So, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme for its efforts to combat hunger and to prevent it being used as a weapon of war.
This is quite right, too, since she did not deserve it.
Far from encouraging peace, she has spread discord and division. Far from making the world a happier, safer place, she has helped make people fearful and pessimistic. Along with Extinction Rebellion, she has peddled the notion that we all have to stop doing the things we enjoy, such as travelling and trading globally – to live narrower, more restricted lives that have less impact upon the planet.
Perhaps she’s right that if we all bought and journeyed locally, travelling to nearby villages by horse and cart, it might make a smaller footprint on the environment. When we did live like that, however, mothers died in childbirth, children died in infancy, people died of plague, and life for many was tragically short and squalid.
It was the Industrial Revolution and its wealth creation that made possible the advances in medicine, sanitation and science that have made better lives possible for so many. The notion that we have to stop modern industrial technology in order to save the Earth from extinction is as false as it is dangerous. The reality is that we have to use that modern industrial technology to solve the problems we face.
A plausible candidate for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize might be the Duke of Cambridge. Along with Sir David Attenborough, he has launched the Earthshot programme, which will give prizes for innovations and inventions that help solve environmental problems. Five prizes a year, each of one million pounds, are to be awarded for ten years to teams that produce novel ways of addressing issues such as climate and energy, nature and biodiversity, oceans, air pollution and fresh water.
This is exactly the right approach, just as Greta Thunberg’s is the wrong one. The aim is to stimulate ambition and innovation to explore and invent novel ways to help the Earth solve its problems. The result will be a huge stimulus to solutions involving technological change, rather than ones that require behavioural change. Instead of using the stick to bully people into living more simply, it will provide an incentive to help us live more cleverly.