World in hot water

George Monbiot does not argue the case that human-generated climate change is likely to cause a great deal of suffering and destruction within the next 50 to 100 years. He regards the case as proven, and contents himself with tracking down the sources of the “debate” and disinformation about global warming — the argument that it is not happening, or that it will not be as disastrous as projected. Perhaps expectedly, the “denial industry” has at its roots the efforts of the world’s largest petroleum company.

Monbiot’s main task here is to work out what the possible solutions are, how long we’ve got, and whether they can be implemented — practically and politically. He goes at the job with a will, applying his mind and his razor-sharp prose to the various ideas put forward to deal with global warming. (Forget the Kyoto Treaty; it’s a drop in the ocean, so to speak.)

According to Monbiot’s calculations, the West at least needs to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by a full 90% within the next 24 years, so every possible solution has to be evaluated. The automobile is among the worst offenders, so Monbiot looks at schemes for expanded public transport systems, how much they would help, and how they could work. In terms of excessive use of coal-fed electricity, retailers with their open fridges and all-night lights are also bad offenders, so Monbiot asks questions about online shopping — it would certainly, it seems, be a good idea to take away people’s cars and give them internet-connected computers instead.

Elsewhere, he describes the German Passivhaus, which maintains its warmth without any heating apparatus — important, given that most of the heating we pour into our homes is wasted (as is most electricity generated far away and piped cross-country). As for aeroplane travel, whether simply holidaying, business or the “love miles” of visiting far-flung relatives, Monbiot’s conclusion is that it must pretty much be banned. Always a vigorous writer, with a skilful way of processing information and presenting his conclusions to the reader, Monbiot makes such technically complex and rhetorically tiring exercises amazingly readable.

If it is true that climate change will cause huge suffering, even the extinction of humanity, and that the Third World will of course bear the brunt of that suffering, then every possible solution needs to be explored. Certainly, there’s no point in waiting for some bunch of mysterious scientists or government agents to make it all go away. As Monbiot puts it, “To succumb to hope of this nature is as dangerous as to succumb to despair.”


Red Carpets and other banana skins by Rupert Everett (Little, Brown)
Rupert Everett is a better autobiographer than he is a novelist (he has published two awful novels). This account of his rise from upper-class boy to youthful star of stage and screen to has-been to model and back to movie star, and so on, is very entertaining. He is clear-eyed about his successes and failures, and has obviously enjoyed himself whichever level of the rollercoaster he was on — he managed to be in Berlin as the Wall fell in 1989, then in Russia a year later as Boris Yeltsin staged his coup. He has played both Charles I and Charles II.

In 1997, his gay-best-friend role in My Best Friend’s Wedding, with Julia Roberts, put him at the top of the Hollywood heap; in 2000, a similar role in The Next Best Thing, with Madonna, destroyed his career again. Everett is a great name-dropper, but then he’s met everyone and made friends with more than a few of the famous. There are deaths and tragedies, but “Rupi” keeps going, a camp joke ever on his lips. He is often extremely bitchy, even about himself. “My first two movies [Another Country and Dance with a Stranger] were classics,” he says. “I should probably have died in a crash if I had been at all serious about my career.”

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Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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