Green Weenie of the Week: Back to Nature Indeed

Power Line’s Green Weenie Award Committee has been on sabbatical for much of this academic year, but emergency meetings can be convened for extraordinary circumstances.  And one of those circumstances arises today with the New York Times Magazine feature, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . And He Feels Fine.”

The feature explores the world and worldview of Paul Kingsnorth, a Brit who represents the revival of deep ecology lifestyles that feature living in yurts and using composting toilets, among other self-imposed deprivations.  Kingsworth’s manifesto is titled Uncivilization, which seems ironically apt for his live-off-the-land lifestyle.  A few samples:

“Everything had gotten worse,” Kingsnorth said. “You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here saying: ‘Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we’ll save the world!’ I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! So what do I do?”

Everything has gotten worse?  I guess things like facts and data aren’t important.  Oh, that “comrades” is a nice touch, too.

Further down, however, is the thread of an argument that shows the split currently taking place among environmentalists:

In 2012, in the nature magazine Orion, Kingsnorth began to publish a series of essays articulating his new, dark ecological vision. He set his views in opposition to what he called neo-environmentalism — the idea that, as he put it, “civilization, nature and people can only be ‘saved’ by enthusiastically embracing biotechnology, synthetic biology, nuclear power, geoengineering and anything else with the prefix ‘new’ that annoys Greenpeace.” Or as Stewart Brand, the 75-year-old “social entrepreneur” best known as the publisher of the ” Whole Earth Catalog,” has put it: “We are as gods and have to get good at it.”

For Kingsnorth, the notion that technology will stave off the most catastrophic effects of global warming is not just wrong, it’s repellent — a distortion of the proper relationship between humans and the natural world and evidence that in the throes of crisis, many environmentalists have abandoned the principle that “nature has some intrinsic, inherent value beyond the instrumental.” If we lose sight of that ideal in the name of saving civilization, he argues, if we allow ourselves to erect wind farms on every mountain and solar arrays in every desert, we will be accepting a Faustian bargain.

So for these deep ecologists, even wind and solar power are tools of the devil.  Or at least the Koch Brothers.  This anti-technology attitude is pure Luddism, leavened perhaps with Heidegger. But then you stop cold at this passage:

The hut was cramped and eerie, decorated with the bones of small animals in illuminated glass cases. Haunting music was piped in from an iPod.

Hold it right there: what’s this about an iPod??  Dude—if you’re going back to basics and are anti-tech, no iPods for you.  It continues:

You walked through a curtain, sat down and put on a heavy papier-mâché mask — a badger surrogate.  Directly across from you, seated behind a window in the back wall, was another person — a volunteer — also wearing a badger mask. He or she sat silently, except when mirroring whatever movements you made, until, driven by emotion, fatigue, satisfaction or plain discomfort, you left.

Badger masks?  I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t all some kind of performance art, a clever satire like the ClimateNuremberg website.  Regardless, it puts me in the frame of mind to quote that great political philosopher Al Yankovic: “Badgers?  We don’t need no stinking badgers!”

Green Weenie Hot Dogs copyNeedless to say, this kind of “back to nature” movement does indeed represent the Hobbesian kind—back to a state of nature that is solitary (especially without an iPod), poor, nasty, brutish, and short.  But our Green Weenies are biodegradable at least.

Or maybe the most suitable commentary for this whole nonsense is best delivered by John McEnroe (only 44 seconds long):


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