I’m writing to apologise for my failure to come up with the article which I had promised for your website. The truth is that I have been a bit under the weather since I got back from Scotland. Last week I drove up to Edinburgh to have lunch with your editor, James Mooney, and to discuss the projected contents of my article. The lunch was not very good. It looked as if James had bought a KFC Variety Bucket and then put the chicken in the oven before I arrived, in order to create the impression that he had cooked it himself. We drunk the supplementary Cokes with rum, however, and then James prepared some gin and tonics, which we polished off whilst I described my piece to him.
“Basically my article is a savage attack upon ordinary working people for having the temerity to shop in supermarkets and drive around in cars, when they could instead content themselves with the intellectual riches of a peasant lifestyle, spending ten hours a day harvesting carrots and turnips…”
“Sounds good, George!” James exclaimed. “But supposing I wanted to farm pigs, eh…?”
“Oh no, that would not be allowed.”
“But I quite like pigs. On purely aesthetic grounds. I think that I would agree to your peasant lifestyle if I could have a few pigs wandering around the flat…”
“Pigs are not very good for the environment,” I explained. “You would waste land and water and energy producing food for your pigs. In my system, we would cut out the middle man – or middle pig, rather – and we would then eat the food which the pig would have eaten – instead of the pig itself – thereby saving energy.”
“But then the pigs would have no dinner!” James cried, appalled.
“I think you miss the point…”
“I’m not sure…” James said. “Would the government impose these conditions upon the peasants?”
“Oh no!” I exclaimed, throwing up my hands. “Ordinary people would agree voluntarily to my system. There would, of course, have to be some trifling laws to curb any entrepreneurial tendencies which the peasants may develop, to produce more food or acquire more land than their neighbours…”
“Something along the lines of Stalin’s campaign against the Kulaks,” James interrupted. “But did that not produce the most dreadful famine?”
I sensed that I was losing James’ interest. “Look,” I said hastily, “my system is not really informed by political ideology or scientific insight, but it’s instead an attempt to impose the conditions of Tom and Barbara’s home in The Good Life upon the entire British population. The Good Life has always been my favourite television programme – I think that children should be made to watch it in schools. Sometimes those commentators who deny climate change remind me of stuffy old Margo Leadbetter next door, and at The Guardian we secretly call these right-wingers “Margos.”
James looked bored. “So basically, you want to lead Britain back to the fifteenth century?”
“I’d say mid-eighteenth,” I clarified. “But the environmental consequences for humanity if Britain does not adopt my system are very severe. As the planet heats, Siberian glaciers will melt, the Sahara Desert will spread to cover five continents, and the sea may rise as much as nine feet, which would spell the end for most of humanity…” [All of the scientific sources for this can be found on my website.]
“I don’t think that I quite understand you,” James replied. “But hang on a moment…” He reached for the bottle of gin and splashed a good three inches into his KFC paper cup. He then took a series of brief, businesslike little gulps. When he looked at me again, his face was red and very shiny. “I understand you perfectly!” he exclaimed. I thought that I had convinced him, and that my article would be published on the Tychy website, but James was suddenly distracted.
“Bastards!” he muttered, standing.
“I don’t follow…?”
“Clothes moths! They are everywhere in this flat…”
“Can’t you put down mothballs?”
James grinned. “I prefer to kill them by hand. Quick! There’s one floating past you!”
I clawed at the air in alarm, but the tiny creature nipped around my hands and threaded its way triumphantly onwards. Yet James leaned over the table and deftly clapped at the air. He then opened his hands and smiled. He showed me the yellow stain on his palm.
“Isn’t that rather disgusting?” I asked.
“It’s the best way,” James said. “I get a real kick out of killing them. The moment when a moth’s life is blotted out is, for me, like a jolly little exclamation mark. I know that it’s silly, but in that moment – in that isolated moment when the moth is squashed – one gets a sense of total power, of man’s supremacy over nature…”
I felt strangely sad and depleted. “It’s very different for me,” I said. “All of my articles describe humanity being overwhelmed and defeated by nature. I am obsessed – possibly sexually – with the idea of apocalypse, or of humanity being destroyed by the planet. I don’t know what I would feel if I killed a moth…”
“Just try…” James whispered.
At that moment a clothes moth wandered towards me and I flapped it down on to the table, and then slammed my fist down on to its body.
“It feels good!” I admitted. “But it’s such a curious sensation…”
Since my meeting with your editor, Tychy, I have not been the same. Walking in the Meadows on Saturday, I beat a pigeon to death with my umbrella and then tore its body apart with my teeth. A woman marched up to me to deliver some sort of rebuke, but she hesitated and then screamed in horror, “Oh my God! You’re George Monbiot! From The Guardian!” I crammed the pigeon’s body into my mouth and scampered off, a wing still hanging from my jaws. Last night, coming in from work, I backed my Renault Clio over the neighbour’s cat. It was ecstasy! I was intoxicated with my newfound freedom and power to destroy! Oh Tychy my friend, that article has yet to be written, and it may not be written for quite some time…