Sense and Sustainability?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

"I hate tree huggers.*

This isn't what I think; I've hugged quite a few trees in my time and will do so again.  No.  It's reported to come from the leader of the Labour Party.

The Sunday Times reports that Labour's Ed Green Guru Miliband gave "an animated Powerpoint presentation to the shadow cabinet on his revolutionary energy policies, speaking excitedly of the hope and change he believed they would bring".  The Sunday Times said that his reception from the Leader, Kier Starmer was lukewarm.

It's reported that Starmer thanked Guru Ed for his presentation, but said he "wasn’t interested in hope and change".  Rather, he was more interested in creating sustainable new jobs to replace jobs in old sectors that were being lost”.  He then added that he wasn't interested in tree-huggers either, before adding "in fact, I hate tree-huggers".

There we are then; more evidence of the drama being played out inside HM's Loyal Opposition between economic realists and green dreamers.  Other examples are the party's doubts about the extension of ULEZ to outer London boroughs and the sudden disappearance of the promised £28 billion a year for green investment.  This chimes with the emphasis on jobs in Starmer's recent barriers to opportunity policy launch, and its silence on green school initiatives; Schoolsweek has the details.  As the NAEE weekly review noted, there was no mention of climate change or the ecological crisis.

Maybe Starmer also has doubts about the £zillions being focused on Net Zero by 2050, the wisdom of forcing people out of petrol cars (a policy that particularly benefits the Chinese economy as far as I can see), the demise of gas boilers by next week (I exaggerate slightly for emphasis), or the party’s pledge to end all North Sea gas and oil licences (which will benefit the Gulf States and Russia but not our economy).  I hope so, but we'll have to wait and see.  Either way, you have to be sceptical about these arbitrary deadlines imposed with no public consultation by distant governments.  As Rory Sutherland has pointed out in The Spectator, "We can tell these deadlines are arbitrary, because the years proposed for any ban are all suspiciously a multiple of five. The original date for the ban [on new petrol cars] was to be 2040. That became 2035 and then 2030. The date for the deferred ban on sales of new hybrid cars will be, you’ve guessed it, 2035."

His article continues"

"Innovation happens gradually and delivers its benefits unevenly – therefore it is stupid to impose it indiscriminately on everyone all at once. It is a classic case of the recurrent problem James C. Scott identifies in his masterwork Seeing like a State, where the need by governments to view the world through the lens of averages leads them to impose uniform prescriptions that prevent individuals from exercising ingenuity or discrimination based on specific knowledge of their circumstances."

If Jane Austen were writing today her next novel would surely be Sense and Sustainability?


* But what's a tree-hugger?  The phrase seems to be doing a lot of work as it ranges from the literal: those people who actually like and want to protect trees (aborophiles), to the metaphoric: those who want to tell others how they have to live (ie, to be like them).  I fancy that the leader had the latter in mind.  Rupert Read wrote to The Times today exploring the origins of the phrase in environmental action in northwest India in September 1730 where people did hug trees to protect them and lost their lives doing it.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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