Why do greens keep mentioning the war?

We should all welcome The New Home Front: it reveals how nutty and mean-spirited environmentalists really are.

Rob Lyons

Topics Science & Tech

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‘If we are to overcome the threat of climate change, our country will need to move on to the equivalent of a war footing, where the efforts of individuals, organisations and government are harnessed together and directed to a common goal. Only this will provide the urgency, energy and creativity we need to avert disaster.’

So says Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation in a report launched at the Imperial War Museum last week: The New Home Front. The report, commissioned by Britain’s one and only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, aims to bring the same urgency to the fight against trace atmospheric gases that the nation brought to the fight against that Mister ‘Itler 70 years ago.

In her introduction, Lucas sets up climate change as a parallel to fascism: ‘In the 1930s, some politicians of all parties ignored the threat of war brewing in Europe and failed to take the steps to deter aggression or prepare early enough to defend ourselves.’ To fail now, to bow down to the storm clouds gathering from climate change, would also be tantamount to appeasement, she implies.

In truth, as this new report demonstrates, there is no damage that could be done by climate change that would be as bad as that wrought by green policies themselves.

What did the Second World War bring to the people of Britain? Highlights in this new report include a 25 per cent cut in coal usage, an 11 per cent fall in food consumption, an 82 per cent fall in the use of electrical appliances, and a 95 per cent drop in the use of motor vehicles. Most people would see such declines in living standards as a disaster. The current recession has produced nothing like that scale of devastation. Yet The New Home Front describes these things as ‘achievements’.

‘Yes, times were hard’, writes Simms. ‘People suffered and endured for a greater good. They were all in it together.’ It must have been a great comfort to share in such misery.

Some of the public-information messages during the war sound like they could have come straight from the modern eco-catechism. ‘At this most important time, needless travel is a “crime”’, declared a railway poster, prefiguring the green demand to stop flying, driving or otherwise venturing any distance from home. ‘As part of your personal share in the Battle for Fuel’, read a wartime hotel bathroom sign, ‘you are asked NOT to exceed five inches of water in this bath. Make it a point of honour not to fill the bath above this level.’ Today, the Battle for Bathwater has become the War on the Power Shower.

Simms even wants to claim wondrous social advances on behalf of wartime austerity: ‘The period from 1937 to 1944 saw a dramatic fall in infant mortality, a clear indicator of more general improvements in the nation’s health.’ But infant mortality had been falling for years. In the period 1901-1905, infant mortality stood at 138 per 1,000 births; by 1931-35, it was 62; in 1941-45, the average was 50; but by 1951-55, with the advent of better healthcare and recovering living standards, the average was 27. That there was a decline at all in the war years was quite an achievement, but it was far from exceptional.

Simms believes that ‘the shift to a low-energy economy could create more convivial lifestyles’. It’s true that in times of crisis, people tend to pull together. But why would you want to recreate such depressing, impoverished circumstances? While Britons may have been slimmer during the war – thanks to a miserable, flatulent but carefully regulated diet dominated by brown bread and a rise in physical toil – the real feeling of the nation was summed up by a group of housewives who burned a symbolic ration book in Trafalgar Square on the day rationing was finally ended in 1954.

But consumption-obsessed greens don’t just think that having stuff is bad for the planet. No, our selfish, materialistic ways are bad for our mental health, too. Simms approvingly quotes Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level, in asserting that more equal societies reduce ‘status anxiety’, lowering the pressure for conspicuous consumption. ‘As a result, we may find ourselves both happier and less prone to consumerist behaviour’, he writes. It turns out that what we once thought of as a desire for a better life was in fact a psychological disorder all along.

None of these ideas are new. Greens have been banging the drum for a revival of wartime poverty and the imposition of green policies by diktat for years (see Bali: no more jaw-jaw, this is climate war). Unable to convince us through modern arguments about the need to adopt their ideas, environmentalists seek to revive the spirit of the Last Time Britain Achieved Anything, which is how a lot of people see the Second World War.

Actually, those of us who have long loathed the anti-human, wealth-bashing tendencies of the green movement should warmly welcome The New Home Front – because it makes abundantly clear just what a bunch of comfort-hating nutters greens really are. If they had their way, as the report shows all too clearly, there would be ‘dark days ahead’ (probably literally, as we get forced to turn off the lights to save power).

Perhaps we should invoke Churchill: we should be prepared to fight on the beaches, fight in the fields and in the streets, fight in the hills to stop these greens ever gaining any more influence than they do already – otherwise we may well find ourselves ‘subjugated and starving’.

Rob Lyons is deputy editor of spiked.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Science & Tech


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