The Monbiot Effect Series
Part 3 of 3:
George Monbiot's Rewilding Soul
By: Shawn Alli
Posted: October 15, 2015
*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 final installment of an ongoing series to critically examine the influence of George Monbiot's work.
Ideological Disclosure List
Figuring out Monbiot's personal and religious ideologies isn't difficult, but he's not exactly forthcoming with them. You kind of have to pry it out of him by analyzing his articles (instead of him saying/typing it).
Of course, every person around the world has the right not to disclose their religious beliefs to others (though the US government tends to disregard this for Muslims). But I believe that all journalists (mainstream and alternative) should waive that right.
Allow me to explain.
Journalists of all stripes are capable of affecting one person or potentially hundreds of millions with their stories. While such actions apply to all people of any vocation, a journalist is using their voice to get a reaction from a person who reads/views their story. Their voice is their career. Or more accurately, their voice is their livelihood. Without it, they'll most likely become a broke philosopher reflecting on their life on the streets.
A journalist's desire to influence people through their voice and their desire to make a living will usually breed articles that lack responsibility and prioritize profit.
The obvious retort is, I just write. Whatever happens...happens. And to a degree that's true, a journalist can't control how the global general public will react/interpret their articles.
But in an effort to help the reader/viewer react in a responsible manner, a journalist should attempt to inform them of their own political, environmental, scientific and religious ideologies. I call this an Ideological Disclosure List.
Again, this should apply to all mainstream and alternative media journalists.
I'll go first.
I believe that a global democracy is the only way for humanity as a whole to move forward in their development. The current democratic systems in place are not representative of a real democracy.
I believe that the Earth is a conscious being endowed with consciousness and intentionality.
I believe that the Earth is capable of sustaining double the 2015 global population through the concepts of sustainability, imagination and eternal love.
I believe that the Darwinian evolutionary theory as well as the creationist theory are both incorrect. It's okay to say "I don't know" instead of pretending that you do know.
I believe that a person's soul survives physical death.
I believe that people are non-physical souls/consciousness that incarnate in physical reality for the purpose of growth and development.
I believe that consciousness is integral to understanding the universe.
I believe that all major religions are forms of control and prevent the growth and development of consciousness.
I believe that the conception of God in monotheistic religions is incorrect.
I believe that the concept of eternal love should guide the development of humanity.
On the surface, intellectuals, scientists and journalists will point out the major weakness of this type of disclosure, it's just useless beliefs.
On the contrary, your beliefs will greatly influence the path you walk.
A nuclear weapon is a product of scientific engineering. Who it lands on will be determined by the beliefs of those in power.
An obvious weakness of the Ideological Disclosure List is lying. Anyone can lie about their beliefs for various reasons, especially for politically correct reasons and to "give the public what they want to hear/see."
But in the end, all you have is your word. If your word means nothing then no further trust can exist. Journalists caught lying about their ideological disclosures should be called out by other journalists.
Another weakness is the ridicule factor. Many journalists would fear such a disclosure because they believe that their friends, family or the global general public will shun them. And to a degree that's true. As you open one ideological door you close another, as well as its potential audience.
But you can't please everyone. And not everyone has the stones to become a journalist. Many readers/viewers may criticize journalists for their ideologies, but remember, journalism isn't a children's game. A thick skin and the ability to withstand a continual barrage of criticism are necessary to become a great journalist.
And now we get back to the issue at hand...George Monbiot's ideologies.
Piecing together Monbiot's articles we can get a rough picture of his ideologies.
From a March 2000 tongue and cheek Antichrist article on his blog (I'm unable to access it on the Guardian's website), we can see that Monbiot has no love for the Catholic Church:
With the exception of the horrors of state communism, the Vatican has attended upon almost every major atrocity of the last millennium: the crusades, the conquista, the inquisition, slavery, fascism, the Holocaust and the perennial war against women. 
He makes an interesting claim about Catholic missionaries:
Among the illiterate, the power of the Book in the hands of the schooled is still unchallengeable. As literacy rates in the poorest parts of the world collapse, reactionaries extend their authority by preying on the vulnerability of unschooled people. 
I agree that Catholic or Christian missionaries taking advantage of vulnerable people is wrong. But to describe illiterate people as "vulnerable" is a cultural hegemonic claim.
In the past and today, Western-European governments value reading, writing and arithmetic as the gold standard for education. Basically, if you can't read, write or do arithmetic then you're inferior. This is the cultural hegemonic legacy of Western-European colonizers.
I know a few Aboriginal seniors who are illiterate but still live a great life. The idea that, if you can't read, then you'll never make it, is true for those who want to live in the modern information technological age.
But for those that choose a rural traditional cultural life, reading, writing and arithmetic have a lower value. The idea that illiterate people don't have a mind or character is complete ideological nonsense.
In my book, Monbiot is guilty of cultural hegemony.
In a May 2000 article in the Guardian Monbiot criticizes Prince Charles' religious environmental solutions.  But he makes a few odd remarks:
Prince Charles correctly asserted, for example, that current measures to reduce the production of greenhouse gases are "insufficient", and that there is "plenty of evidence" that farming which uses a diversity of crops and few chemicals makes more sense than monoculture. Both of these statements are, and can only be, drawn from science. 
The benefits of the diversity of crops can only be drawn from science?
Organic farmers "know" from experience that diversity in crops is the key to farming without chemicals. The idea that you need scientific evidence to "prove" this is due to environmental atheists who believe that the peer-reviewed literature is necessary for good agricultural practices.
Another odd comment is Monbiot's use of my philosophical role model, Socrates:
He [Charles] praised Socrates's definition of wisdom - "knowing that you don't know" (which is, incidentally, a pretty good description of the scientific model). 
As a philosopher, I can say that Socrates wouldn't agree with the current scientific method or scientific models to create true facts or "truth."
Monbiot goes on to say:
...but in the same paragraph he [Charles] suggested that "an instinctive, heart-felt awareness" is "the most reliable guide" to whether or not we are doing the right thing. We already know, in other words, all that we need to.
Yet this chaotic thinking has received nothing but praise from people whose cause it undermines. 
Umm...a heart-felt awareness is chaotic thinking?
A rough sketch of Monbiot's ideologies is beginning to take shape.
Incidentally, Monbiot describes what Socrates would have said, that we already know what we need to do because knowledge is innate.
Later on, Monbiot explains his agricultural ideologies:
To me, the need to protect the environment springs not from "a sense of the sacred", but from social justice. 
I don't necessarily have a problem with this (even though my ideologies differ). I just want people to know his ideologies. Monbiot doesn't believe that nature is sacred.
Later on in the article, Monbiot gets to the meat of the issue:
Jonathon Porritt complains that scientists have taught us to see ourselves as "random, purposeless bipeds". This is precisely why science is liberating. It shows us that humankind is not the purpose and pivot of the universe, that man has not been cast in the image of God to control the rest of creation. Science teaches us humility. It tells us that we emerge from the natural world, and remain subject to its laws and limitations. 
So Monbiot agrees with Western-European scientists that humans are random purposeless bipeds?
A bit of an interpretation, but we'll go with it.
It's the ending that I have trouble with. He says that humans are subject to the laws of the natural world. What does that mean? Is Monbiot referring to the laws of physics?
From the 19th century to the 21st, humans have created the means to go beyond the natural world in every aspect (cars, planes, elevators, microwaves, the internet and cell phones). And when it comes, the phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will definitely go beyond the natural world.
So the question remains, are humans really limited by the laws of the natural world?
I argue that there is no law of the natural world. I believe that even the physics that explains the movements of the Earth may be different for another planet in another galaxy.
Monbiot's September 2015 article in the Guardian makes it clear that in addition to Catholicism, Protestantism isn't his cup of tea either:
I share none of the core beliefs of the evangelicals but I recognise in their work a series of brilliant organisational models. 
I'm sure that recognizing their "organizational models" can count for something. Yes? No?
Monbiot goes on to reveal his diabolical plan. And it's truly unbelievable:
Evangelical groups unite around a set of core convictions, overt, codified and non-negotiable. It would surely not be difficult to create a similar set, common to all progressive movements, built around empathy, kindness, forgiveness and self-worth. A set of immutable convictions might make our movements less capricious while reinforcing the commonality between the left's many causes.
Evangelism is positive and propositional (to evangelise is to bring good news). You cannot achieve lasting change unless you set the agenda, rather than responding to that of your opponents.
They welcome everyone - but in particular the unconverted. Instead of anathematising difference, doubt and hesitation, they explain and normalise these responses as steps within a journey to belief. They are self-funding (often through a tithing system), and sometimes create a parallel welfare state, helping people to overcome financial hardship. To sustain ourselves, we need to be more than just political: we should offer those who join us emotional support, moral comfort and, sometimes, material help. 
Right off the bat, the criticism is too easy. A set of core non-negotiable immutable convictions? For those that call the climate change movement a cult (such as myself), you're making it too easy for us.
But let's get a bit more serious. Let's start at the beginning of the quotation:
A set of codified immutable convictions.
This is highly problematic because science doesn't have codified immutable convictions. Aside from the basic laws of physics and chemistry, everything else in the world is constantly in flux. It changes due to an infinite amount of variables (with the mind/consciousness being the most important one).
The idea that you can pick the most popular ideological claims and create an ethical large scale movement is nonsensical. Think of eugenics and Nazi ideology as examples. You can even include the Green Revolution. All those pesticides, herbicides and fungicides you get with every bite is courtesy of the Green Revolution and its garbage monoculture practices.
Yes, evangelism is about bringing the good news; but only because of the bad news, you're going to hell unless you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.
Now apply that to climate change.
The world will be destroyed (sometime in the future) because of too much CO2 and methane unless...
And that's the problem. Aside from not having an agreeable solution, a few decades on the Earth doesn't compare to eternal damnation.
See the difference?
And in regard to climate change solutions, even if you shut down all the coal plants and stop oil excavation, how are you going to power the transportation sector?
Is everyone going to have a mini-nuclear reactor in their engine?
And unfortunately for most CO2 cult believers, the electric car still isn't equal in performance to gas-based vehicles, let alone superior to them.
In regards to "welcoming the unconverted," I would pay money to see the climate change movement welcome climate skeptics and deniers. In reality though, such a thing could never happen. Both sides really hate each other (I just see them as annoying know-it-all idiots).
The evangelical community prides itself on welcoming the unconverted because they take pride and joy in bringing another damned soul to Jesus. Many evangelicals will go above and beyond emotionally and financially to help save even one soul.
An evangelical believer acts as a vessel for Jesus/the Christian god to save a lost soul. The amount of joy, love and honor they feel in that action is potentially infinite.
This is why Monbiot's plan to incorporate the actions of the evangelical community without the religious ideology is laughable. Being raised in a born-again evangelical family, I can definitely say that Monbiot is deluding himself with such a plan.
A Random Life Without Meaning
Going back to the May 2000 article, Monbiot plants his ideological flag on the meaning/ meaningless of life:
None of this is to suggest that we must become coldly calculating robots. While human life, resulting from a series of evolutionary accidents, is arguably meaningless, individual human lives are not. Those accidents have bequeathed an extraordinary degree of consciousness, which in turn has granted us an enhanced capacity for both sympathy and suffering. Using the one to relieve the other invests our lives with a purpose which surely requires no celestial justification. Nor do we need God to tell us to protect other species and beautiful landscapes: we can do so simply because we love them. 
So human life is an evolutionary accident and meaningless but individual lives are not?
His answer to the problem is consciousness. Because we have a mind/consciousness we can create a life with meaning.
It's a huge philosophical claim.
Some philosophers would see it as a cop out. Others would probably agree because they believe that the brain creates the mind (consciousness). I don't agree. I believe that the mind/consciousness (non-physical) creates the brain, as well as physical reality.
But in another sense, there is no separation of the mind/consciousness with physical reality. The latter can't exist without the former.
Monbiot's claim deserves a good amount of text on the matter, which I'll do so in a future article or book.
But one question that's worth asking is whether he believes that the mind/consciousness is an evolutionary accident. In an email request for comment I ask Monbiot:
6. Do you believe that the mind/consciousness is an evolutionary accident?
He doesn't respond.
In Monbiot's August 2005 article in the Guardian he doubles down on a meaningless life:
Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate. After a few score years, the molecules disaggregate and return whence they came. Period.
As a gardener and ecologist, I find this oddly comforting. I like the idea of literal reincarnation: that the molecules of which I am composed will, once I have rotted, be incorporated into other organisms. Bits of me will be pushing through the growing tips of trees, will creep over them as caterpillars, will hunt those caterpillars as birds. When I die, I'd like to be buried in a fashion which ensures that no part of me is wasted. Then I can claim to have been of some use after all. 
Monbiot is comforted by serving no greater purpose than to create energy and fend off competition?
Can you imagine your partner or child telling you this? I would probably have a heart attack. I mean...what's the point? Wouldn't it be easier to just roll over and die? Personally, it's a disgusting ideology. But...to each their own (within reason and ethics).
I agree with Monbiot about human remains. The more natural the better for the environment.
The burial industry is a multibillion dollar industry with a continual supply (until the end of time). Though cremation rates are high in the US, Canada and the UK, many choose the expensive burial options that delay the natural decomposition process, which is quite problematic.
It's not the body that's the problem, but rather the hardwood casket. Depending on the soil and temperature, it can take up to 100 years or more for the casket to decompose. And for city burials, the caskets need special liners so the remains don't contaminate the ground water. The entire process is completely unsustainable.
Luckily, some people are going back to natural burials (green burials). This is a process where no chemicals are used to delay decomposition, with all of the materials biodegrading quickly (even the casket).    
Personally, I'd prefer my body to be cremated, with the ashes used as fertilizer when a new tree is planted. It should be a comforting idea for spiritual and religious believers and even atheists. Perhaps in death our ideologies can finally be united.
In Monbiot's October 2005 article in the Guardian he quotes paleontologist Gregory S. Paul's peer-reviewed article to suggest a correlation between religious societies and dysfunction. 
This is classic cherry picking. A journalist finds a peer-reviewed article to reinforce their ideologies and present it to the public as true facts or truth.
There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms. 
Monbiot is kind enough to point out the shortcomings of the peer-reviewed article (it only compares Christianity in the US); but in the end he supports it:
However, if we are to accept the findings of this one - and so far only - wide survey of belief and human welfare, the message to those who claim in any sense to be pro-life is unequivocal. If you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist. 
Paul doubles down on the religiosity and social dysfunction correlation in his 2009 peer-reviewed article:
Of these factors the U.S. is exceptional only in its high level of religiosity, which strongly statistically correlates with adverse and insecure societal and economic conditions in the developed democracies.
...Conservative religious ideology is a probable contributing causal factor of societal dysfunction...
I could ask Paul numerous questions about the shortcomings of both studies, but I decide on a simplistic approach.
In an email request for comment I ask Paul:
1. Are you an atheist? If not, what category would be most applicable to your religious beliefs? If there are no acceptable categories can you please explain your beliefs about God/gods?
2. Do you believe in the soul and the afterlife?
3. Do you believe in the concept of eternal love?
He doesn't respond.
Both peer-reviewed articles are ideological interpretations and shouldn't be part of the peer-reviewed literature. Paul is manipulating data to show a correlation between religious belief and/or Christian beliefs with social dysfunction.
The correlation doesn't even exist.
Allow me to explain with my own evidence.
And here comes the tangent.
France is a country that atheists like to call their own. While it's not a superpower, it's not exactly a push over. But aside from the allure of French culture and French men and women sweeping North American tourists off their feet, it's a culture of crime and corruption (just like most Western-European countries).
The corruption in France is so endemic that it reaches into every level of government: tax evasion by bureaucrats,  corporate bribery,  and illegal campaign spending.   The reason why there's so little dysfunction on the surface is because corruption greases the wheels of France's infrastructure.
This corruption extends down into the culture, with the French government doing the bare minimum for human trafficking.  And while crime is down on the surface, the Paris Police wipes out tens of thousands of crimes off the books,  and adds extra police to deal with the increase of crime. 
And don't forget about the sexual harassment in France. It's so common that French women consider it normal. 
Many atheists also see Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Czech Republic as friendly atheist countries. But the comparison to the US in regards to social dysfunction is nonsensical.
Scandinavian countries aren't superpowers like the US government. There are many characteristics of a superpower government, but I would loosely define it as a government that influences policy in other developed and developing countries.
If the US government changes their policy on something, usually, other countries will follow suit. This is not the case for Scandinavian countries. The US government doesn't follow suit if Scandinavian countries change their policy on an issue.
On a side note, Canada isn't a superpower either. If the Canadian government changes their policy on something, governments of developed countries will usually think, that's nice. Good for you Canada. And leave it at that. Climate change cult policies are an exception.
Another reason why the statistics of Scandinavian countries can't be compared to the US (aside from population) is because of diversity. Scandinavian countries are predominantly populated by their own nationality. The US consists of a diverse multiethnic and multireligous population.
And to be accurate, the Scandinavian utopian lifestyle is a myth. Their suicide rates are some of the highest in the world. 
Some atheists like to see China as an atheist country. And I agree it is. But China is run by a communist state controlled government, where natural agriculture doesn't really exist;  where the air isn't fit to breathe;   and where human rights are worth nothing.      
Many atheists also like to claim Japan as an atheist paradise. And they couldn't be more wrong.
While Japanese religions don't exactly fit into the Western-European "religion model," Shintoism is definitely a religion, and a male-dominated one at that.
And Buddhism isn't exactly kind towards women. Its founder claims that women can't become the Buddha.  And even if you disregard that sutra the fact is that there's never been a female Dalai Lama.
And if you really want to understand Japanese subculture you only have to type in the word "hentai" into a Wikipedia search and you'll begin to understand the core ideologies that encompass Japanese women.
Finally, we get to the most important ideology of them all, eternal love. In Part 2 I ask Monbiot about his ideologies of love in an email request for comment. Sadly, he doesn't respond.
I find it odd that he doesn't respond for Part 2 or 3 but responds for Part 1. I think he's playing games with my heart. Oh...the pain.
But his beliefs about love are just as important as his political or religious ideologies.
In an email request for comment I ask him:
1. 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?
2. Do you feel eternal love towards people?
3. Do you feel eternal love towards nature?
I ask question #3 because in a June 2015 article in the Guardian he does mention the concept of love for nature:
Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect. 
I just need clarification on how he defines love.
He doesn't respond.
So let's recap.
A heart-felt awareness is chaotic thinking;
A potential love for nature without seeing it as sacred;
Diversity crops in agriculture come from the peer-reviewed literature;
Humans are not made in the image of God;
Humans are random purposeless bipeds;
Human life is an evolutionary accident and meaningless but individual lives are not; and
Humans serve no greater purpose than to create energy and fend off competition.
In an email request for comment I ask Monbiot:
4) Do you believe that humans have immortal souls that survive death?
5) Do you believe that the Earth is capable of sustaining double the current population if humanity adopts a more sustainable lifestyle and infrastructure?
He doesn't respond.
Throughout this series I've tried to present the ideologies behind George Monbiot's social and environmental work.
On the one hand, you can argue that ideologies are irrelevant, as long as the end results are acceptable. But I believe that your intention and "why" you choose to do something is just as important as, or even more so, than the end result.
So the question remains, why would you take advice from Monbiot when he doesn't believe in eternal love or the human soul?
Why would you follow any of his solutions when he believes that a heart-felt awareness represents chaotic thinking?
And most importantly, why would you value his work when he believes that human existence is merely an evolutionary accident?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read the Monbiot Effect Series. Please email any questions or comments to:
 Monbiot, George. Now That They Know Who I Am... www.monbiot.com. March 9, 2000.
 Monbiot, George. Heaven has nothing to do with it. Guardian. May 25, 2000.
 Monbiot, George. The model for a leftwing resurgence? Evangelical Christianity. Guardian. September 15, 2015.
 Monbiot, George. A life with no purpose. Guardian. August 16, 2005.
 Hauch, Valerie. How to keep the burial process lean and green. Toronto Star. October 18, 2011.
Moneo, Shannon. Dust to dust: the case for a green burial. Globe and Mail. December 22, 2011.
 Slaughter, Graham. Green burials: Earth friendly even in death. Toronto Star. May 26, 2014.
 McCarthy, Ellen. 'Green burials' are on the rise as baby boomers plan for their future, and funerals. Washington Post. October 6, 2014.
 Monbiot, George. My heroes are driven by God, but I'm glad my society isn't. Guardian. October 11, 2005.
 Paul, Gregory S. Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies. Journal of Religion & Society, Vol. 7, 2005. p. 8.
 Paul, Gregory S. The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions. Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 7, Iss. 3, 2009. p. 426.
 Fichtner, Ullrich. A Crisis of Democracy Rocks the Fifth Republic. Spiegel. April 8, 2013.
 Bohlen, Celestine. France Lets U.S. Lead in Corruption Fight. New York Times. April 6, 2015.
 Mulholland, Rory. Nicolas Sarkozy charged with corruption. Telegraph. July 2, 2014.
 Lichfield, John. Nicolas Sarkozy faces new multiple accusations of fraud over campaign spending. Independent. April 1, 2015.
 France: 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. US Department of State.
 Samuel, Henry. Paris police wiped 16,000 crimes off books. Telegraph. March 3, 2014.
 'Paris is becoming like the Bronx': ex-top cop. Local France. December 9, 2013.
 Elzas, Sarah. On French public transit, '100 per cent' of women have been sexually harassed. Radio France International. April 16, 2015.
 Booth, Michael. Dark lands: the grim truth behind the 'Scandanvian miracle.' Guardian. January 27, 2014.
 Stung By Bees. Newsweek. June 14, 2008.
 VanderKlippe, Nathan. China's air pollution reaches 'crisis' level. Globe and Mail. February 25, 2014.
 Wainwright, Oliver. Inside Beijing's airpocalypse – a city made 'almost uninhabitable' by pollution. Guardian. December 16, 2014.
 Rohde, Robert A. and Muller, Richard A. Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources. PLoS ONE, August 20, 2015.
 Hutton,Will. Politically bankrupt China dare not tolerate freedom of the press. Guardian. December 22, 2013.
 Forsythe, Michael. Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom. New York Times. June 19, 2014.
 Mas, Susana. Canadian ambassador Andrew Bennett says religious freedom 'violated' in China. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. August 20, 2014.
 Denyer, Simon. China admits it also tortures, days after slamming US 'hypocrisy.' Washington Post. December 16, 2014.
 Forsythe, Michael. U.N. Human Rights Panel Urges China to Allow Free Elections in Hong Kong. New York Times. October 23, 2014.
 Jacobs, Andrew and Buckley, Chris. China Targeting Rights Lawyers in a Crackdown. New York Times. July 22, 2015.
 On the Attainment of Buddhahood by Women. Nichiren Buddhism Library. p. 306-311.
 McCurry, Justin. Japan vows to cut suicide rate by 20% over 10 years. Guardian. September 4, 2014.
 Wingfield-Hayes, Rupert. Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate? BBC News. July 3, 2015.
 Dussich, John, et al. Decisions not to Report Sexual Assault in Japan. Australian Institute of Criminology, January 1996.
 Fujioka, Chisa. Little sympathy for rape victims in Japan. Reuters. May 15, 2007.
 Monbiot, George. Why we fight for the living world: it's about love, and it's time we said so. Guardian. June 16, 2015.