Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The new orignal sin

I rather enjoyed Pascal Bruckner's attack on environmental panic:
.... Ecologism, the sole truly original force of the past half-century, has challenged the goals of progress and raised the question of its limits. It has awakened our sensitivity to nature, emphasized the effects of climate change, pointed out the exhaustion of fossil fuels. Onto this collective credo has been grafted a whole apocalyptic scenography that has already been tried out with communism, and that borrows from Gnosticism as much as from medieval forms of messianism. Cataclysm is part of the basic tool-kit of Green critical analysis, and prophets of decay and decomposition abound. They beat the drums of panic and call upon us to expiate our sins before it is too late. ....

There are at least two ecologies: one rational, the other nonsensical; one that broadens our outlook while the other narrows it; one democratic, the other totalitarian. The first wants to tell us about the damage done by industrial civilization; the second infers from this the human species' guilt. For the latter, nature is only a stick to be used to beat human beings. Just as third-worldism was the shame of colonial history, and repentance was contrition with regard to the present, catastrophism constitutes the anticipated remorse of the future: The meaning of history having evaporated, every change is a potential collapse that augurs nothing good.

Catastrophism's favorite mode of expression is accusation: Revolutionaries wanted to erase the past and start over from zero; now the focus is on condemning past and present wrongs and bringing them before the tribunal of public opinion. No leniency is possible; our crime has been calculated in terms of devastated forests, burned-over lands, and extinct species. ....

For the past half-century we have, in fact, been witnessing a slide from one scapegoat to another: Marxism designated capitalism as responsible for human misery. Third-worldism, upset by the bourgeoisification of the working classes, substituted the West for capitalism as the great criminal in history and the "inventor" of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism.

With ecologism, we move up a notch: The guilty party is humanity itself....

You will need to get rid of your car, take showers instead of baths (and the showers must be limited to four minutes; little hourglasses are sold for the purpose), stop buying imported fruit and vegetables, practice "locavorism" (that is, eat only locally produced food), decrease or even halt your consumption of meat and fish, avoid the elevator and even the refrigerator. ....

Are you cold in the winter? Put on a sweater, for heaven's sake, instead of turning up the heat, and go to bed early. Yves Cochet, a member of the European Parliament, tells us: "We have to manage to live with 50 percent less electricity. ... We have to take maximum advantage of daylight." And our friend of humanity further suggests a surtax on those who make excessive use of electricity and heating systems. Are we going to set up police brigades that are responsible for switching off electricity and enforcing a curfew?

What is worrisome about ecologism is that it energetically insinuates itself into the most intimate aspects of our lives—our eating habits and our clothing—the better to control them. The project here is authoritarian. On reading its recommendations, we can almost hear the heavy door of a dungeon closing behind us. ....

Save the world, we hear everywhere: Save it from capitalism, from science, from consumerism, from materialism. Above all, we have to save the world from its self-proclaimed saviors, who brandish the threat of great chaos in order to impose their lethal impulses. Behind their clamor we must hear the will to demoralize us the better to enslave us. What is at stake is the pleasure of living together on this planet that will survive us, whatever we do to it. ....
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