The “elegant, urgent writing” of George Monbiot has seen the author, environmentalist and Guardian columnist win the prestigious Orwell prize for journalism.
The prize is awarded for commentary or reporting that comes closest to meeting the ambition of George Orwell, the novelist, essayist, journalist and critic, to “make political writing into an art”.
Monbiot won the prize for his almost four-decade-long fight to raise the profiles of a wide range of neglected environmental issues, most recently leading the calls to rewild our desertified and sheep-scraped landscape.
“In the finest tradition of George Orwell’s journalism, George Monbiot draws on a vast reserve of knowledge to write with wit, elegance, forensic insight, and sustained and justified anger about the most important, and most neglected, crisis facing humanity,” said Isabel Hilton, one of the prize’s judges.
“His targets range from organised crime to criminal political indifference, and he leaves us in no doubt about what we must do to survive,” added Hilton, who is also a journalist and founder of China Dialogue.
In his latest book, Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet, Monbiot explains why farming is, in his words, “the most destructive human activity ever to have blighted the Earth” and what we can do to stop it.
Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation and professor of media history at the University of Westminster, said: “Orwell took pleasure in flowers, was consoled by watching toads and observed the environment in all his work. George Monbiot has a life of elegant, urgent writing about the single greatest threat we must square up to – Orwell would, I think, approve of his winning the Orwell prize.”
Monbiot has written a number of bestselling books, including Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning and Out of the Wreckage: a New Politics for an Age of Crisis.
He has also made a number of viral videos. One of them, adapted from his 2013 TED talk, How Wolves Change Rivers, has been viewed on YouTube over 40m times. Another, on Natural Climate Solutions, which he co-presented with Greta Thunberg, has been watched over 50m times.
Monbiot also co-wrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan.
The judges for this year’s Orwell prize for journalism also included Helen Hawkins, ex-culture editor at The Times, Marcus Ryder, head of external consultancies at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity and chair of Rada, and Sameer Padania, author and independent journalism consultant.