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The Environment

Righty: I’m tired of being lectured and bullied by naive ecology dweebs and former presidential candidates who have nothing better to do with their time (and ours). You’d think we were about to pave the entire planet with asphalt. The fact is that over sixty percent of the Earth’s land surface is wilderness. Sixty percent! Imagine all that land just sitting there, as virginal as a nun. Not exactly cause for alarm, is it? A vibrant economy requires the exploitation of natural resources. I’m not suggesting that we rape the planet, just harness it for the betterment of mankind. Is that too much to ask, Lefty? Or do you want to keep all that pristine land for yourself and your environmentally enlightened, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing upper-middle class liberal friends?

Lefty: You capitalist exploiters seem to think you can just keep taking and taking — without giving a thought to the consequences. Sure, the land might be sixty percent wilderness right now. But think about what that means, Righty (you’ll have to rev up your cerebral cortex for this one, I’m afraid). It means that one lousy species of enterprising ape has already plundered forty percent of the Earth’s land surface! What do you think our planet will look like a century from now if developing giants like China, Brazil, India and Indonesia keep chugging along the way the United States has done throughout its history? We need to enact global legislation to protect our vital rain forests, wetlands, watersheds and other fragile ecosystems from the ravages of greedy developers and other business interests. We need to act now, or there’s no going back. Think about it, Righty: what will you guys do when you’ve run out of resources to exploit? Oh, I forgot: capitalists don’t care about anything beyond the upcoming fiscal year.

The New Moderate:

We really can’t afford to take a moderate position when it comes to saving the planet. We have no choice but to save it, because the likelihood of interplanetary colonization seems pretty dim for now. The Earth’s resources are finite, and we don’t want to be caught short when we have all those billions of humans to feed, house and equip with cell phones. I don’t think we should cripple the driving engines of our economy with punitive legislation, but we clearly need to regulate their enterprises.

Where Lefty and I part company is over the matter of marketing style. Let me explain. The earnest ecologists who have dominated the environmental movement since the 1960s have tended to be wonkish zealots with a blind spot for the poetry of the natural world. They drain it of its inherent beauty and drama with all their insistent harping on carbon footprints, ecosystems, recycling and other well-intentioned puritanical hectoring. Sure, all these things are vital to preserving the planet, but nature can’t be (and shouldn’t be) reduced to a banal PowerPoint presentation. I fear that the zealots alienate more people than they persuade. Shrillness has never aided the mass acceptance of any worthy endeavor.

If we want to win converts to the cause, we need to inspire people with the romantic grandeur and incredible intricacy of the world beyond our suburban fringes. We need them to hear the wind on the prairie, the music of a rushing stream, the trumpeting of wild geese in flight. We need to remind everyone that nature is an indispensable, irreplaceable sanctuary and a source of continual awe. Eventually, recycling our bottles might seem like more of a privilege than a chore.

Summary: Of course we need to preserve and protect the environment, but let’s not drain it of poetry in our zeal to promote the cause. Tone down the shrillness so we can hear the music.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 8, 2010 9:52 pm

    Maybe global warming is the karmatic/natural response to humans screwing with it? (Avatar???) Sure we need stuff, but it’s not a good idea to destroy the planet we live on, in order to live easier to for few decades. MODERATION DAMMIT!!! Actions have consequences, and unfortunately when the consequences don’t apply to people in their life time, and ignore them. If the human race continues to act stupidly, it will die, and we will deserve it. (not everybody, but enough) It only takes one person drilling through the bottom of the boat to sink 50 peeople on it.

    • Mobius permalink
      January 19, 2010 3:01 pm

      You wouldn’t think a higher-evolved version of one species of ape through the course of 200 years of industry could destroy a planet that has survived countless earthquakes, plate-shifts, landslides, hurricanes, forest fires, cosmic rays hitting the Earth, solar flares, meteor strikes and comet strikes. It seems like colossal arrogance to me to presume that we can help the planet through its cycles of life, death and rebirth. We can’t even help ourselves yet!

      That doesn’t mean that I don’t want the world to switch to renewable and less-harmful fuels. Oil is going to run out one day and when that day comes, if we haven’t properly integrated ourselves with hydrogen or water cells or geothermal energy or whatever scientific discoveries may come our way; the US (or maybe one of its equivalents, as the whole country is in the crapper at the moment), will launch world-wars over the last drop of oil and as that last drop is siphoned (presumably from my car, I’m not wasting my fuel) we will descend back to the stone age and live as nomads again. (Well, at least we have chance to learn from our mistakes and try again, because that’s proven to be fruitful in the past, hasn’t it!)

  2. Dianne permalink
    November 30, 2010 2:17 pm

    We already have the technology. All we need to do is implement it. We need to use a combination of wind, small water turbines at flood dams, solar on every available (and appropriately located) roof, hydrogen cells, geothermal, etc. Our nation is blessed with an abundance of energy sources. We just need to tap into them all. During this recession, a program similar to the 1930’s Conservation Corp with the purpose of building/installing alternative energy infrastructure would be a great blessing to our country by getting our energy production “in house” and providing jobs that are desperately needed right now.

    • Sean permalink
      August 12, 2011 5:25 pm

      No combination of the alternatives will allow us to continue wasting energy in the manner in which we’ve grown accustomed. Until we can have a real discussion about our hopeless car-dependency and energy wastefulness then nothing is going to be accomplished. Hydrogen is a dead-end– it’s an energy carrier, not an energy source. It’s very difficult to store and transport. Solar sounds neat but is, at best, a net exergy loser and, at worst, an energy sink. The much ballyhooed CIGS solar panels require rare earth metals that a German study indicated would run out long before they made any difference. The only real solution is to rebuild our passenger and cargo rail transport system and to rework our towns and cities to encourage walking and cycling for daily transportation. We might even have to give up our love affair with computers, cell phones and the internet as these things are incredibly energy-intensive.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    May 12, 2012 9:41 pm

    How can you be a moderate if you don’t integrate 2 sides of an argument? Of course everyone wants the planet to continue, including conservatives. But you can go too far can’t you? You can be so afraid of harming our planet that you get silly about it. You can even harm the planet yourself by saying no to nukes and contributing to global warming.

    We need moderates who know how to find the correct compromise between being kind to the planet and using the planet’s resources.

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