful thinking/placebo effect" is nonsensical. It's happening whether you like it or not and it's not going away.

 

But then again, denial is usually the first response from ideological scientists, atheists and know-it-all environmentalists that can't make sense of a phenomenon that doesn't fit into their limited ideological box.

 

In regards to the quotation about nature "calling out to us," the problem is whether Monbiot believes that nature has intentionality. He keeps going back and forth, never clarifying the issue in the book.

 

In Chapter 13 Monbiot confuses the issue again when he mentions James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis:

Evidence supporting James Lovelock's 'Gaia hypothesis' - that the earth functions as a coherent and self-regulating system - appears, at the ecosystem level, to be accumulating. [27]

 

Very smartly, Monbiot doesn't say whether he supports the theory. He just says that the evidence is accumulating.

 

The Gaia theory is about the Earth being one giant organism that's not conscious but works to regulate itself. Though Lovelock begins as an alarmist, pushing into his 90s now, he's softens on most of his past dire climate change predictions. [28]

 

Of course, such a move is heresy in the climate change movement, which is why I believe that Monbiot only mentions him in one sentence.

 

In an email request for comment I ask him:

8. Do you support James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

I don't subscribe to the Gaia theory because it doesn't include a theory of the consciousness of the Earth. For Lovelock, the Earth reacts via "natural feedback loops."

 

Humans and Nature

Chapter 8 is about the destruction of the UK via sheep and EU agricultural policies.

 

In Chapter 10 Monbiot laments the loss of connection between nature and children in the modern age. While I understand, it's not exactly rocket science. You just need to stop limiting your perception and take a leap of faith on the potential connection between you and nature.

 

I believe that many rewilding enthusiasts and atheist environmentalists in general, want to wipe the slate clean of humanity. They see humanity as a plague on the Earth and in need of an "annual cull."

 

Oddly enough, this is common ground for both atheists and religious believers...the desire for the rapture. The only question is what the cause will be...the Christian god or nature.

 

In Chapter 13 Monbiot talks about rewilding the sea, and the fact that no one takes marine rewilding seriously.

 

I have a better solution.

 

Stop polluting the lakes and oceans with industrial chemicals (so you don't kill the sea creatures), stop overfishing (so the lovable big ones can eat), and stop hunting whales, dolphins, sea lions and seals (animal rights).

 

Predators

In Chapter 12 Monbiot makes an interesting point about predators:

But even if horses or cattle were replacing native plant eaters, the absence of predators utterly changes the way in which they engage with the ecosystem. [29]

 

Applying such a notion to humanity, it would place humans in the prey category while a smarter and more efficient being (such as Artificial Intelligence, AI), would be the predator.

 

If AI does come into being in the near future due to the overzealous desire of atheist scientists, you would most likely see significant changes in how humans govern society.

 

AI would affect social, political, economic, cultural, scientific, academic, emotional, mental, and religious/spiritual spheres.

 

Prior to such an event, is it fair to call human life "natural?"

 

Or would AI predators see their role as being natural?

 

I'm sure that AI predators could even argue that their presence is "necessary" to reduce the disastrous effects that humans have on the Earth. And it would be tough to argue against such logic.

 

But taking the idea down a few notches, if humanity ever does become the prey, it should give people pause to reflect on whether animals enjoy being hunted by predators. Or whether humans should intentionally help other animals hunt smaller ones.

 

Of course, such predator and prey hunting relationships are the way of the natural world. But it shouldn't stop people from asking themselves why the natural world encourages this disturbing relationship.

 

Initially, I decide to read Feral to figure out if Monbiot believes that animals have a mind/conscious awareness. Sadly, he doesn't mention anything about the possibility in the book.

 

So, in an email request for comment I ask Monbiot:

9. Do you believe that large land and sea creatures (cats, dogs, wolves, horses, elephants, dolphins, whales etc...) have a mind/conscious awareness beyond their instinctual faculties? If so, what rights do you believe they should have?

 

He doesn't respond.

 

Monbiot's Feral gets a grade of D+. Good intentions filled with contradictory ideologies.

 

The Monbiot Effect Series will continue next week on October 15, 2015 with Part 3 of 3: George Monbiot's Rewilding Soul.

 

 

References:

[1] Monbiot, George. Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. Penguin Group.  Toronto, Canada, 2013. Inside flap.

[2] Ibid. p. xi.

[3] Ibid. p. xiii.

[4] Ibid. p. xiv.

[5] Ibid. p. 7-8.

[6] Ibid. p. 7.

[7] Ibid. p. 65.

[8] Ibid. p. 9.

[9] Ibid. p. 10.

[10] Ibid. p. 12-13.

[11] Ibid. p. 10.

[12] Ibid. p. 98.

[13] Ibid. p. 261-262.

[14] Ibid. p. 34.

[15] Ibid. p. 60.

[16] Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. 3rd edition. 1990. p. 13-17.

[17] Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. 4th edition. 1995. p. 26-29.

[18] Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. 5th edition. 2000. p. 28.

[19] Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. 6th edition. 2005. p. 29-30.

[20] Dietary Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. 7th edition. 2010. p. 26-27.

[21] Whoriskey, Peter. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol. Washington Post. February 10, 2015.

[22] Sheldrake, Rupert. Morphic Resonance. www.sheldrake.org.

[23] Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. 2013. p. 61.

[24] Ibid. p. 71.

[25] Ibid. p. 98.

[26] Monbiot, George. We must break link between green issues and alternative medicine. Guardian. March 12, 2009.

[27] Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. 2013. p. 242.

[28] Ball, Philip. James Lovelock reflects on Gaia's legacy. Nature. April 9, 2014.

[29] Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. 2013. p. 224.