In reviewing this broad retrospective of George Monbiot’s Guardian columns, How Did We Get Into This Mess?, it is difficult to focus solely on the actual content of those commentaries. Yes, we need to understand the problems that illustrate that central question – the clear mess we’re in. From Monbiot’s position, the symptoms range, impressively, from individual loneliness to the ecological disaster of sheep, from drone killings to academic publishing, from the myths of consumption to the lost value of whale poo (really). Clearly, the mess we are in is a big one. Analysing that mess is a complex task, one which Monbiot takes on with a convincing and engaging combination of intelligence, depth, and righteous anger.
But there is more to the collection than what is on the page, broad ranging and persuasive though it is. The other issue in reviewing a collection of commentaries like this, of course, is that of Monbiot’s position as one of the authoritative voices of the broadly defined left. What do we expect of such a critical voice, clearly identified as part of the newly energised ‘resistance’ – and how does Monbiot fare in that role as one of our major social commentators?