Leading article: The green lining to this chaos

Share
Related Topics

There are two responses to the financial crisis that are wrong. One is to say that we can forget all that goody-goody guff about the environment now that people are worrying about how to pay next week's bills. The other is to say that our culture of consumption has been exposed as unsustainable and that we must abandon capitalism for a life that is closer to nature. Today we outline a middle way.

What started as a technical problem in capital markets is now moving quickly into the so-called real economy of jobs, homes and living standards. One subplot in this extraordinary story starts with defaulting banks in a country with a population the size of Coventry and ends (for the moment) with council workers across England worrying about whether they will be paid next week. While we wait for the scale of the recession to become clear over the coming months, many people may assume that green issues will slip down the news priorities.

The Independent on Sunday does not accept that they should. Today we publish the first comprehensive listing of those often unsung heroes of the environmental movement, the IoS Green List. It builds on the success of our Pink List, which celebrates the contribution that gay and lesbian people make to British life, and which was itself a reverse tribute to another list of a more material kind in a rival newspaper.

We hope that the Green List will allow us to recognise the remarkable contribution made by environmentalists in meeting the greatest challenge of our times: saving the ecosystem of our planet from the depredations of human activity. For many of those featured on our list, this will be the first time that their efforts – often deeply unfashionable and pursued for years without thought of personal reward – have been appreciated and marked. In no case do we think this is more true than in that of this year's winner, John Stewart, interviewed by Cole Moreton about his journey from the 2B London bus to the campaign against Heathrow expansion.

Readers may quibble with our rankings, and we hope that you will. We want to provoke a debate about what makes a good environmentalist and how you can evaluate the contribution made by any one person. So please take issue with us and argue that we have recognised the wrong people in the wrong order. Help us to make next year's List even better.

Join the debate, too, about our contention that now is the time, of all times, to focus people's attention on green issues. We believe that it is precisely while advanced democratic capitalism is going through one of its phases of "corrective" destruction that visionary leaders can best seize the chance to re-order its priorities. There is a green dimension to the financial crisis, in that it was triggered by steep price rises in oil and food, as production of both tested the limits of sustainability.

The argument here is one of balance, which is why we do not agree with the anti-capitalists who see the economic crisis as a chance to impose their utopia, whether of a socialist or eco-fundamentalist kind. Most of us in this country enjoy long and fulfilling lives thanks to liberal capitalism: we have no desire to live in a yurt under a workers' soviet.

Heathrow airport is a test case. We understand the conventional economic case, and we are not opposed to air travel as such. But there comes a point when the growth of carbon-based air travel has to be halted and probably reversed if the global ecosystem is to remain capable of sustaining human life at present numbers. It may be easier to adjust to new rules if they are introduced at a time of economic stringency. Now might be the time to say no more runways and that slots on existing runways will go to the highest bidder in a free market, so that the cost starts to reflect the damage done to the environment.

The Independent on Sunday is in favour of market forces, and recognises that they work effectively only when they are well regulated (and on the basis of sound money, which, as we have been forcefully reminded in recent weeks, requires governments to act as lenders of last resort). Market forces cannot respond to the costs of environmental degradation unless governments put a price on – above all – carbon.

To that extent only, we agree with the anti-capitalists: that now is the time to rethink the values that underlie our economic system. As Geoffrey Lean, our Environment Editor, reports today, the United Nations is already working on a plan for green growth, harnessing the power of market forces for environmental sustainability.

In the argument for better regulation of markets in the public interest – which must include mitigating climate change – we hope that the stars of our Green List will light the way.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones