UK -Eco power lists: Fatuous, invidious and misrepresentative by George Monbiot

Eco power lists: Fatuous, invidious and misrepresentative.The fame, extreme wealth and disproportionate influence celebrated by such lists are completely at
odds with the values of the green movement Share   Brad Pitt was
named in the Observer’s eco power list for his work funding and building 13 new
green homes in New Orleans, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Photograph: M Mainz/Getty Images Is there anything the Sunday papers can’t turn
into a fatuous celeb-fest? Two days ago, the Observer published its “eco power
list”. It will come as no surprise that it featured Brad Pitt – which list
doesn’t? It was more surprising to find Jay Leno there, on the grounds that he
has made the, er, 240 cars he runs “as green as possible”. And the chief
executive of Ford, because he has just unveiled an electric Ford Focus (sadly he
didn’t simultaneously veil the gas guzzlers he continues to market). Much of the
list was a catalogue of rich and powerful people who have now added green – or
some nebulous semblance of green – to their portfolios.
But I’m less concerned about the contents of these lists than the principle. To
me, eco and power occupy different spheres. The environmentalism I recognise is
a challenge to power. It confronts a system which allows a handful of people to
dominate our lives and capture our resources. The fame, the extreme wealth, the
disproportionate influence celebrated by power lists stand in opposition to the
values and principles that green thinking espouses.
But that’s not the only problem with these lists. They are invidious. They
extract a few characters from a vast collective effort: generally those who are
skilled at taking credit for other people’s work.
An eco-power list is even worse. First, it reinforces the story, endlessly told
by those who hate environmentalism, that it is the preserve of toffs and princes
(Prince Charles, inevitably, features on the Observer’s list). It is true that
some of its most prominent spokespeople are rich and famous. But they are
prominent only because this tiny, unrepresentative sample is celebrated and
fawned over by the media, while the millions of other people in the movement are
It also encourages the superman myth: that a few powerful people can save the
planet. In reality, only big social movements, emphasising solidarity and
collective effort, are likely to be effective. Those who are rich and powerful
already will frame their environmentalism in terms that reinforce their wealth
and power, ensuring that the system which has rewarded them so lavishly remains
unchallenged. I doubt that anyone who works for the Observer believes the
superman myth, but they pretend to do so, because power lists – like every other
species of celebrity trivia – are popular and easy to read.
Worst of all, it represents yet another attempt to tame and package this
movement. As Paul Kingsnorth puts it:
  “Capitalism, always so effective at absorbing and defanging dissenters, is
  transforming an existential challenge into yet another opportunity for
Environmentalism is one of the last hold-outs against celebrity culture. It’s
not untainted by this plague, but more resistant to it than any other sector. If
the papers have their way, they will trivialise and capture us, just as they
have done to everything else that once had substance.
Go to: