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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read but is the philosophy fit for purpose?, 8 May 2012
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This review is from: Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet (Hardcover)
Is Roger Scruton a friend of the earth?

In his new book Green Philosophy the conservative thinker supports decentralised energy, local farmers markets, carbon taxes, publicly-funded research into clean energy and careful consumption through, for example, taking holidays that "we can reach without burning up the planet". He dislikes large-scale agribusinesses that destroy wildlife and soil, the carelessness of multinationals that lead to environmental disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the willingness of governments to do corporate bidding.

He decries the uglification of our towns and cities through advertising hoardings, out of town shopping, and a throwaway society that has created the scourge of plastic pollution across the globe. He passionately calls for greater consideration for the needs of future generations, recognition of the beauty of our landscapes and for politics guided by morality rather than attempts to put an economic price on everything.

In all these things I am in agreement with him.

I also agree with his desire to localise decision-making as much as is possible and appropriate, reignite and support people coming together to protect their local environment, and his recognition that "what is needed may not be more growth but less."
But I'm not convinced his approach is fit for purpose, for the following reasons.

He rejects a global treaty on climate change as "useless" because he doesn't think other countries will deliver on promises. He rejects the development of long-term plans. He is disparaging about the European Union's efforts. He rejects setting goals to reduce global inequalities.

In short, he doesn't particularly like government. And certainly not big government.

He points to the disasters caused by communist governments in Eastern Europe and elsewhere as an example of the failings of state control, which are indisputable. Instead he looks to local land-ownership, individuals and communities to be the bedrock of environmental stewardship - without totally rejecting a limited role for the state.

My experiences differ from his.

Businesses tell me they need long-term government plans to give them confidence to invest in new technologies. Our beaches, rivers and drinking water are cleaner because of the European Union, not despite it.

If we fail to reduce global inequalities then efforts to protect the global commons are probably doomed to fail. And while there are free-riders in any global treaties, many countries take their responsibilities as seriously as the UK does - although we're not necessarily always an angel.

Roger Scruton is an influential thinker, at least to part of the Conservative Party. His love of home, tradition and the British countryside is shared by many. By writing down his philosophy in such detail, he makes it easier for others to understand his thinking. This helps begin to increase our understanding of the increasing left-right split on environmental thinking.

In my view, his version of a `friend of the earth' has much to be said for it - if you leave out his nastier elements such as his dislike of multiculturalism, traveller communities, and what he calls the "parasite class" by which he presumably means people on benefits. But I think it is of a different age when environmental problems were predominately local, regional or national.

Today's problems are global. We absolutely need people to stand up to protect our green and pleasant land. We all need to guard against centralised decision-making where it is unnecessary. But we must, I believe, recognise that we can only prevent tragedies of the commons if we work together as a community of nations, with respect for each other, and with a common goal to ensure everyone can live dignified lives within the planet's limits.

Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth (twitter: mikechilds1)
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Dec 2012 20:37:34 GMT
Very measured and balanced comment, thanks.

Posted on 24 Jan 2013 10:19:47 GMT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jun 2014 12:19:37 BDT
Reading Mr Childs review it did strike me that he gave a great deal of credit to Scrutons viewpoint. Anyone reading it might well decide to read the book on the basis of this ..and make their own mind up. Mr Diggins post tells us nothing at all except revealing his own prejudices. His word play on Childs name is I think rather puerile. Would you not (in retrospect )agree Mr Diggins.? Incidentally I do not read the Guardian
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