In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Elsewhere | Main | Many Different Eco-Crowds »

May 01, 2007

Ultra-Eco Lifestyle

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

What price are you willing to pay to Save the Planet ?

One option is to live an 18th century lifestyle. That's more or less what one chap in northern New England did, as reported in the Wall Street Journal 10 or 15 years ago.

A bit too extreme? Okay, here is what's happenin' now according to an article in today's Seattle Times, a paper beating the drum for its "Climate Challenge" initiative. The link to the article is here. But it might disappear, so I'll liberally quote from the article to highlight some of its information.

The trash container at the curb is not much bigger than a shoebox. And inside the house, at 7:15 on a weekday morning, all the lights are off. It's not because no one's home.

"I'm just raising the blinds to let in the natural light," Gina Diamond said as she walked from window to window.

It's morning in a low-carbon household, where reuse and recycle is more than just a slogan, buying used is encouraged and the electric lights go on only when it's dark out....

They haven't abandoned modern conveniences. The refrigerator hums near an electric stove and a dishwasher. When Diamond needs to get ready in the morning, she pops a movie into the DVD player for Lily to watch.

But looking closely, subtle differences emerge.

Laundry hangs on a drying rack in a nearby hall. To save electricity, they rarely put their clothes in the dryer. The curly glass of a compact fluorescent light bulb pokes from the lamp over the dinner table.

Diamond got out a milk carton labeled organic. The raisins Lily plopped onto her cereal were bought in bulk and stored in a reusable container. That helps explain why a week's worth of family garbage fills one small trash bag.

"I try to reuse things as much as I can before I recycle them," Diamond explained....

The household rules are pretty simple.

Walk or ride a bike when you can. Take the bus if that doesn't work. As a last resort, drive the family car, a Subaru station wagon. Buy organic, locally grown food if possible. Buy less stuff, and get secondhand things. Only use electricity when needed.

In practice, it gets more complicated. Take eating.

Diamond is an "aspiring vegan," meaning no meat, milk or eggs. [Richard] Farnham [her husband], who grew up in London eating his mom's roast beef, still relishes a good burger. Lily [their daughter] doesn't eat meat but drinks milk and eats eggs....

She wants to buy food grown nearby, to cut down on fuel used to transport, say, bananas from Central America to Seattle. But she can't give up fresh fruit in the winter. So they get a lot of their produce from a local farm that delivers a box to a nearby neighborhood center, and then add fruit and vegetables from elsewhere in the winter....

She traces her start down this path to 1987, when she became a vegetarian while at the University of Oregon. But when the couple moved to North Seattle in 1999, she still drove four blocks to the grocery store....

The Diamond-Farnham family is much closer to the mainstream than some people trying to reduce their carbon footprints.

Consider the 100-mile movement, where people eat only food that's produced within 100 miles of their home. For a year, one New York City couple is giving up, among other things, toilet paper, eating imported food and transportation that burns fossil fuels....

But a quick check with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's carbon calculator shows they produce less than half the emissions of a typical two-person American household: roughly 18,220 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, compared with an average 41,500 pounds.

How do they do it?

First, they live in a smaller house. It's 1,200 square feet, compared with the national average of 1,928 square feet. Last year they used about 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month — about two-thirds of what an average Seattle City Light customer uses if they, like the Diamond-Farnhams, have electric heat and an electric water heater.

They recycle religiously.

In April they sold their second car, a Lexus passed down from Diamond's parents, because they almost never used it. Gina is taking correspondence courses, so she doesn't have to commute.

Farnham hasn't figured out how to get to his job in West Seattle without their car. The three-hour round trip on a bus isn't palatable, and he uses the car at work to take people on errands. So he drives about 12,000 miles a year, a pretty typical distance....

Gina retrieved a stroller (consignment shop) from the garage, got Lily into it, and started walking the mile and a half to her daughter's preschool. Along the way it began to drizzle.

As she walked, she reflected on the hardest things to give up. She used to love long showers. Now she keeps them to five minutes. With her new vow to fly only twice a year, she wonders how she will satisfy her desire to travel the world.

Life without a car has meant more exercise, less stress and more time chatting with Lily.

But "there certainly are times when I feel 'augh.' When it's freezing cold and the bus is late and I forgot my rain gear," she said. "But I do think about, 'OK, what is the good that I'm doing?' "

No doubt there are plenty of cases where living the "Green" life falls between the Diamond-Farnham spot on the continuum and going back to 1750. Nevertheless, Diamond strikes me as being pretty extreme.

Me? I don't recklessly waste resources in obvious (to me) ways. But I tend to be skeptical of global warming as being something far beyond normal climate cycles. That means I don't change my lifestyle to satisfy environmentalists.

Et vous?



posted by Donald at May 1, 2007


"But I tend to be skeptical of global warming as being something far beyond normal climate cycles. That means I don't change my lifestyle to satisfy environmentalists."

I'm reasonably sold on the science, but think that policy is a much more effective tool than individual efforts. So I do some conservation, but put most of my efforts into environmental politics.

Posted by: ptm on May 1, 2007 5:15 PM

Kill these people.

Posted by: ricpic on May 1, 2007 5:21 PM

Standard religious behavior: sacrifice, routine, reflection upon one's commitment, tension and compromise with desires.

Realistically, we're hard-pressed to identify the biggest things we could do as individuals to help the environment, because we know little about the technological beakthroughs that are looming and next to nothing about impending ecological disasters. Most of us are best off deciding whom to trust among natural scientists and economists, and supporting laws to implement the right large-scale economic incentives. But these family-level token acts strike me as mostly about wanting belief in a higher meaning.

Posted by: J. Goard on May 1, 2007 6:06 PM

The 100 mile people are interesting. Does anyone know of any evidence that the only environmental cost of food is the distance it travels between the farm and the shop?

Farming practices vary considerably around the world depending on local geography and climate, which indicates to me that environmental costs would vary but "food miles" seems to have become the latest mantra without any serious analysis of the costs, and therefore without any reason to believe that these people are doing any good.

Posted by: Tracy W on May 1, 2007 6:40 PM

My wife and I are not quite as far along as the Farnham-Diamond family, but moving further in that direction day by day. We put out one 13-gallon bag of garbage every two weeks; we recycle and compost; we have more than a few screw-in fluorescent bulbs. Even living well beyond the minimal public transit associated with our nearby small city, we have only one car for two free-lancing culture workers. This will be our first year with a share in a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) program with a local organic farm. We aren't militant rule makers, but shop locally for as much as possible.

Given that the solid consensus of the international scientific disciplines concerned is that there is global warming, and that our production of greenhouse gases is a part of the cause, isn't it prudent, at the very least, for us to do whatever we can to begin to reverse direction and begin to shrink our carbon footprints?

Posted by: Chris White on May 1, 2007 6:57 PM

I read that article and I thought, "He's gonna say this is reasonable." Ha! Jokes on me.

If she believes that; a)the globe is warming, b)it's due to humans, and c) this is really bad for humanity, then this is hardly extreme.

I believe that informed people can, within limits, question b. As far as I'm concerned c is totally on the table. Even if b is true, we cannot say that the climate change is worse than what might have happened otherwise nor can we reasonably predict the sum effect on humans or the rest of the natural world. This is mostly due to the fact that defining and valuating the "bad effects" of climate change is almost impossible. The long arc of biological responses to climate change have certainly shown incredible resiliency and one could even argue that without specific climate events (like say the last ice age which some argue contributed to the rise of the first large human communities) we wouldn't have the rich history of civilization that we have today.

I have recently begun to take an informal survey of my mostly lefty friends. I ask them, "Do you believe in global warming and do you believe this is caused by humans" The response rate is about 90% yes to both questions. I then follow this up by asking them why they believe it. I would say that only 10% can give an informed response with another 30%-40% regurgitating global warming catch phrases. The rest really don't know why they believe in global warming. I find this to be at least as dangerous as global warming itself, if only because it's part of an ever increasing background noise of fear. What about "Global Fright?" Shouldn't we be concerned about that too?

Posted by: The Lock on May 1, 2007 7:30 PM

Heaven forfend you should change your lifestyle- but you are correct, it really is all about you, and how they want to CHANGE you. And those environmentalists are just selfish meddlers, and probably lesbians. Cheers to your brave stance!

Posted by: Southamptoner on May 1, 2007 9:09 PM

Good grief! I bookmarked your site sometime back because Steve Sailer links to it, and I just happened to check it tonight. Gina Diamond was my roommate when we both did a semester abroad in London in college. I was there the night she and husband Richard met "down 't the pub" and we squeezed about five girls plus Richard the driver into his Mini for the drive back to our homestay family. Gina rode shotgun, obviously. ;)

I haven't been so surprised since I Googled the words "Meridian" and "Mormon" in search of a good babysitter (I wanted the number of my local Mormon church which is too new to be in the phone book) and came up with a newsletter titled "Meridian" featuring my former coworker in Washington, DC, a black man, who fifteen years later is now a Mormon bishop. Absolutely a true story.

I'm starting to think I personally could fuel the Improbability Drive for a few light years. Or else it really Is A Small World After All.

Briana LeClaire
Meridian (Boise) ID

Posted by: Briana on May 1, 2007 9:12 PM

When environmentalists explain why other planets have global warming then they can go on about it being man made.

Posted by: darkbhudda on May 1, 2007 10:58 PM

Although I'm a fan of the Skeptical Environmentalist school of thought, I do behave when it suits me. I love recycling bins not because I recycle myself, ever, but because hey! a big bunch of free reading material!

Even the enviros say "reuse is better than recycle" so I must be their poster child.

Also, getting away from the car sometimes and that "gotta do everything as fast as possible" lifestyle has advantages. If environmentalism is you excuse to do so, god bless ya.

The Holzbachian

Posted by: Holzbachian on May 2, 2007 12:09 AM

Putting aside the skepticism question, why would thoughtful consumption ever be anything but a wonderful thing?

I'm with The Holz. Think, people. Slow the eff down and think...

Posted by: communicatrix on May 2, 2007 12:29 AM

Dear darkbuddha:

Astronomer Phil Plait writes:

Is Global Warming Solar Induced? Not According to the Planets

There's a meme going around the internets and in the MSM that Earth is not alone in global warming: other planets, according to this story, are experiencing it too.

The usual crowd, along with many others, are taking this idea and running with it, saying that if other planets are warming up, obviously the warming on Earth is not man-made. But there's a small problem with this: it's wrong (for a more detailed analysis of this, see my blog post at Bad Astronomy).

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on May 2, 2007 4:02 AM

What a hysteria the global warming crusade has become! Al Gore is the new Messiah!

Of course, they made a leftist propaganda movie that proved that global warming is the truth. They made a movie about it. You can't lie about things in a movie. Right? So, it's got to be the truth.

The left has an odd way of convincing itself in retrospect that ideology is the cause of things. President Ronald Reagan spoke the truth when he said that conservation follows capital development and an increase in wealth. Wealthy societies has the time and money to worry about aesthetics. Poor societies don't care whether they shit in the same water that they drink.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on May 2, 2007 7:35 AM

ricpic seems to be on to something. If someone foolishly believes what better than 90% of the scientific community says, they must be killed. Now THAT is right thinking reasonableness.

And I have a question for The Lock. Why do you NOT believe? Is it based on your own intimate scientific understanding, or on your faith in humans being above the laws of nature, or because it would put you on the same side of an issue with lefties?

I chuckle with Southhamptoner.

And, for a bottom line, communicatrix is so right when she asks ... "why would thoughtful consumption ever be anything but a wonderful thing?"

Posted by: Chris White on May 2, 2007 7:36 AM

Refusal to accept the scientific consensus is willful ignorance. Careful, peer-checked data, based on stringent methodology, are behind the scientific verdict on human-caused global warming. Do you think they just pull such a verdict out of their leftist hats? How profoundly silly to think so.

Posted by: Tim B. on May 2, 2007 9:43 AM

It's all aesthetics with me. But I take my aesthetic prefs pretty seriously.

My own idiosyncratic reasoning/feeling ...

Global warming may or may not be happening, people may or may not be behind it. I'm 1) wary of anyone predicting the future (especially the weather), 2) despite this, am prone to think the worst about industry-based life anyway, 3) have no credentials to evaluate the evidence, 4) know perfectly well from some years spent on the far fringes of the eco-world (which I enjoyed, btw) that the eco-community, and especially the political mainstream of it, specializes in creating hysterias. Which of course doesn't mean that they're not onto something this time around.

So: as far as the global-warming thing goes, what do I know?

Nonetheless, my own tastes and preferences run along extreme-green lines. (Which means that I dislike the Sierra Club intensely, except for the hikes; and I get a huge charge out of Earth First and Edward Abbey.)

It seems to me that if you have my kind of prefs, there's a kind of choice you make at some point in your life, either to opt for an earthy-tribal alt life, a life as a (patooie) political agiator, or to take part in conventional life. I've opted for the conventional life, if the fringes of it -- while I could never be a suburban-dwellin', long-commutin' organization man, I do like movies, books, hot showers in the morning, and being able to blog.

So I don't worry too much about my own consumption and garbage. I could twist myself into agonies and it wouldn't make much difference to the fate of the earth, so why should I stress out? (Edward Abbey used to throw beer cans out his car window. When challenged about it, he'd say that the disgrace wasn't the beer can, it was the road they were driving on.) At the same time, I personally like -- I just do -- living fairly simply and not getting worked up about material things, let alone living in too much waste. And I do like earthy "natural" things generally more than packaged or plastic things.

This isn't some Zen-mystical conviction, let alone some moral straitjacket I like wearing. It's a personal-preferences thing.

The effect so far as my behavior goes is that -- despite the fact that I don't do it for political or moral reasons -- I don't buy too much, I don't consume too much, I don't throw away too much, and I'm happy to recycle, at least if and when it seems to make sense.

I also think it's fun that there are people who play the 100 mile game (if only because they get the rest of us talking about some good topics), I could probably vote for a carbon tax (if voting on such things were allowed), I search out high-quality organic food for myself and The Wife (I can't understand people who put up with packaged corporate food -- but again that's an aesthetic thing) ...

But, y'know, I'm also not going to deny myself enjoyment of the good things in life. A few minutes in the hot tub ... A ride in a friend's sports car ... Travel by jet to places I'd like to see ...

But to continue along those lines -- another thing I'd say is that many of life's good things are eco-y: good food, lotsa space, trustworthy friends, handmade art, small villages, clear air, quiet ...

I take my aesthetic preferences pretty seriously (if not in a gotta-impose-them-on-other-people way)!

I guess my one contribution to the discussion would be to wonder if there's any reason we have to necessarily to see industry-based civilization as being at war with a respect for nature. I mean, if war between the two is declared I guess I'm joining up with the nature team. But I can't see why war should be declared. Riches are great. Hot showers in the morning are great. But why should that mean that we have to put up with all the crap sides of industry-based life?

One small for-instance: diesel engines. It's probably true that our way of life depends to some extent on diesel engines driving the trucks and buses that deliver stuff everywhere. But do they really have to be as loud as they are? And belch out the amount of soot that they do? The noise and filth are ugly; they degrade our shared quality of life. (Aesthetics again!) Can't we do better?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 2, 2007 10:58 AM

Oh, I guess the other thing I'd add is that I think it's a mistake to talk about environmentalists as though they're one big homogeneous group. They aren't.

I've spent bunches of time exploring the eco-world, and eco-people and eco-orgs come in all kinds of flavors. There are people who really like ducks and trees lots better than humans. (I feel that way myself sometimes.) There are one-issue people -- manatees, local forests, organic farming. (God bless 'em!) There are radicals who want the midwest to return to being a grass-and-buffalo preserve, and for nature-corridors to be created to connect the "natural" parts of the country. (They make good arguments for this, IMHO. And I often simply like the bioregional eco-anarchy people a whole lot.) There are people like Bjorn Lomborg, who's eco but realistic. (I think he's great too.)

The Sierra Club/Gore crowd is the most visible of the eco-worlds because they're the best-funded and most aggressively political part of the enviro world. But, believe me, there are a lot of eco-people who despise or at least resent that crowd.

I personally buy most of the criticisms people make of the Gore-Sierra Club crowd -- they're basically a bought-and-paid-for branch of the Democratic Party, and have sold out entirely to them. (You don't hear them talking much about population sizes any longer, do you?) Which of course doesn't automatically mean that they aren't right about a few things.

But at the same time I'm very sympathetic to Ducks Unlimited (they do a great job), Earth First (at least some EFers are super-smart Yippie-style anarchists, which I think serves a useful social function, and besides which can be a lot of fun), and the whole Slow thang (people really need to take it easier)...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 2, 2007 11:14 AM

I've probably trotted out my Wendell Berry for you in other comments. One of his general points makes sense here: that frugality is a virtue, and always has been, long before anyone worried about The Planet.

That lifestyles in recent centuries seem "green" today through Gore-colored glasses merely reflects the relative poverty of most people compared to modern Americans. You got your food and fuel locally because going farther was too expensive. "Reclycling" was basic household economy, so obvious no one would think to mention it. It was simply stupid to throw away something useful when replacing it would cost money.

People have always wanted to have more wealth and many managed it even then---owned land and animals, raised and educated families, hired employees, saved capital. But you had to be wiser, tougher, smarter, stronger, harder-working and more frugal than almost anyone is today.

Consequently, people tended to be thinner, but that's not here nor there.

What Berry says in numerous ways is that frugality was good for houshold economies before WWII, and can be today if people cared to pursue that. The net result of everyone being more energy efficient and sales resistent would be a "cleaner environment" and a "healthier planet," but that's just a fringe benefit.

Posted by: Matt Mullenix on May 2, 2007 11:18 AM

We can do better on diesel engines, and will. New regulations in my state of California require much tighter emission controls on diesel construction equipment and trucks. Europe I believe has always led the way in cleaner diesel engines.

But why the animus towards the Sierra Club? They were instrumental in getting the new diesel regulations passed. And you linked to an article on the farm bill earlier -- they've done good work getting sustainable agriculture provisions inserted in farm bills past. They were very instrumental in getting farm payments de-coupled from crop production in the '96 farm bill, which is one of the biggest reasons for over-production things like corn and soybeans.

Posted by: Steve on May 2, 2007 11:20 AM

Matt - Wendell Berry rocks! Well, he's great, but I wish he rocked. I mean, I agree with tons of what he says and endorse the view of him as a major and interesting and worthwhile figure. But, between you and me, I find him sooooo dull to read. Do you struggle with that at all? But maybe I'm missing his greatness as a writer ...

Steve -- As far as the Sierra Club/Gore crowd go, and to quote myself, "Which of course doesn't automatically mean that they aren't right about a few things" ...

Anyway, speaking only for myself, I dislike 'em (while liking some of the individuals, of course) for being such determinedly political people.

Speaking for fringey ecopeople who dislike the Sierra/Gore-ites more generally, it tends to boil down to:

* They're too political -- their impulse often seems to come more from a political drive than a love-of-nature drive.

* They're too eager to sell out. It's nice if California's diesels will be less obnoxious. But why isn't the Club speaking up about population-growth madness? (Answer: a rich Democratic donor made a gift to them conditional on them shutting up about population and immigration matters. And besides, the Dems like high immigration rates.) So: quieter diesels, but at the cost of tens of millions of new people doing damage to watertables, sprawling every which-where, etc.

* They love government regulation above all things, and they trust the government sector 'way too much -- mainly of course because they're political people.

* They're bullies. Being politically-driven self-important assholes, they usurp the public eco-discussion. Earth Firsters would like other eco-topics to be on the public agenda, as would Earth Island Institute, as would the Planet Drum crowd.

In my experience, *many* of these folks (all of whom I find pretty simpatico) find the Sierra Club/Gore-ites to be domineering, dull, and lacking in genuine eco-feeling.

I know that this is debatable, but it's a fact of life in the eco-world that these feelings and strifes exist.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 2, 2007 12:05 PM

Incidentally, apologies for popping up here at such length. Don't mean to be hijacking the conversation ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 2, 2007 12:10 PM

Thanks for the info, Michael.

Woodstock is agog over global warming. Then again, Woodstock has gone through one political hysteria after another for the entire 25 years I've owned a house there.

I sense both in your posts, and in the wild enthusiasm in Woodstock for the global warming crusade, a desire for life to be exciting and a desire to be engaged in the Great Debates. Somehow, that's changed for me. I mean, I do like excitement, but all too often it appears to me that the Woodstock left is addicted to creating controversy to satisfy this need for excitement. Also, I think that artists and humanists want so badly to believe that their disciplines really matter that they deceive themselves into believing that social changes wrought primarily by technology are of their doing.

In my old age, I'm wondering if it is responsible to fashion these political hysterias just because we want life to be exciting. And, since I've worked so much in technology fields for the past two decades, I've concluded that the work of scientists and technicians has a lot more influence on the future than does political ideology.

I watched "Happy Feet" last night, and I enjoyed it. It was fun and moving... and totally emotionally manipulative. I'm an artist, and I am beginning to suspect that there is something fundamentally dishonest about the way that this movie, and movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and "An Inconvenient Truth" employ this emotional manipulation. The apparent logic is: This movie really reached you emotionally and made you feel all warm and fuzzy and self-righteous, so you ought to buy our political argument. Huh?

I don't know whether global warming is really happening. I have met hundred of fascinating political agitators, wild characters, great musicians and writers in Woodstock. But, you know, I've never met a person who struck me as knowledgeable about the sciences. I wouldn't trust the people who write for the Woodstock Times to do basic math. This town seems to have convinced itself that it has a strong grasp of atmospheric science. Somehow, I think it's all ideology. The left here has been trying to figure out a way to force people to buy cars they don't want for 50 years.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on May 2, 2007 12:42 PM

There's really quite a bit of evidence that the earth is going through one of its many warming cycles. There is almost none to lay the blame for this cyclical warming at the feet of industrial society. As has been stated on this topic, 40 years ago the hysteria was about Global Cooling. I'm sorry that so many non-scientific types have so little skeptcism towards speculative science--i.e. science which portrays itself as an accurate prognosticator. Not much historical perspective on the ruins of that line of science.

The Chris Whites of the world can save all the oil and gasoline they want. That's good--it'll keep prices low so chinese people can buy a new car (their first!) and use up all the oil the Chris Whites save. The same is true of other materials. Local conservation doesn't work when there are 2 billion new consumers entering the 21st century. Good luck with that idea. You won't save the world from consumption. But if conservation and frugality makes your life better, then fine. But those motivations are quite different. Excessive materialism hasn't really solved many problems for us here, and has driven us into a sort of mindlessness and indebtedness that is kind of frightening. But to each his own.

If you want to adopt a less materialistic lifestyle, you have my support. I don't like waste or conspicuous consumption either. But I generally support people choosing a lifestyle appropriate to them, rather than having it imposed by the government, which is what is starting to take place with the "the debate is over" BS.

Look, if/when there really is scarcity, prices will rise so high that rationing will take place, and efficiences be created. I don't mind a bit of prodding by private concerns (as in improving diesel engines, gasoline engine efficiency, etc.), but gradual instead of draconian is my preference.

The Global Warming Hysteria and the leftist appeal to science only works for them when it plays into their anti-capitalist and anti-religious philosophy. On other matters where science disagrees with their politics, they aim at censorship. So I find them less than credible when they talk science, and no less so because they think that science is free of politics, which it isn't.

Posted by: BIOH on May 2, 2007 12:55 PM

Chris White- I did not mean to imply that I don't believe that global warming is happening nor to say unequivocally that it is not caused by humans. I'm not sure what constitutes "intimate understanding". And this is part of my point: Climate science is a vastly complicated endeavor and as such is highly susceptible to characterization. I'm likely more informed on the subject than most Americans--I even took a class on the subject three years ago in college. But climate science suffers from a lack of controlled experimentation. To bring oneself to the point of asserting that global warming is caused by humans can only be done by a sophisticated and nuanced reading of a vast amount of data. How many people who claim that humans are causing global warming truly have this level of understanding? Probably less than 10%. This leads one to question motives and I believe there are many.

I think we need to bring the "precautionary principle" into this discussion. What would be the big deal if we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow the economy? Seems possible and reasonable to me.

Michael-I too have spent many a year with the eco-people and enjoyed myself immensely. And like you, I have come to enjoy life a little closer to the center due to my love of fine food and warm water. Also, my protest sign became a forty page manifesto, was too heavy to hold up at the rally, and I no longer wanted to be associated with the guy next to me shouting, "Destroy the industrial complex!" I just didn't think that was helpful.

On another note, I have this spurious but deeply held belief that lefties are much more fun than righties. Some of my conservative friends even believe this. What do you think?

Posted by: The Lock on May 2, 2007 12:56 PM

"On another note, I have this spurious but deeply held belief that lefties are much more fun than righties. Some of my conservative friends even believe this. What do you think?"


This appears to be true when you are young. I live in Woodstock, which is as leftist as you can get. The Puritanism, gloomy piety and grim sanctimonious nature of the left is overwhelming. It has destroyed the live music business in Woodstock.

You cannot be more wrong. In the past 15 years, I've struggled to hold onto my home in Woodstock while I reintegrated myself into normal middle class life with my family in small towns in the Midwest and with my late wife and my current girlfriend in suburbia. The American middle class, which is conservative, is simply and unapologetically hedonist, hasn't a care in the world and lives solely for a good time.

Although the left preaches a great game in terms of love and sexuality, a honest observer will note that leftist communities are garbage dumps of destroyed relationships. Once again, plain old middle class Americans have accepted a live and let live outlook on love and sexuality without all the ideology, while maintaining commitments and basic decency.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on May 2, 2007 1:33 PM

Michael, hving spent some time a while back among the fringy eco-people, I'm well aware that they view the Sierra Club as "domineering, dull, and lacking in genuine eco-feeling." Pressing them on their views, a lot of it boiled down to sulky resentment of the club's size and political effectiveness. Frankly, I've met more than a few self-important assholes among Earth Firsters as well. And they tend to view practically *everyone* as sell outs and overly political.

Look, of course there are self-important jerks in the Sierra Club. It's a big, well-funded activist organization that tries to work within the system. It's top-heavy and frequently inefficient. Its power structure also tends to be dominated by city-dwellers, which maybe goes to your "lacking in genuine eco-feeling" comment. All stipulated. But hey, getting new diesel regulations pushed through ain't nothing. So is the dirty political work of getting a Farm Bill that doesn't encourage rampant overproduction of a few favored crops. In fact, I'd say that's doing more for the environment than anything Earth First has accomplished.

The idea that the big political groups are “bullies” who "usurp the public eco-discussion" sounds like whining by people who feel that they should be automatically leading every enviro-discussion by dint of their ethical/ecological superiority. You and I both know it doesn't work like that.

Turning the midwest into a buffalo preserve is *exactly* the kind of discussion I recall having with the fringies (and more than a few Sierra Clubbers!) around many campfires, as we all smoked some great weed. It's kind of a cool idea, and a big part of its coolness is the fact that it ain't ever gonna happen, so you don't have to worry about the nuts-and-bolts, real-world logistics of such a transformation. The minute a discussion like that becomes part of the larger, non-stoned public eco-discussion it runs head-first into those real-world logistics.

As a side note, we were enjoying said campfire discussions in the middle of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, created in the '70s as part of the Alaska Lands Bill with a massive push from, yes, the Sierra Club, among other politically compromised organizations.

Posted by: Steve on May 2, 2007 2:09 PM

Steve -- I think that's a very sensible p-o-v! A little too sensible for my tastes, but that's just a matter of taste. And I've known some Sierra Clubbers who were also very sympathetic with the fringier people. So it's a wonderfully muddy and various picture, as it should be. Which was the point I was trying to make.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 2, 2007 2:14 PM

M.B. says: "...between you and me, I find [Berry] sooooo dull to read. Do you struggle with that at all? But maybe I'm missing his greatness as a writer..."

Michael I sense you are a much more exciting person than I am. :-) Your thermostat is probably set a little higher.

I admit some struggle with the horse-n-buggy pace of Berry's more dense nonfiction pieces, but I credit that to a great mind at work (his) and a lesser one trying to puzzle him out.

His fiction, however, moves me right along, and I am always sad to come to the end of another Port William story. Same goes for his more readable (and typical) short essays, which hammer home the polemic of his fiction in rapidfire.

In short, I think his pace is well matched to his subject matter.

BIOH says: "Local conservation doesn't work when there are 2 billion new consumers entering the 21st century."

Local conservation works when it's combined with local consuption. That's the rub.

When your local resources are mined as raw materials for products processed elsewhere (and sold back to you after a world tour), you have no incentive to conservation. In fact, you don't even have the option to conserve.

It is conservation of those local resources you can actually use that makes sense. Unfortunately, our economy is so simplified, externalized, colonized and leveraged, we have to squint even to recognize a local resource when we see one.

Posted by: Matt Mullenix on May 2, 2007 2:54 PM

A fun post and thread.

1st. The skies will start falling soon, mark my words: I am agreeing with Shouting T. A week ago I went on a mini-vacation at Mohonk Lake, near New Paltz and in same NY county (Ulster, if I'm not mistaken), as Woodstock - which guaranteered the presence of the types ST describes in the hotel. That was an experience in itself, I tell'ya. [note to self: write down that "hot-tubing with the lefties" post already!]

2nd. That same vacation gave me lots of thoughts about preservation. The hotel, Mohonk Mountain House, was founded by two Quaker brothers in 1869, and throughout its history the family made it their business to preserve the environment on the lands they had acquired over the years. They have participated in Indian Arbitration, founded local schools, research in natural sciences, etc. Currently they OWN and MANAGE a nature preserve, on level of national ones, and much better, closer to what natural reserve should be, in my opinion. I stress: it's a private ownership of the land for 140 years - not for the purpose of farming or horse breeding, but to preserve and study nature. The house has about 120 fireplaces - and uses the fallen lumber from their land for fuel- to the mutual benefit of the people and the woods around them. It's a perfect symbiosis!

Posted by: Tatyana on May 3, 2007 9:32 AM

Read on a t-shirt at lalapalooza

"Save The Planet, Kill Yourself."

How far are we really willing to go?

Posted by: Matt on May 3, 2007 5:29 PM


I want to stop buying gas so my money doesn't help support terror-funding oil ticks. Just bought an electric bike for running local errands.

And I'm most likely to the right of you....

Posted by: anon on May 7, 2007 4:21 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?