Joanna Lumley has many admirable sides to her it must be said – foremost among them being her long-time public support for the people of Tibet who have endured 60 years of genocide and horror at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
It might appear somewhat ironic then that her genuine concern for the environment has convinced her that something not unlike Chinese social credit might provide a solution to climate change. She told the Radio Times that: “we might have to go back to some kind of system of rationing, where you’re given a certain number of points and it’s up to you how to spend them, whether it’s buying a bottle of whisky or flying in an aeroplane,
A system where points are issued which would limit the capacity of people to spend their own money on air travel, consumer items, and even meat.
Lumley is not the first person to propose this, and it ought to be pointed out that the Chinese Communist objective in controlling almost every aspect of the lives of the citizens of the Peoples Republic has nothing whatsoever to do with stopping climate change. They don’t give a damn about that.
The idea of “carbon rationing” has been floated from time to time. Of late it has been most associated with the extremists of the Extinction Rebellion movement whose world view appears to variously draw from the Khmer Rouge and Watership Down.
In 2006, the then Labour Secretary of the Environment David Miliband commissioned a report that proposed that all citizens be given a “carbon credit card.” Miliband thought this was a great idea and explained how it could be used to limit what a person might spend to obtain carbon negative items like food, airplane tickets, petrol and so on.
Miliband believed that it might provide an alternative to carbon taxes and that the technological means to implement it already existed. The fact that the Chinese can monitor a vast range of activities and use that to reward or punish people with treats is proof of that. The Prime Minister at the time was Tony Blair, and while he liked to pose as a potential saviour of the planet when not planning carpet bombings, he was not convinced of rationing and the proposal died a death.
The Citizens Assembly which reported on climate change here in 2018 has been responsible for rubber stamping various proposals that now provide the rationale for measures currently being implemented including the higher carbon tax and closing down the peat sector.
Probably just as well then that none of the Poindexters who told them what to think had floated the idea of rationing. For had they done, you may be certain that they would have approved of it as they did of any other mad stuff recommended to them by someone poising as a savant.
Internationally, the far left has been attracted by the notion of rationing as it was pretty much the only thing that kept socialism going for so long in the USSR and its vassal states and maintains some Cormac McCarthy semblance of survival in the fossil states of North Korea and Cuba. As the Great Lockdown proved, these lads really cannot resist any opportunity to join – even vicariously – in telling other people what they can and cannot do on even the most trivial of issues.
The Irish left is rather cuter as the post socialist but ultra-Woke Shinners are a powerful electoral force. On that basis, they realise that the state dependents who form a disproportionate part of that electoral base don’t support anything that might impinge on their consumption habits. So, they oppose carbon taxes and their colouring book finances claim to shift the costs of paying for saving the polar bears onto cows and “the rich”. This won’t include those rich who have benefitted from “the struggle” obviously.
One of the arguments posited by the more extreme elements – and much of this is being absorbed by a process of osmosis into the mainstream as have racial and gender radicalism – is that humanity might consider reverting to a kinder more sustainable past.
That is, in fact, an interesting argument and there are some within the western tradition who would be broadly speaking influenced by Distributism – Wendell Berry springs to mind – who argue that we do need an economic model that is mindful of the need to balance production with the long-term conservation of resources.
Some of this school would argue that pre-capitalist early modern Europe had such an economy, but that it was violently disrupted by the wars and social upheavals that followed the Reformation. The theft of monastic and common lands in England under the Tudors is cited as an example of how the older forms were destroyed.
Whether an industrialism based on a more dispersed ownership of the means of production and land would have led to a kinder society is of course unknowable. Human history would not incline one to be overly optimistic although the interregnum of robber baron capitalism was quickly ameliorated by the establishment of moral and political controls on how economic power was exercised.
The devotion to ever-expanding production especially of non-essential consumer items remains, and their enjoyment is pretty much universal even in most of the relatively poorer countries.
The climate change left is increasingly ignorant of and/or dismissive of anything positive connected to western culture, and ludicrously reference the example of the indigenous peoples of America, Africa and Australia as some prelapsarian ideal.
They neglect, of course, to mention that the failure of these cultures to produce material advances made them vulnerable to European conquest. Neither did they most of them enjoy the personal freedoms and recognition of individual worth that were a fruit of western Christianity.
The reversion to such a state of being, implicitly embracing the pagan world view that is inimical to any type of intellectual, social or material development – or even “progress” as it used to be understood by even the western radical left – is hardly something to be aspired to.
Nor is the ideal of a combination of statist and corporate limitations on human freedoms in pursuit of yet another dystopian and unrealisable “better world.”
It is the apparent misalliance between all of the above centred on climate change that represents a real threat to those freedoms. Resistance to that must rigorously challenge some of the ludicrous presuppositions which form the basis for that threat.
It must also, however, provide a counterpoint that accepts resource challenges and does not unthinkingly subscribe to the notion that humans can just use them all up until they are gone, without any idea of what might replace them as a source of food or energy.