Don’t Look Up! From the Pages of the Boomer Backlash
There’s a strange symmetry going on. As the environmental crisis spirals and descends further, as the horror and reality of our predicament is revealed before us, animosity towards anyone who actually wants to do anything about it increases. There is a real Green Backlash going on. As Vicky Allan notes in the Herald (‘We need a leader who cares for climate‘): “There are those who want to see any net zero or environmental policy stopped in its tracks. Whether it’s deposit return, highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), a speedy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, all are under fire. And not just in a bid to iron out flaws in the policies. The desire, all too often, seems to be to stop them dead.”
Allister Heath, the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph penned an article in which he argued “Net zero is a Trojan horse for the total destruction of Western society” and warned we should prepare for “a people’s revolution against policies that will abolish choice and impoverish millions”. Even by the Telegraph’s standards it was bonkers but such wild nonsense can be found spouting forth from Scottish and British columnists every day of the week. Whether its Stephen Daisley (‘The shame of the SNP’s grubby power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens’) or Brian Monteith (‘SNP must distance the party from Nicola Sturgeon and Greens’) or Alex Massie or Iain Macwhirter (‘Is the SNP ready to ditch the Green coalition? Looks very like it’) or Brian Wilson (‘Kate Forbes’ victory could end coalition with Scottish Greens’), Chris Deerin or Euan McColm or Torcuil Crichton (‘Cynical move keeps Greens happy’) the Greens are the target boys (and girls) of an enormous wrath. This Boomer Rage rains down from the pages of the Times, the Spectator, the Scotsman, the Herald and beyond.
The commentators are uniform and operate in a media monoculture of white men of a certain vintage. They detest the Greens for various reasons – some economic – some constitutional – but their combined rage is characterised by absolute certainty. All were salivating at the prospect of a Kate Forbes victory and all are now licking their wounds and pivoting from giving Sturgeon a regular kicking to putting the boot into her replacement. In this strange media landscape there is a consensus now between the Alt Nats and populist wing of the independence movement, elements of the Scottish left and the right-wing unionist scribes gathered above. Of course some of this is disguised by the consensus against gender recognition reform and a coalition that spans from genuine transphobia to cultural conservatism with a stop-off for generational ignorance in-between.
But some of this strange coalition is bound together by a weird amnesia about climate breakdown and a commitment to grow or die economics and a love-affair with oil and gas.
If Anglo-Britain seems to be being dragged ever-backwards to a post-Empire era of the 1950s, the Scottish commentariat seem destined for the 1970s. Here Macwhirter spouts a classic of this oeuvre on his Substack pages:
“The Greens are opposed to economic growth in principle and want to “accelerate” the close down the oil and gas industry in the North Sea by the end of the decade. Theirs is a not a world view shared by most members of the Scottish National Party. The whole point of independence is supposed to be to liberate the Scottish economy from the “dead hand” of Westminster rule and increase economic growth. The party has also had great historic affection for the hydrocarbon industry, revenues from which were always regarded as essential to justify the economic case for Scottish independence.
Cynics might say that the SNP has been rather successful in promoting the anti-growth agenda since the Scottish economy has been underperforming the rest of the UK. But this is accident rather than ideological design. The SNP membership wants more growth not less to meet Scotland’s enduring social problems like poverty and homelessness and to shore up the collapsing NHS.”
You can almost feel the veins bulging as you read.
Aside from the quaint idea that perpetual growth on a finite planet is a viable option in 2023, or that from growth economics spouts forth prosperity and equality (have a look around you) many of these columnists occupy a world in which the climate crisis is just not happening at all. Or if it is it is going on somewhere else, in some remote parts of the world we needn’t worry about. In this world we don’t need do anything about collapsing fish stocks or catastrophic marine bio-diversity. We live in a nation where a bottle deposit scheme – as run in small European countries since the 1970s – are some sort of weird radical absurdity – and basic green policies that reflect the most modest response to the nightmarish world we have inherited are to be mocked and ridiculed. It’s like living in a country where the only people who spread their worldviews from the pulpit of their newspaper columns are golf-club bores and angry old men rocked by the reality of a changing world, who harangue others and vent their spleen about the ‘youth of today’, ‘bloody women; and ‘vegetarians’.
This is a world where Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up and Alan Jay Lerner’s Brigadoon have combined into an epic dystopian musical, where business people in government will bring ‘common sense’ and where opposing gay marriage is mainstream and fine in 2023. In some senses I get it, change is scary and climate change is terrifying. But the consequences of this one-dimensional domination of the pages of your paper and the airwaves of your radio is a monoculture of denialism and hubris where the egos of white male journalists are massaged and the reality of our predicament is sacrificed.