Planet Gore

What Passes for Science Today

Today I was browsing the Earth Sciences section of a major bookshop in Coventry, England, when I happened upon a book titled Can I Recycle My Granny? And 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas, by Ethan Greenhart. That’s me.

Mr. Greenhart is a satirical character I created in the hope that we might giggle extreme Greenery into oblivion. He’s your average obsessive eco-ethicist: he doesn’t use a toilet, instead storing his feces as “humanure” so that he can self-fertilize his lentil plants; he thinks climate change deniers (“funded by Exxon, armed by Israel”) should be forced to have “eco-lobotomies”; he frowns upon recreation, referring to newborns as “screaming shit machines” and arguing that Gaia hates nothing more than the “pitter patter of tiny carbon footprints.”
Yet here was his book–sorry, my book, a mocking collection of pseudo advice columns for guilt-ridden liberals–sandwiched between a book on how to measure your carbon footprint and another on how changing your diet can “save the planet.” I believe those books were serious rather than satirical.
This isn’t the first time my comedy of ethical manners has found its way into the serious Green corner of a bookshop. In one of the biggest bookstores in London, I saw it right next to An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and Manifesto for the Earth by Mikhail Gorbachev, in the Ethical Living section. Gore, Gorbachev, and Greenhart–if those three men can’t save the world, I don’t know who can.
In another London store the book was placed in the Geography section (well, it is about the planet, I suppose, or what Mr. Greenhart refers to as “this ball we have arrogantly labeled ‘Earth’ ”). A reader e-mailed me recently to say that he saw the book in an Ethical Travel section in a bookshop in Ireland, even though Mr. Greenhart’s only advice on travel is that people should never go anywhere that “cannot be reached by coracle or foot.” My correspondent tells me he complained, and the book was subsequently shifted to the humor section, where it belongs.
Of course, my book may have ended up in the Earth Sciences section of that Coventry bookshop by mistake. A stressed out stockworker might have glanced at the cover, seen the image of an elderly woman being dumped in a recycling bin, and thought to himself: “Earth Sciences, definitely.” Or maybe this is evidence that, at last, eco-skeptical books are being placed in the Green sections of bookshops alongside eco-orthodox books–though it should be noted that decent, well-researched skeptical books are still fairly rare things in Britain, certainly more so than in the U.S.
Or maybe it shows how loose the term “science” has become in the world of environmentalism. This is a book that makes wild claims (and “bitingly humorous” ones, according to one review) about everything from breastfeeding (“the most evil thing you could ever do, ever”) to throwing confetti (“the wedding-day equivalent of acid rain”), yet it snuggles up next to that Bible written by the very savior of our planet, Lord Gore. Next time someone tells you to go and check out the science section of a bookstore simply because you refuse to believe everything you’re told about climate change, just remember that there’s one book there which claims the world will end in “eight years, seven months and 12 hours if we don’t reduce our CO2 emissions by 84 per cent.”
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of spiked and the author of Can I Recycle My Granny? And 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas.

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