The latest offering from one of Britain’s best known social and environmental activists is a compilation of over 50 of his newspaper articles written over the last few years. As such, for avid Monbiot fans there isn’t really any new material here, however for those seeking an easy to read introduction which demonstrates the breadth of Monbiot’s research and consequent opinions Bring on the Apocalypse summarises the main areas Monbiot cas campaigned around.
While Monbiot is best known (at least in the UK) for his campaigning around climate change, and his previous book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, where he aims to illustrate how Britain could implement a 90% cut in carbon dioxide emissions without reverting to a pre-industrial society, Bring on the Apocalypse covers a broad range of topic, with the book being divided into six parts, each of which contains a selection of arguments dealing with the topic. In order, these sections are
1. Arguments with God: In which Monbiot addresses religious fundamentalism, particularly American Evangelical Christianity
2. Arguments with Nature: In which Monbiot addresses environmental issues, particularly anthropogenic climate change
3. Arguments with War: In which Monbiot addresses the War on Terror, especially the War in Iraq
4. Arguments with Power: Which deals with corporate exploitation, transnational non-democratic institutions such as the IMF and issues surrounding neoliberal globalization
5. Arguments with Money: Which investigates various ways in which corporations and the super rich elite who benefit from their prominence avoid paying taxes, and have generally attempted to avoid participating in welfare state styled socialist democracies, preferring a cut throat privatised state whereby the rich get richer and look after themselves while the poor are left to their own devices
6. Arguments with Culture: Wherein Monbiot examines aspects of contemporary British culture, such as anti-speed camera organizations and drivers associations groups whose individualistic values concur with neoliberal ideology, but conflict with Monbiot’s preference for a society based on free people rather than free markets.
In general I found myself nodding along to the vast majority of what Monbiot has to say across a broad range of topics. His knowledge on a vast array of topics is exemplary, and he consistently puts forwards logical and well-reasoned arguments. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the way that it addresses so many topics, giving a holistic perspective on many of the key areas where social struggles can create a beneficial impact on other people’s lives. It is rare to find a book which is accessible, enjoyable and manages to cover environmental activism, the anti war movement, a critique of aspects of contemporary culture allied with a rejection of religious fundamentalism.
A general criticism of the book would be that on each issue covered, there is far more left out than left in, however given the form of the book this is entirely to be expected, and Monbiot has indeed published far more comprehensively on Climate Change (Heat: How to Stop the Planet Buring), the rise of Corporatism (Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Great Britain), and the anti-democratic nature of the international capitalist institutions and some thoughts as to how to replace them with democratic, transparent and publicly accountable replacements (The Age of Consent).
My favourite quote from this book is contained in the Arguments with God section, where Monbiot addresses reincarnation/the afterlife and gives a materialist perspective not dissimilar to my own:
‘I like the idea of literal reincarnation: that the molecules of which I am composed will, once I have rotted, be incorporated into other organisms. Bits of me will be pushing through the growing tips of trees, will creep over them as caterpillars, will hunt those catepillars as birds. When I die I would like to be buried in a fashion that ensures that no part of me is wasted. Then I can claim to have some use after all.
Is this not better than the awful lottery of judgment? Is a future we can predict not more comforting than the whims of inscrutable authority? Is eternal death not a happier prospect than eternal life? The atoms of which we are composed, which we have borrowed momentarily from the ecosphere, will be recycled until the universe collapses. This is our continuity, our eternity. Why should anyone want more.’