As greenie-lefties go, George Monbiot seems to me more admirable than most, being broadly open to honest reason and changing his mind. Of course his earnestness is easy to mock - e.g. his retreat from Oxford to a remote corner of Wales where he tries to live the good life self-sufficiently on half an acre of land.
Recently he was forced to admit that adverse winter weather had completely wiped out his crops. Once again, it is easy to chortle: betting on global warming, eh, George ? But it does at least make a serious point, which he seems - in his earnest way - to have taken on board.
The serious point is one I have debated off and on with the good Sackerson. Where is the balance to be struck between reliance on trade for ones basic needs, and reliance on self-sufficiency ? The downside of trade is that it can become over-extended, and let you down at critical moments, with nothing to fall back on. The drawback of self-sufficiency is that you'll always be deprived of something you can't grow / make yourself, which makes for a pretty limited - not to say primitive - existence: and, as George has found out, you can be wiped out in a single, localized bad harvest.
Well, there must be an optimal position out there somewhere. Personally I'm quite in favour of free trade, as I guess most of us are round here (with a little stash of beans in reserve - and some gold ...)
And I think George - based on his farming experience, perhaps - is backing away from the dafter extremes of hair-shirt self-reliance as well: he wrote this in the Grauniad a propos of Fukushima:
"What [some greens] want is ... we should power down and produce our energy locally. Some have even called for the abandonment of the grid. Their bucolic vision sounds lovely, until you read the small print.
At high latitudes like ours, most small-scale ambient power production is a dead loss. Generating solar power in the UK involves a spectacular waste of scarce resources. It’s hopelessly inefficient and poorly matched to the pattern of demand. Wind power in populated areas is largely worthless. Micro-hydropower might work for a farmhouse in Wales; it’s not much use in Birmingham. And how do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways – not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels? The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production. A national (or, better still, international) grid is the essential prerequisite for a largely renewable energy supply."
Amen to that. An honest man, our George: he's willing to learn from experience - though he'll get no thanks for it ...