Hero of Sustainability
George Monbiot is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism. He is a hero of sustainability for his critique and solutions for a range of societal problems that harm the environment.
He writes a regular column for The Guardian and is the author of a number of books. His best-selling books include:
- Feral: Rewilding the land, sea and human life
- Heat: how to stop the planet burning
- Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis
- Regenesis: Feeding the world without devouring the planet
Nelson Mandela presented Monbiot with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. Monbiot was also awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2022.
Monbiot (pronounced MON-bee-oh) grew up in Oxfordshire, England, and studied zoology at the University of Oxford. He worked as a producer on BBC nature programmes. He then began a career in investigative journalism, publishing his first book Poisoned Arrows in 1989 about human rights issues in West Papua. In later years, he has been involved in activism and advocacy related to a variety of issues, such as climate change; nature conservation and rewilding; economics and politics; land rights; and, loneliness.
Monbiot has written extensively about the causes and effects of climate change and the need for us to change our economic systems. In his book Heat: how to stop the planet burning he demonstrates that we can achieve the necessary cut in greenhouse gas emissions without bringing civilization to an end. Whilst writing in a spirit of optimism, Monbiot does not pretend it will be easy. Our response will have to be immediate, and it will have to be decisive.
One of the articles that Monbiot won the 2022 Orwell Prize for Jounalism for is called ‘Capitalism is killing the planet – it’s time to stop buying into our own destruction.’ It provides a damning critique of our economic system but it doesn’t stop there. He criticises the beliefs and mindsets of the vast majority who literally ‘buy into’ the destructive consumerist scam and thereby perpetuate it.
However, unlike many other critics, Monbiot offers compelling solutions. For instance, in his book, Out of the Wreckage, Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganised from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.
Read: ‘Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe
In Feral (2013), Monbiot discusses the idea of rewilding. Initially, rewilding was defined as releasing captive animals into the wild, but the definition was soon expanded to describe the reintroduction of animal and plant species to habitats from which they had been excised. Expanded even further, the term refers to rehabilitation of entire ecosystems. This is how Monbiot defines the concept: “Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way.”
The Land is Ours
Monbiot has long been a campaigner for land rights and land reform. In 1995, he wrote a manifesto about land rights in the UK, which was the founding of The Land is Ours, a campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom.
In an article in the Guardian at the time (1995) Monbiot had this to say about ordinary people not having access to nature: “Our exclusion has several disastrous consequences. Without a sense of belonging to the land, and of the land belonging to us, we are the citizens of nowhere, and our alienation from our surroundings rebounds in the apprehension that we no longer belong to ourselves.” Read Monbiot’s full article: ‘A Land Reform Manifesto’.
George Monbiot co-wrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan. Monbiot wanted to say something about loneliness but he realised that reading (and writing) a book on the subject would be isolating in itself. He decided that to have his message in the form of music would be much better, because music would automatically bring people together to listen to it. He collaborated with the Scottish singer-songwriter Ewan McLennan who wrote the music to Monbiot’s lyrical sketches.
Monbiot has worked as radio producer, making natural history and environmental programmes. More recently, his popular videos include How Wolves Change Rivers (viewed on YouTube over 40 million times) and Nature Now, co-presented with Greta Thunberg (over 60 million views).