Is it ethical to buy a house?

Our ethical columnist on the thorny issue of where people should live.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I find myself in something of an ethical bind. On the one hand, I know that the environment will suffer if we build too many new houses, and believe me that is the very last thing I want. On the other hand, the thing that I want more than anything is to get on the housing ladder. But with the housing shortage as it is, even a newly qualified solicitor on £35,000 like me will have to club together with three friends to afford a shared broom cupboard.

What is a ‘homeless’ 22-year-old to do? Might Gordon Brown’s proposed new eco-towns be the solution to the housing crisis? Please advise.

Joy Love

Dear Joy,

Oh Joy, Joy, Joy! (And I definitely do not mean the emotion!) Can’t you see how you have been brainwashed by a conspiracy of Big Builders and Big Banks to believe that you ‘need’ a mortgage and a home of your ‘own’?

This is one issue on which we really need to think outside the box, and stop thinking about how to build more little boxes across the countryside. Repeat after me: There Is No Housing Crisis – There Is A Humanity Crisis. There Are Not Too Few Houses in Britain – There Are Too Many People.

Radical solutions are called for to redress the house-human balance. And we need to start by bulldozing through all the old cement-dust covered ideas that are offered up to explain away the crimes of the construction industry against the environment.

The so-called ‘green’ solutions, such as Brown’s plans for pseudo-eco-towns, usually bang on about how to reduce the amount of carbon that is produced in building houses, and then in running them as homes. But why not cut 100 per cent of that carbon out by not building any of them in the first place? No reason at all, apart from the usual ones: there is too much money to be made by fatty catties, and too much moral cowardice to face up to the doom that awaits us all around the corner of the cul de sac into which we are all moving.

It has now been scientifically proven beyond any doubt that building more roads would only create more cars and more congestion. This is now so obvious that nobody feels the need to explain exactly how it might happen. The same iron law of science must clearly apply to housing. The more houses we build, the more people will appear on the planet. Stop the building, stop the breeding. Simple.

So let’s hear no more from the ‘deniers’ who use their weasel (diesel?) words to justify their holocaustic house-building programmes. ‘Affordable’ housing? The planet cannot afford one more one-bedroom flat. ‘Sustainable’ housing? An eco-oxymoron if ever I heard one. ‘Social’ housing? Any house is destroying the environment we live in, and therefore by definition can be about as ‘social’ as a pub full of homophobic pipe-smokers.

There is no ‘halfway house’ here (please excuse witty pun). Greenfield housing is unmitigated rape of the countryside of course, even if they could find a square metre of parched greenery left to build upon in our Brown and very unpleasant land. But Brownfield sites are no better really – the housing equivalent of landfill, just pouring more and more rubbish (both of the carbon and human varieties, which amount to the same thing ultimately) into the already-overfilled pits that are our urban hell-holes.

So instead of more houses, we need far fewer people chasing them. That must mean less immigration. Or to be more precise, none. Yes, I know that some of us (I mention no names, Sheba) enjoy the services of various young Poles and Lithuanians about the place. But we all need to make sacrifices. We must give up our new bathrooms, they must give up their right to live six-to-a-room in a one-sink bedsit, or indeed anywhere else in the UK. I am not a racist. We should never discriminate. Keep them all out, white, black or those of mixed-cultural heritage. To repeat, I am no xenophobe, I’m just an eco-phile. Indeed, if somebody could come up with a plan to ex-patriate a few million of our more appalling white British people, so much the better.

The question of how we then set about reducing our native (over-)population is one I have touched on before and will come back to again. But one thing is for certain: we must stop building houses that only encourage more people to move into them. To be blunt, if they have nowhere to live, more might think twice about being alive.

I am sorry if this does not seem much help to you, Joy, in your search for somewhere of your ‘own’ to live. But remember, all property ownership is theft – from the planet. Here’s an alternative. You seem a nice mannered young person. Why not come and live in our spare room? Sheba and I have been thinking of renting it out, partly to help cover the rather high installation cost of the windmill on the roof (which we are assured will pay for itself in only 130 years time!), and partly as a sort of ‘offsetting’ measure for the guilt we feel about living mortgage-free in our beautiful detached house. (Yes, I know, but we bought it years ago and we didn’t know any better back then. Sometimes I’m afraid you just have to live with your mistakes….)

In the longer term (ie, next year) there must clearly be some more radical measures to sort out the humanity crisis. As regular readers may have noticed (big shout out to me posse! All the young dudes and whatever the latest non-sexist gender equivalent might be!), I sometimes have my differences with the totally irresponsible editorial ‘line’ pursued by spiked. So I was surprised this week to see the big headline ‘Come, friendly bombs, fall on Brown’s eco-towns’. When I actually read it, of course, it proposed building even MORE and BIGGER ones than Brown wants. But it started me thinking.

Maybe razing a lot of existing housing and depopulating some of the uglier cities is the only solution? I realise it’s got a bad name because of the Khmer Rouge and ‘Year Zero’ and all that. Okay, so Pol Pot was a genocidal maniac (at least in the human-centric meaning of the ‘G’ word that is too easily accepted today – see previous columns). But if we forget about the mountains of human skulls for a moment, maybe the ‘Khmer Vert’ (that’s French for green!) were on to something? After all, catastrophic man-made, irreversible climate change means ‘Year Zero’ will soon be dawning for us all.

There is only one ‘home’ we should really be worrying about. It is the one we share with all our biodiverse neighbours: Planet Earth, aka: Number 3, the Solar System. We have mortgaged it to the hilt, the heating bills are going through the roof, and the whole edifice is in danger of slipping off the disappearing cliff edge into the rising seas below.

Happy house-hunting!

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Read his earlier columns here. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}.

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Topics Politics


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