Sunday, 2 September 2012

I could not agree more

I could not agree more with Paul Kingsnorth who writes in The Guardian on facebook about the neogreens, who view technocentric solutions to environmental problems as the only viable option (we're talking nuclear power, GM crops, nano technology, biotechnology and the like) because, well, there is nothing else left. The neogreens believe that we have failed at garnering effective progress on the environmental front because environmentalists have had us arguing this and that, discussing the merits of one solution over another, with little or no engagement of heart and soul:- an intellectual debate is never really going to be fully mobilising on its own. I have to admit that following a recent visit to IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) at Aberystwyth, to see the new National Plant Phenomics Centre, find out a little bit about genomics (working with DNA) and listen to the arguments the scientists were giving us, I have a better understanding of where the neogreens are coming from. Amongst other things, IBERS are engaging with what they call 'sustainable intensification', which includes the breeding of special crops in order to lessen the use of artificial fertilisers. I'm not sure how far along the line towards genetic modification some of their work is- I am not a biologist thus unqualified to comment. My understanding (which may or may not be correct), is that some of their new crops are developed through hybridisation programmes whilst concurrently they are working with DNA. I learnt that IBERS are  developing a strain of Miscanthus to be used as a biofuel and I met bovines munching on a special experimental feed said to ahem, reduce their methane emissions. I was unprepared for what came next- my undeniable enthusiasm to be shown round an experimental bio-ethanol plant run by BEACON (The Biorefining Centre of Excellence), where rye grass will be converted to bio-ethanol for fuel. It was all those Mad Professor distillation devices, gleaming silver with pipes and pressure tanks that did it, plus a machine which is essentially an overgrown juicer- woot!

Despite my own strongly ecocentric tendencies and yearnings, it cannot (to my mind at least), be denied that these new technologies might well have a place- a sort of demon-is-better-than-devil place. I am still not fully swayed nor converted, yet I can see the undeniable application and appeal, especially when realistically, the likelihood is that only ever a given percentage of farmers will ever want or be able to convert fully to organic methods, and we're constantly hearing so much stuff about oil insecurity. I do sympathise with the neogreens... Anyway, Kingsworth blames the environmental lobby for neglecting all those unquantifiable, sentiment aspects of our relationship with nature, leaving a gaping hole, which is being exploited (quite rightly) by the neogreens,

"Any campaign to protect the wild world which avoids acknowledging our intuitive, emotional relationship with it will leave itself open to the kind of heartless ideological approach it is now receiving from the neogreens."*

This echoes my sentiment in a previous post that what really got me engaged with resilience was not the intellectual arguments about peak oil and climate change but the simple love of making things. Kingsworth advocates that we re-root ourselves, throw the politics and lofty ideas out of the window and instead get messy with life, go for as long walk and rummage around in the brown earth. A bit of poetry would not go amiss either. I'm down with this, and why? Because it feels right to me. 

Myself and Fulbright scholars visiting the fascinating IBERS.

Nonetheless, my own beating heart
is still more stirred by sweat peas escaping an allotment.

*Paul Kingsworth, 'The new environmentalisim: where men must act 'as gods' to save the planet', The Guardian on facebook.


  1. Throw politics out the window sounds like a good idea to start with.


  2. Hi Avy,

    Many thanks for passing by, would love to know how you found me, this blogging business is still a mystery to me!

    I have to say that I have checked your blog out and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it so expect to see me over there.



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