Knickers to Climate Change

Today I read a book

It was contagious – seventy pages

There were pictures here and there, so it wasn’t hard to bear

The day I read a book […]

The day I read a book, don’t ask me where or when

But one of these days I’m gonna do it again

(Jimmy Durante)

Dr Alice Bell, whose stream of consciousness was discussed here

has been appointed Climate Change editor  at New Left Project.

She kicked off with an article by ex UKYCC delegate Guy Shrubsole

Shrubsole names as one of the hopeful signs in the Climate Change campaign the launching of a website financed by Vivienne Westwood which is intended to start a mass revolutionary movement to combat climate change. There’s an interview with her at

in which she gives a plug for the New Economics Foundation’s “100 Months and Counting” campaign, which I discussed at

There ‘s also a TV interview from last December in which the interviewer, a guy in a suit with a quiff, tries to shut her up when she’s talking about how six billion of us are going to die by saying ‘”we’re all on the same page..” patting her encouragingly on the shoulder.

Thanks to Brian Robinson for alerting me to this gem

My transcription will be available at Alex Cull’s Mytranscript box. In the meantime, here is a brief comment.

Every time there’s a discussion about something other than “The Science” at Bishop Hill or Wattsupwiththat, a number of commenters chime in with “Why bother with these folk? The global warming scam has been exposed, it’s all over.”

But it’s not, as Ed Davey and Barak Obama (both as important figures in their respective spheres as Vivienne Westwood is in hers) have just emphasised in major speeches. And it’s going to take more than a few inconsistencies in IPCC AR5 to change the direction of the politics of the Western world. Vivienne Westwood’s website may die the death tomorrow, but her thinking will live on. The affectionate pat on the shoulder from the guy with the quiff (who is he?) when she started worrying about the imminent death of 6 billion of us just meant: “We agree with you, just don’t spoil the party”. And of course, she won’t.

The video shows a speech she gave at the European Commission’s first Innovation Convention in Brussels in 2011. Richard Dawkins was there, plus Michael O’Leary of Ryanair and Eric Schmidt of Google – people like that. And José Manuel Barroso.

Transcribing her meandering ruminations, I  thought of the nightmare that haunted the British upper classes from about 1815 to the 1920s: the idea of universal suffrage, the unspeakable horror of government policy being dictated by the uneducated; the vision of a simple seamstress telling the government how to run the country.

And it came to pass. Except that the seamstress is a millionaire and a Dame of the British Empire, so that’s alright then. And she’s read a book.

She starts by quoting Aldous Huxley on the three greatest evils today (well, yesterday) which are (were) nationalism,  organised lying,

“…and the other evil, the most virulent of all the evils according to Huxley, and I agree with him, was non-stop distraction. If your head is full of rubbish, nothing else can go in. Anyway, so I decided that these were the constituents of propaganda, and that’s what I started to talk to young people about through my fashion, and I started to put these t-shirts in fashion shows and everything.”

We’ve already met the idea that the answer to the world’s problems is a t-shirt in the case of Kirsty Schneeberger M.B.E of UKYCC

Vivienne has designed lots of t-shirts and been made a Dame of the British Empire for it. Having read a book by Aldous Huxley, and found that she agreed with him, Vivienne went on to read an interview with James Lovelock, and found that she agreed with him, too.

“I consider him to be a genius as great as Einstein or Darwin… The point is this famous plus two degrees. Once the emissions make the temperature rise to two degrees, it is unstoppable. The earth will migrate to a hot state. Nobody will be able to tamper with it. Everything will kick in, and it will end up at five or six degrees. Now then five or six degrees, what that means is if you draw a line just slightly under Paris, everything below that is uninhabitable, and that’s the world we’re facing… Anyway, but the statistic that absolutely shocked me was that he said that by the end of this century there would be probably one billion people left, and this is your imagination when that happens. Anyway, it is unimaginable but it is so shocking to think of it. Now then, scientists are all agreed that once you’ve passed this plus two degrees, then you can’t do anything about it. The only thing they’re not agreed about is how quickly it will happen..”

Vivienne reads a book, (or rather, an interview about a book) and the world changes. We can all sympathise with that. Except that Vivienne sems to think the world really changes – because she’s read a book.

“What can one person do? The answer is, inform yourself. if you think differently because of all this information you’re getting, you will behave differently. You’ll talk to your friends, you will influence policy, you will, it will make an incredible difference, it willl change your outlook on the world, and you will have an effect, you’ll start to do something.”

And for Vivienne, things really do change, because she thinks they must. If you’re rich and famous and invited to Brussels by the President of the European Commission, then thinking really does make it so. And talking to your friends even more so. Which is what she does next:

“Now then, what have I done? I’ll tell you .. I had a plan… this is a real plan. I talked to some models I know … Kate Moss said to me, you know, “Naomi – give her a mission, she loves a mission …  you know she’s a fighter, she never stops.” 

Then she does what we all do when we get excited about something. She goes on the net.

“What did I do? We, myself and my colleagues, we searched out what was happening. Who was doing stuff? And we got this information mostly through the internet as to who’s doing things. But we came across this charity  Cool Earth … it was started by a politician called Frank Field .. He looked up and found that this man called Johan Eliasch had bought some land in the middle of the Brazilian forest .. and he got in touch with him.. Frank said, ‘Look, we’ve got to be strategic about this. Would you like to talk to me?’ And the plan was that they would work with indigenous people to make a fire wall around each of the three big forests on the equator. They’re the most important forests. They produce ten times more atmosphere, absorb ten times more carbon because they’re in direct underneath the sun.

[Johan Eliasch is the Chairman and CEO of Head N.V., the global sporting goods group, and chairman of Equity Partners and London Films. He is a non-executive director of CV Starr Underwriting Agents and IMG, the international sports marketing group. He is an advisory board member of Investcorp, Brasilinvest, Societe du Louvre, Centre for Social Justice and the British Olympic Association. He is a member of the Mayors of London’s and Rome’s International Business Advisory Councils. He is the first President of the Global Strategy Forum, a trustee of the Kew Foundation and a patron of the Stockholm University. He served in the British Government, as the Special Representative of Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Deforestation and Clean Energy from 2007 to 2010, and in different roles for the Conservative Party between 1999 and 2007].

“.. And so if you want to visit Cool Earth you can see a plan that they have which is already in place … and their plan is cheap … the total will be, by my reckoning, according to their figures, about  114 million pounds, to save the three big forests of the world.”

When someone calls £114 million “cheap”, you begin to understand how she could confuse changes in her inner mental world with change in the real world out there. After all, £114M is the kind of sum Vivienne could probably raise tomorrow using nothing more than a telephone and her address book .

Vivienne clearly senses that there’s something not quite right about her plan to save the world by raising £114 million from some models and “one or two investors”:

“… and so it’s very very important to involve the general public, for them to get involved, to become much more active in their democratic responsibility to try to do something, and so I want to work on that as well, .. but also to have this publicity that you’re going to get from this trick of asking models and famous people to help you first of all financially…So this is the idea, it’s People Power we’re talking about, and governments must join in. It’s never happened before…” 

It’s never happened before. Vivienne really has no excuse for that. She was one of the leading figures of Punk – one of the great social movements of the eighties which tried and failed to face down Thatcherism, the other one being the miners’ strike. The miners have gone, but Punk is still around. Miners were never very popular, and were largely invisible to the majority of the population. Punks were unpopular too, but in a different way. They  didn’t change the world, but they had an effect. And it didn’t happen because of Swedish CEOs and fashion models. Vivienne should know that.

In an interview in  Fashion Telegraph last December, she made this perceptive comment:

“I hardly ever read the newspapers. I wouldn’t recognise these people if they came into the room. I would recognise David Cameron, I would recognise Ed Miliband – they’re both equally delayed.” Delayed? “They don’t live in the real world. They are totally behind the times, they haven’t a clue what’s happening in the world, either of them. They just want to keep their jobs and somehow people are telling them what to do and they’re doing it. And they don’t know what’s going on.”

Indeed they don’t. Like José Manuel Barroso, they rely on cultural figures like Vivienne Westwood to keep them abreast of the latest trends.

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at
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13 Responses to Knickers to Climate Change

  1. Barry Woods says:

    Guy is also an ex PIRC director. Now he is Friends of the Earth..

    (Kirsty, Adam, Christian Hunt, Richard Hawkins now PIRC directors)

    I suppose they all need careers ;(

  2. omnologos says:

    Today they will try to stop violence against women with the One Billion Rising flash-mob-cum-dance.

    Not sure there is too much to worry about, apart the wasted effort.

  3. catweazle666 says:

    “It’s worse than we thought!”

  4. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Wossie’s pat on the shoulder looked more like a ‘There, there, dear’, if that’s the December interview you mean.

    (And if it is, I respectfully suggest that your definition of quiff is a century behind the times. NSOED: ‘n. A curl or lock of hair plastered down on the forehead, worn esp. by soldiers. Now esp. a tuft of hair brushed upwards over the forehead. L19.’ These days, quiff = Leningrad Cowboys^W^WJustin Bieber. What Wossie has in that clip is what I would call a cowlick … Googles … And I’d be wrong. Oh. I dunno what it is but it’s not a proper quiff. Too limp.)

  5. Vinnie
    My knowledge of everything is a century behind the times. As Ben Pile said, I’ve been out of the country too long. Who’s Wossie?
    The endless recycling of the same names is fascinating. I used to think we could understand the whole environmentalist movement if we followed the career paths of these few hundred eternally recurring names. Then you come across someone like this Eliasch guy. He’s everywhere, and I’d never heard of him.
    I have a nightmare about these green millionaires. If we did manage to persuade them to stop investing in pointless environmental schemes, what worse ways would they find of spending their money?
    “Not sure there is too much to worry about..”
    This is the kind of point of view which I’m disputing. Of course, Vivienne Westwood on her own is unimportant. It’s the fact that her uninformed opinions are shared by Sir Paul Nurse, Naomi Campbell, Brian Cox, Bianca Jagger, Ed Miliband, Marcus Brigstocke, Sir David Attenborough, David Cameron, HRH the Prince of Wales… that’s what makes her important. (and the fact that Wossie, whoever he is, pats her affectionately on the shoulder).

  6. Foxgoose says:

    I had a look at Viv’s “Climate Revolution” site (it was always revolutions with punks wasn’t it – I seem to remember they couldn’t walk down the King’s Rd without starting half a dozen).

    I liked “Shop less – Kiss more” and her compelling lecture to the Europlutocrats about the evils of consumerism – I bet they wept on their chauffeurs shoulders as they were helped into their BMWs.

    I think she’s on to something though – but she needs to focus a bit more. If only she could find an example of an industry that wastes billions on raw materials and cheap labour, making stuff that absolutely nobody needs – and millions more on flying thousands of people around the world to advertise the junk and persuade weak minded idiots to buy it……………oh……hang on.

  7. alexjc38 says:

    Geoff’s transcript of Vivienne’s speech (thanks, Geoff!) is now available here:

    “It’s the fact that her uninformed opinions are shared by Sir Paul Nurse, Naomi Campbell, Brian Cox, Bianca Jagger, Ed Miliband, Marcus Brigstocke, Sir David Attenborough, David Cameron, HRH the Prince of Wales… ”

    What we have to remember is that at some point in recent history (no-one knows exactly when), the world tipped over and became an absurd, mirror-image, upside-down version of itself. Formerly, social scientists would have had a field day wondering why these people thought the crazy things they did. Now the social scientists are wondering why we sceptics are thinking the things we do, and figuring out how to bring us into line with Vivienne Westwood and Prince Charles.

    “Knickers to Climate Change”, by the way, would be a brilliant name for a climate campaign – Solitaire Townsend, if you happen to be reading this, what do you think?

  8. alexjc38 says:

    Geoff, meet Wossie. Here he is, on his show, speaking to none other than Vivienne Westwood about various things, including our favourite subject:

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    Compressed the links to try and avoid WordPress creating giant embedded YouTube thingies in the comment.

    (Just realised I misspelled “Solitaire” in the last comment.)

  9. alexjc38 says:

    And she was on the telly this morning, as it’s London Fashion Week:

    “I get too bored talking about fashion and it’s lovely to have an excuse to talk about things that really, really concern me. You know, the terrible financial system is the cause of climate change. And if you want to tackle the financial crisis, you’ve got to do it through climate change – they are not opposed.”

    So there we are.

  10. Alex
    Put me out of my misery. Who is Wossie? Is he famous?
    My problem commenting on the public reaction to climate change is that I’m completely out of touch with the British media. I see the way the issue is reported on the environment pages of the serious papers, but that’s not the way the issue appears to 95% of the population. (Even when I lived in Britain 30 years ago I hardly ever watched TV. I spent my evenings doing market research and playing in folk clubs. How out of touch can you get?)
    My impression is that the fading of interest among the chattering classes probably doesn’t affect the momentum of the climate change bandwagon. As long as the Vivienne Westwoods keep appearing on telly to announce that global warming is alive and kicking, the politicians can carry on regardless, whatever doubt are rised about IPCC AR5 or the business interests of Yeo and Deben.

  11. alexjc38 says:

    Geoff, he is quite a bit famous here (some might say notorious) – he’s Jonathan Ross, and here’s his Wiki page:

    Interestingly, in the Wiki article, he is said to describe himself as being a fan of James Randi and that he has come to have “a sceptical view of the world”.

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