George Joshua Richard Monbiot (/ˈmɒnbioʊ/ MON-bee-oh; born 27 January 1963) is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) and Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding (2013). He is the founder of The Land is Ours, a campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom.
Monbiot in 2013
George Joshua Richard Monbiot|
27 January 1963
Paddington, London, England
|Education||MA Oxon (BA in Zoology)|
|Alma mater||Brasenose College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Writer, political activist|
|Parent(s)||Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot and Rosalie Cooke|
|Awards||United Nations Global 500 Award (1995)|
George Monbiot grew up in Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, in a house next to Peppard Common. Politics was at the heart of family life—his father, Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot, is a businessman who headed the Conservative Party's trade and industry forum, while his mother, Rosalie—the elder daughter of Conservative MP Roger Gresham Cooke—was a Conservative councillor who led South Oxfordshire District Council for a decade. His uncle, Canon Hereward Cooke, was the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Norwich City Council between 2002 and 2006.
Monbiot was educated at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, an independent school, and won an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford. He stated that his "political awakening" was prompted by reading Bettina Ehrlich's book, Paolo and Panetto, while at his prep school (Elstree, in Essex), and that he regretted attending Oxford, stating that his time there was unhappy and he did not fit in with Brasenose's culture.
After graduating with a degree in zoology, Monbiot joined the BBC Natural History Unit as a radio producer, making natural history and environmental programmes. He transferred to the BBC's World Service, where he worked briefly as a current affairs producer and presenter, before leaving to research and write his first book.
Working as an investigative journalist, he travelled in Indonesia, Brazil, and East Africa. His activities led to his being made persona non grata in seven countries and being sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in Indonesia. In these places, he was also shot at, beaten up by military police, shipwrecked and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets. He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria.
He joined the British roads protest movement and was often called to give press interviews; as a result he was denounced as a "media tart" by groups such as Green Anarchist and Class War. He was attacked by security guards, who allegedly drove a metal spike through his foot, smashing the middle metatarsal bone. His injuries left him in hospital. Sir Crispin Tickell, a former United Nations diplomat, who was then Warden at Green College, Oxford, made the young protester a Visiting Fellow.
In 2014, Monbiot wrote an article on the theme of loneliness. This led to a collaboration with musician Ewan McLennan. Together they released an album "Breaking the Spell of Loneliness" in October 2016 followed by a tour of the UK. Folk Radio described it as "an enthralling album" where "Each song is a short, eloquent and thought provoking essay on the destruction of our humanity and how it can be regained".
Monbiot narrated the video How Wolves Change Rivers which was based on his TED talk of 2013 on the restoration of ecosystems and landscape (rewilding) when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park.
Monbiot made an unsuccessful attempt to carry out a citizen's arrest of John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, when the latter attended the Hay Festival to give a talk on international relations in May 2008. Monbiot argued that Bolton was one of the instigators of the Iraq War, of which Monbiot was an opponent.
In January 2004, Monbiot and Salma Yaqoob co-founded the Respect – The Unity Coalition (later formally the Respect Party) which grew out of the Stop the War Coalition. He resigned from the group the following February when Respect failed to reach agreement with the Green Party not to stand candidates in the same constituencies in the forthcoming 2004 European Parliamentary election.
In an interview with the British political blog Third Estate in September 2009, Monbiot expressed his support for the policies of Plaid Cymru, saying "I have finally found the party that I feel very comfortable with. That's not to say I feel uncomfortable with the Green Party, on the whole I support it, but I feel even more comfortable with Plaid."
In April 2010, he was a signatory to an open letter of support for the Liberal Democrats, published in The Guardian. Prior to the 2015 UK general election, he was one of several public figures who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas. In August 2015, Monbiot endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election. In April 2017, he announced his intention to vote for the Labour Party in the 2017 general election.
Monbiot's first book was Poisoned Arrows (1989), which is about what he called the "devastating effects" of the partially World Bank-funded transmigration program on the peoples and tribes of West Papua, a nation annexed by Indonesia. It was followed by Amazon Watershed (1991) which documented expulsions of Brazilian peasant farmers from their land and followed them thousands of miles across the forest to the territory of the Yanomami Indians, and showed how timber sold in Britain was being stolen from indigenous and biological reserves in Brazil. His third book, No Man's Land: An Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania (1994), documented the seizure of land and cattle from nomadic people in Kenya and the Tanzania, by—among other forces—game parks and safari tourism.
In 2000, he published Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. The book examines the role of corporate power in the United Kingdom, on both local and national levels, and argues that corporate involvement in politics is a serious threat to democracy. Subjects discussed in the book include the building of the Skye Bridge, corporate involvement in the National Health Service, the role of business in university research, and the conditions which influence the granting of planning permission.
His fifth book, The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order, was published in 2003. The book is an attempt to set out a positive manifesto for change for the global justice movement. Monbiot criticises anarchism and Marxism, arguing that any possible solution to the world's inequalities must be rooted in a democratic parliamentary system.
Monbiot's next book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, published in 2006, focuses on the issue of climate change.
Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding was published in 2013, and focuses on the concept of rewilding the planet. In the book, Monbiot attacks sheep farming as "a slow-burning ecological disaster, which has done more damage to the living systems of this country than either climate change or industrial pollution. Yet scarcely anyone seems to have noticed." He particularly looks at sheep farming in Wales. The book received favourable reviews in The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. It won the Society of Biology Book Award for general biology in 2014.
Monbiot has lived in Oxford for many years, but for a few years from 2007, lived in a low emissions house in the mid-Wales market town of Machynlleth, originally with his then-wife, writer and campaigner Angharad Penrhyn Jones, and their daughter. Because his new partner lives in Oxford, Monbiot returned by 2012. The couple's daughter, Monbiot's second, was born in early 2012. In December 2017, Monbiot was diagnosed with prostate cancer; he had surgery in March 2018.
In 1995, Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. He was a finalist in the Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize with his screenplay The Norwegian, and won a Sony Award for radio production, the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award. In November 2007, his book Heat was awarded the Premio Mazotti, an Italian book prize, but he was denied the money given with the prize because he chose not to travel to Venice to collect it in person, arguing that it was not a good enough reason to justify flying. In 2017, he was a recipient of the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award for his work at The Guardian.