Keywords: Environmentalism, climate change, global warming, science, science policy

Title: Watermelons

Author: James Delingpole

Publisher: Biteback

ISBN: 978-1849542173


Just in case you're in any doubt about what you're getting - the subtitle of James Delingpole's latest book puts you firmly in the picture: How environmentalists are killing the planet, destroying the economy and stealing your children's future. And, if you're still wondering, watermelons are green on the outside and red on the inside - just like those nasty environmentalists. Except that real watermelons are sweet on the inside, which is the last thing one could say about the environmentalists in this book, who are of the type that tend to leave a lingering and bitter aftertaste.

Delingpole's central thesis is that environmentalism is a misanthropic, authoritarian and dangerous creed that seeks to ultimately destroy industrial society in order to save Gaia. This means, among other things, having to cut back on population numbers, massively curtailing energy use and instituting a global centralised government to oversee the new world order. Environmentalism, Delingpole posits, is no longer about hugging trees and saving cuddly animals, it's about ridding the world of the cancer that is the human race.

Of course this sounds like the ravings of a conspiracy-obsessed lunatic, it's a point that Delingpole himself makes. But he backs up his point with quotes from leading environmentalists, some of whom are positively raving when it comes to expressing their distaste for the human race. There is, without a doubt, a strong seam of self-hatred that animates many environmentalists. It's also darkly pessimistic, and it doesn't even start with Malthus and his visions of famine and disaster - visions revisited again and again and again.

But it's the idea of anthropogenic global warming in which we see the disparate strands of environmental extremism coalesce and emerge as the dominant ideological force in global politics. Forget socialism, forget free market capitalism, forget even the idea of democracy, what unites the global political elites of today is the idea that they must save the world from ecological disaster brought on by global warming induced by human emissions of carbon dioxide. Here we have a paradigm that unites politicians who are nominally right or left from across the world. And it's here, in order to fight this 'global emergency', that we see the authoritarian streak inherent in environmentalism come to the fore.

Delingpole spends a lot of time on the topic of global warming, giving the reader a run-down on some of the science, but mainly in outlining the conduct of climate scientists and their backers. He goes into detail on Climategate and the numerous scandals involving the IPCC because of what they show us about the whole corrupt edifice, not because of what they say about 'the science'. Ultimately, as he points out, this isn't about science, it's about ideology. And what Climategate shows above all is a 'scientific' establishment that has long abandoned the scientific method and indulges in the kind of cheap political tricks that characterise everything we hate about contemporary politics.

This being Delingpole there's no shortage of hyperbole, arrogance or ego on display. He is a central character in the book, this is not a work where the author stands back and tells the story. It is, in other words, the Delingpole blog writ large. While the blog format is great for short, punchy pieces, it's less successful at book length. That's not to say that this is a boring read, it isn't, but it doesn't quite work as well as a collection of the best of the best of his blog pieces would have.

The final thing to note, is that one wonders who this book is really aimed at. Given his persona and his reputation, it is hard to imagine that the unconvinced reader is going to pick this up as a source of objective information on global warming and environmentalism. His many fans will lap it up, and his opponents will sneer at it, but what of those who haven't decided one way or another? The book covers a lot of ground and has a lot to say that is worth saying, but it's hard to see that it's going to be heard by those who need to hear it the most - the uncommitted reader who has started to doubt the received wisdom on global warming disaster.

Review © Pan Pantziarka. Site © London Book Review 2012. Published February 21 2012