The Critical Community

In the wake of the most recent failure of will in Bali, its interesting to see who’s co-ordinating disinformation on the environment here in the Grand Old Ukania.

lmnetworkatwork.jpgI was on the radio with a “climate change sceptic” the other day. We were discussing my local food experiment which seeks to cut carbon emissions by reducing food miles. Stuart Waiton is a Sociology lecturer at Abertay University, and, as it turned out rather predictably, as writer for the LM Networks house paper, Spiked. His tirade was routine and could have been scripted. Our project was ‘nimbyist, parochial and pathetic’. In Stuart’s world everyone is healthy and living longer and you can buy a chicken for £2, so why worry? “What’s the problem?” he pleaded.

The radio researchers had taken the concept of eating from locally sourced food to Baldragon School in Dundee. The children had rejected the idea out of hand – the very concept of sourcing food from near where you lived was thought bizarre and impossible. Instead they defined themselves as “Asda” or “Tesco” kids. They were thoroughly brandwashed into a diet of processed industrial food. No big surprises there.

Turkey Twizzlers all round?

Listeners flooded the station with emails and texts of shock at the children’s obvious divorce from the land that surrounds Dundee, home to salmon, beef and rich agricultural land.

What should have shocked more was the idea that a sociology lecturer – a profession that’s given us C Wright Mills and Ralph Miliband should conclude his diatribe with the idea that knowing where you food might come from and how its produced is a BAD thing.

Increasingly society is divided between ‘the critical community’ as described by Anthony Frewin in Lobster and the unblinking quiescence of mass culture, and Stuart’s £2 chicken.

Waiton’s LM Network of course has an agenda. Whether it’s Claire Fox – or is it Foster – or the Guardian’s own Brendan O Neill or the ridiculous Battle of Ideas, where’s there’s very little of either – the upfront message is “question everything” but the real message: don’t question a thing.

As a group they pose as being of the left, whilst being funded and operating as a mouthpiece for the far right and big business. What makes them particularly insidious, though, is their gift for combining a disciplined Leninist style of organisation and complete lack of independence of thought, with a proclaimed taste for the rhetoric of open minds and free speech. More on this here.

This encourages the media and many of those who should know better to treat them as providing merely some contrarian salt to to add zest to any debate. Hence, this year’s Battle of Ideas got itself sponsored by the ESRC – the premier social science funding body in the UK. In the past, the NERC, which funds the environmental sciences, has sponsored Brendan O Neill’s Spiked to organise its online debates on environmental issues. The net result has been that the NERC got debates deftly slanted to the LMers’ virulent anti-environmentalist agenda while the ESRC ended up with the war crimes apologist Thomas Deichmann sitting on its platform.

Deichmann and the LMers’ record of trying to airbrush away the atrocities of the Serb and Hutu militias, is a reminder that these are not just harmless cranks or freewheeling eccentrics but something much more sinister. And as the desperate outcomes of the Bali talks unravel before us, we need to understand that the “climate change sceptics” are playing for high stakes in a war to the death with the critical community.

 

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  1. Kevin McC says:

    the idea of local food production and supply being greener or better for you is, alas, nonsense. Prices don’t lie, and when our imperfect but competitive markets can bring us produce from around the world for less than it would cost to manufacture it locally, then you know that foreign supply uses less resources than local equivalents.

    Would you, for instance, attempt to produce coffee locally, in the rolling hills of Dundee? Or grow citrus fruits in the Lothians? I don’t think so, because you know the effort and cost to produce something even halfway passable compared to such commodities from warmer climes would be prohibitive. The principal is the same with Lamb from New Zealand or potatoes from Idaho.

    I rejoice when I go to a supermarket and see green beans from Zimbabwe or tomatoes from Chile or beef from Argentina – global trade helps the world’s poorest, brings wealth and prosperity and connects countries in a great web of ideas and influences.

    The fact that a bunch of deluded Marxists and apologists for Milosevic recognise this fact in no way invalidates it. You’ll have heard of the argument ad hominem, and know how weak it is?

    Cordially

    KMcC

  2. bellacaledonia says:

    Thaks for the message Kevin but you are talking nonsense.

    You ask: “Would you, for instance, attempt to produce coffee locally, in the rolling hills of Dundee? Or grow citrus fruits in the Lothians?”

    No. I think you’re a little confused. We have never advocated this.

    You write: “Prices don’t lie, and when our imperfect but competitive markets can bring us produce from around the world for less than it would cost to manufacture it locally, then you know that foreign supply uses less resources than local equivalents.”

    But at what environmental cost?

    You write: “I rejoice when I go to a supermarket and see green beans from Zimbabwe or tomatoes from Chile or beef from Argentina – global trade helps the world’s poorest.”

    Does it? What quaint vision of how the world works. Rejoice away.

  3. Kevin McC says:

    thanks for your reply – I fear, alas, that your reply doesn’t address any of my points in any substantive way.

    I mentioned growing coffee or lemons in Scotland as a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the idea of localism. Of course, you don’t advocate such things – who would? (Nor, incidentally. did I say that you did advocate such things, but I can’t be held responsible for your failure of comprehension.)

    You mention environmental cost, which I think is the nub of your concern. I’m not denying that there may be externalities – that is, effects not completely included in the price. Pigouvian taxation, to modify behaviour by including such externalities in the price, is one way of addressing them; and the Pigou taxes on fossil fuels used to fly delicious cherries from Spain and holidaying Britons in return are roughly $85 per tonne – that’s not even a penny per 100g. (My source for that figure is the Stern Report, incidentally, not some climate-change skeptic.)

    In Britain, we already pay fuel duties way in excess of what the Stern Report suggests is needed to include that externality in the price; and aviation fuel duties are similarly excessive. So, even once the behaviour-modifying taxes are included, it still makes good sense for us to buy things from abroad, if they are cheaper – that price means, as I say, that the product in question is using fewer resources to come to our table.

    That global trade lifts the poor out of poverty is obvious – wherever one cares to look, one can see millions of otherwise poor people escaping from grinding poverty as global trade gives them options where to sell their labour, raises the price of that labour and encourages further investment, increasing the poor’s options and raising further the value of their labour. To dismiss this as ‘quaint’ doesn’t invalidate that argument – but it does make suspect any concern you may claim to have for eliminating poverty.

    KMcC

    PS I do almost all my shopping at Tesco, and asides from the ‘processed industrial food’ you decry, the range and quality of fresh food is really superb. Heck, they even sell boxes of organic produce, of the sort that can be delivered to your door from a farmers’ market, if that’s your desire – what’s not to like about that?

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    Sorry Kevin I didnt realise when you asked: “Would you, for instance, attempt to produce coffee locally, in the rolling hills of Dundee? Or grow citrus fruits in the Lothians?” that it wasn’t a real question.

    I’m sorry too that I wasn’t familar with ‘Pigouvian taxation’ theory.

    So in short, there are no environmental or social problems? And global trade is a benign force and there is nothing but a positive trajectory for ‘developing countries’?

    Tesco’s obviouslly the answer!

  5. Kevin McC says:

    you know, I could point out that twice you have singularly failed to address any point I have made with anything approaching what might be called an argument; that you have merely assembled some straw men big as scarecrows whose demolition you seem to think refutes my position but which really demonstrates the meagreness of your own; and that you have done this in a sneering tone more appropriate to an adolescent; but instead I’ll just leave you with this morsel to stick in your craw: the number of people living in absolute poverty continues to fall year on year, because of global trade, the division of labour and global capitalism.

    I’m sure you’ll have some cheap reply to make; I for one won’t be coming back to indulge you.

    Not cordially

    Kevin

  6. bellacaledonia says:

    But what substantive points have you made Kevin? Unless you address the hugely destructive forces of capitalism as well as its undoubted productivity, then its a hugely partial vision.

    Unless you outline your view of environmental crisis, this debate is meaningless. If you respond to this then I’m happy to have an adult debate about the potentials and limits of a localist agenda.

    always cordially

    Mike

  7. Ard Righ says:

    If we take the two most ancient and common practices of healing, herbalism and shamanism, which are inextricably linked and common to all origin cultures, these understand that the most important way of feeding your self is from locally sourced foods, this keeps your regulatory systems in tune with the environment in which you live, the area we inhabit, keeping the man and woman healthy with a natural resistance to common ailments and general disease. Herbalists and Nutritionalists understand this today, indeed any one who isn’t busy propping up vested interests for exploitative ends suppling poor produce, farmed on mass farms on poor soil without a hope of potency and health for the produce in concern and more importantly the land wherever the produce is grown and the culture that is too often wrenched by unbalanced trade via international trade policy. We have not even begun to mention the thousands of tons of diesel blown off to accommodate this irrational desire for anything, anywhere, anytime Western mentality .

    A salmond houked out of a river topped tailed and gutted right there and then – smoked over birch bark with a few tatties is hard to beat.

    It goes further, supermarkets are cutting short a local demand for locally grown produce and the health it will invigorate for the local populace, if this demand does not exist it is because of media conditioning, incessant advertising and anti-education, which could be easily turned around when a truly independent media in Scotland is enforced.Indeed an independent Scotland.

    The term organic means nothing today, before such words of advertising, everything was organic by nature and a strong out door community existed, look at any city today, most folk are walking about lame, fat, unfit, unhealthy, bad states of mind due to their body fighting toxic chemicals and processing agents present in imported food and a great deal of food manufactured with heavy processing here.

  8. Ard Righ says:

    The solution ?

    Create a law that bans any artificial processing altogether in all forms of food and drink.

    Educate that everyone must eat the healthy local food, and supplement where necessary out of need not want.

    Create a law that bans mass advertising altogether.

    Incentives for farmers to produce really potent produce and stock (what better than a created good local demand).

    The ability to curtail supermarkets from ruining local community business, who always support local farmers and producers of stock.

    These may sound blanketing, but they are far more important than the opinions of the vested interests, hell bent on shifting money.

  9. Alasdair says:

    your fife diet link’s broken … one ‘s’ too few 😉

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