Pissed-off Toff reviews Ross Clark’s Orwellian new novel entitled The Denial, and reflects that if he could leave this country, he would do so, immediately.
It is easy to forget that well before fear of the coronavirus caused us to shut down the country, fear of the so-called ‘climate crisis’, together with the drive to create a ‘carbon-neutral’ economy, were already producing the same effect of self-inflicted devastation.
For the time being, however, coronavirus hysteria has replaced climate hysteria as the dominant form of crowd madness; and for Ross Clark, this is bad luck, because his new novel has not received the attention it deserves. It is so good that I read it in one sitting, and then re-read it, solid-gold pencil in hand, so as to write this review.
Set in an Orwellian Britain some time in the near future, The Denial shows a country in which the drive to cut man-made carbon emissions to zero has caused widespread misery. The oil industry has been closed down; so has the gas grid; and private cars are a thing of the past. According to his status, every individual has a ‘carbon allowance’, returns for which have to be made on a quarterly basis and which makes the life that we know today – or that we knew before the coronavirus scare – an impossibility.
‘There was no absolute ban on eating meat,’ muses the central character, a retired meteorologist called Bryan Geavis, ‘but in practice it had become difficult for ordinary folk to procure it. For most people, the only option was to down the officially approved vegan food and keep on popping the vitamin pills.’ And oh, how he misses meat, and how he hates the disgusting beetroot steaks and the haloumi and aubergine rissoles and the sorghum porridge that have replaced it.
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As with meat, so with cars, ownership of which is now out of the question for ordinary citizens, not just because of the increasingly tight restrictions imposed by ‘carbon allowances’, but because of public disapproval. ‘Sometimes activists would surround a private car, or lie in front of it and invite the driver to run them over if he dared. Usually, the motorist would be shamed into submission, and would emerge tearfully from his vehicle, to be comforted by the crowd as he confessed to his selfishness.’
The cars of the past have now been mainly replaced by ‘electropods’. ‘These autonomous egg-shaped vehicles were supposed to arrive within minutes, but in practice this was rare. There were not enough [of them] to meet demand, and they were prone to malfunction. Some had been stolen and illicitly reprogrammed for the thief’s exclusive use.’ They are, in any case, miserable little machines, and in the opening pages of the novel we see one of them ‘buzzing with strained effort as it tried repeatedly, but without success, to mount a pile of earth, gravel and other detritus washed inth the road by the previous night’s rain.’
Thus, too, with air travel and holidays. ‘As with meat, as with cars, there was no specific law against flying, yet it was an experience that had become impossible for most people. Holidays were out of the question.’ With no meat, no cars and no travel, with constant power cuts, with ever diminishing carbon allowances, life is now a drab affair, and often very cold. Nor can you doctor your carbon returns, because cash has been abolished and all purchases have to be made by card or smartphone, with everything electronically recorded. Those carbon forms have to be filled in; and if you are over your quota, there’s a punishing fine to pay.
The only way to avoid the restrictions is to become a ‘climate influencer,’ or CI for short. Since they need to reach the widest possible audience in order to spread their message of ecological virtue, they have generous carbon allowances which allow them privileges of which others can only dream. Flying, for example.
Not only have the material circumstances of everyone’s lives deteriorated dramatically, but to be a ‘climate denier’ is now a criminal offence. Indeed, the belief in man-made climate change is now the state religion, with the total elimination of all man-made carbon emissions the central aim of government; and those few remaining people who do not subscribe to this religion had better keep quiet, or face the consequences.
In the meantime, life gets worse and worse as all industry is closed down. Increasing numbers of people are emigrating; whereas fearing prosecution for their alleged role in the ‘climate emergency’, all the former executives of oil companies have long since disappeared, and are occasionally spotted in South America or some other far-off land.
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In this brave new world, we meet the retired meteorologist Bryan Greavis. As a ‘grade 32 private citizen’, in other words a privileged white male between the ages of of 65 and 70, he is better-off than many. And whilst not an out-and-out ‘denier’ with regard to ‘man-made climate change’, he has his reservations about the prevailing dogma.
“There are a lot of things we don’t know about the climate,” he tells his grand-daughter Amber, “so I’m afraid we can never really be sure of what will happen. Temperatures have risen and fallen sharply in the past, without human influence and for reasons we don’t understand. There is always an outside chance we have got it all wrong and the climate could get cooler.” A heretical view which, in this Britain of the near future, it is illegal to express in public.
Nevertheless, tired of his stingy carbon emissions allowance, Geavis applies to be a Climate Influencer. The interview goes swimmingly until he says that the average temperature in his garden has fallen recently. This revelation is unwelcome. “The Earth’s literally on fire,” says one of his interlocutors … ‘a man with plaited hair who had been introduced simply as Firkin and who was slouching on his seat so that his battered boots with missing laces protruded from beneath the table,’ as Ross Clark describes him. “It ain’t getting cooler” … the author’s dislike of this character suggested by his use of right-on mockney. “You might consider adjusting some of your data in line with established fact,” says a woman with a ring through her nose.
The interview goes from bad to worse, and when Geavis is asked what he would ban if he could, and can think of nothing, he is ticked off once more. “We’re not going to get anywhere without banning things, are we?” says Firkin.
* * * * *
That was a year earlier, and Geavis blew it. Now, as the novel opens, we see him at his computer, charting the progress of a storm in the north of Britain. This freak storm, he realises, is heading for the Thames Estuary and will cause a huge tidal surge that will inevitably hit London. However, the Agency for Modelling Climate Chaos – as the Met Office is now called – has failed to register this. Their models have been incorrectly programmed.
Keen for a disaster to be avoided, Geavis rings his local radio station, but is dismissed as a crank. In due course, the tidal surge does hit the capital. The Thames Barrier has not even been closed. Initially, no-one knows how many deaths there are, and the media go into a frenzy, reporting the possible loss of 10,000 lives. Jake Raglan, the leader of the opposition, also siezes his opportunity, calling this event “possibly the greatest natural disaster ever to strike this country. Except it isn’t natural. It is an unnatural disaster, caused by human hands.” And of course he blames the government.
Aware of the need to be seen to be ‘doing’ something, the Secretary of State for Climate Emergency now announces a cut in the ‘personal carbon allowance’ of 10%; prompting the tub-thumping Jake Raglan to demand a cut not of 10%, but of 20%.
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In the end, it turns out that there were only 35 flood victims, many of them junkies who had been holding a pagan ceremony in a basement in Deptford in order to deliver the Earth from the evils of mankind … a ceremony which had involved the ritual sacrifice of a motor car and the consumption of considerable quantities of drugs.
Realising that he missed a trick, the presenter of Radio South Essex calls Geavis in for an interview, in which the latter points out that the tidal surge in the Thames Estuary was quite predictable, but that the computer models of the Agency for Modelling Climate Chaos had got it wrong. And sensing drama, the BBC – or Diversity TV, as it is has been renamed – asks Geavis in for an interview on The Suza Shamon Show. Harried by the ghastly Shamon, who is keen to wrongfoot him at every turn, and sneered at by an ecologically-virtuous guest who warns of an Earth made uninhabitable by human activity, Geavis emerges, unwittingly, as a ‘climate change denier’.
He is now a marked man. As he prepares to emigrate with his wife Olivia to Brazil, where his daughter Tamsin lives and where people still have barbecues and a bit of fun, forces of which he is unaware are about to bring him down. The druggy ‘victims’ of the Deptford drownings are now martyrs, their deaths attributed to man-made climate-change … and someone has to be made an example of.
No-one better than Geavis, who, the authorities learn, used to work in the oil industry, and who is now arrested as he attempts to leave the country by boat from Dover. A day earlier, and he would have made it to Brazil, via France, Spain and Morocco; discreetly by sea and land at first, and then by air. But now he faces a lifetime in prison … a fate which he narrowly avoids after a Soviet-style show trial in which he is denounced by his own grand-daughter. Destitute and abandoned by his wife, he ends up as an agricultural slave on one of the newly-founded communes formed from farms bankrupted by eco-taxes and on which the land is tilled entirely by hand … all machinery having been abolished.
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Oh, this is such a powerful novel. It’s not just a tract, as it might easily have been. Part satire and part fantasy, it’s a proper story, and gripping. The characters are all so recognisable. So there’s the ghastly eco-activist ‘Firkin’, whom we met a few paragraphs above, with his plaited hair and scruffy boots without laces. There’s his female colleague with her nose-ring. Then we have an actress-turned-campaigner called Zoe Fluff, who flies all over the world like our own Emma Thompson, spewing out the carbon emissions of which she so much disapproves. There’s also a priggish young girl called Bunty, whose role as a ‘Climate Influencer’ enables her to lecture people constantly about their eco-sins … and to go on nice holidays in Florida as a reward.
We then see the politicians vying with each other to propose ever more draconian penalties for crimes against nature. There is already the crime of ‘climate change denial’. But that’s not enough. So on top of the numerous existing crimes concerning the environment, we have the new crime of ‘promoting the use of fossil fuels’ (sentence: five years). We also have the new eco-crime of ‘stealing the future of a child’. And finally, we have the crime of ‘ecocide’, approved in Parliament by 620 votes to three, and carrying a life sentence in jail. Thus, as one of the dissenting MPs points out, one might be jailed for life for destroying a wasps’ nest.
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In this fictional madness, do we not see the exact depiction our own world, in which Matt ‘the prat’ Hancock has just made it an offence, with a sentence of ten years in prison, to try to pretend that you didn’t go on holiday to Portugal? Is this not as bad as anything that Orwell foresaw?
Or think, in this novel, of the awful Suza Shamon, interested only in harassing and contradicting interviewees who express ‘problematic’ views. With this sensation-seeking inquisitorial style, do we not see today’s media in operation? Jeremy Paxman; or, worse still, the mannish Emily Maitlis; or Piers ‘the moron’ Morgan?
Or take the use of political rhetoric … which was first widely used during the French Revolution when scheming politicians vied to outdo each other with thunderous calls for ‘revolutionary justice’ and ever more punitive penalties. Do we not see the parallels with our own world?
And in this novel, rhetoric plays its part not only in Parliament, but also in the names of state institutions; so that what we now know as the Ministry for the Environment undergoes a series of name-changes, each one more dramatic than the last: from the Ministry for Climate Emergency; to the Ministry for Climate Crisis; to the Ministry for Climate Calaclysm; to (finally) the Ministry for Climate Apocalypse … with every time the fear being ramped up one notch, until everyone is going mad. Not least the children, many of whom are traumatised by the constant talk of the destruction of life on Earth.
Traumatised they might be, but children are now venerated as recepticles of knowledge and wisdom, so that all eco-crimes are now judged by so-called ‘juries of the future’ made up entirely of youngsters.
In the real world, we saw something all too similar during the Brexit vote, when it was argued by some that since the young have longer to live than the old, their vote should count for more. In Clark’s nightmarish vision of the future, the voting age is now set at ten, meaning that a child can be an MP. Or even PM.
Indeed, as the novel closes, we see a twelve-year-old Prime Minister ruling a country that has reverted to medieval poverty, with the land cultivated entirely by hand and the planned formation of peasant communities of no more than 300 heads. Greta Thunberg has triumphed.
* * * * *
Do we not see in all this our own direction of travel? For some time now, there have been calls to ban meat; to ban cars; to ban air travel; to ban wood stoves; to ban fires; to ban everything. It has been suggested, too, that it should be a crime even to question the thesis of ‘man-made global warming’ … which, as you will have guessed, the present reviewer believes to be complete bunkum.
One of the cleverest aspects of this novel is the way in which Ross Clark exposes the circularity of the ‘man-made-global-warming’ thesis … the way in which anything and everything is used to bolster it, no matter now absurd. Throughout the novel, the temperatures in London are freezing and people sit shivering in their unheated homes. This does not lead believers to question the religious narrative according to which the world is burning up. Facts no longer matter. Or they are twisted in surreal manner, so that when there is a particularly cold spell of weather which might tend to undermine the global-warming thesis, it is explained as part of that same process of global warming.
How? Because man-made heating of the polar ice-caps has caused cold air to flow southwards, displacing the jet stream and breaking the usual pattern of westerly winds. Thus, in this Britain of the near future, if it there’s a nice hot day, that’s evil global warming, and if there’s a freezing cold day, that’s part of global warming, too. Does that sound familiar?
Chillingly believable, too, is the ‘social pledge’ of Ross Clark’s near future … the Creed, essentially, of the new fundamentalist religion of man-made climate change. ‘I accept the reality of the climate crisis and recognise that the dangers from it will only get worse’, it goes. And: ‘Respecting the equal rights of animals, I will not eat or use animal produce.’ Et cetera et cetera. Fail to take this ‘social pledge’ and you will be denied access to almost all shops and services. Do we not see, here, an exact parallel with the mooted ‘vaccine passports’ of today? Documents without which no sort of life will be possible at all …
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No: this novel isn’t really about the future. It’s about the destruction of our own lives that we are carrying out here and now, in pursuit of a mad religious belief. As you close this book that rings so eerily true, it is difficult to doubt that our country is doomed. If I were young I’d leave tomorrow, and go to South America … as far away as possible from the puritan death-wish to which we are in thrall, and to which I see no end.