Beyond SEEDy

Monday, May 26, 2008

Glenn Reynolds reminds us that Google has, once again, ignored Memorial Day. Recall its recent and unfortunate commemoration of Earth Hour.

The New York Times sees Google's hypocrisy and raises them a carbon indulgence by featuring on its main page a link to a story about college kids who are incorporating "sustainability" into their daily lives without quite giving up all the carbon-dumping conveniences of modern life, or even taking a plunge into the dumpster:

Lucas Brown, a junior at Oberlin College here, was still wet from the shower the other morning as he entered his score on the neon green message board next to the bathroom sink: Three minutes, according to the plastic hourglass timer inside the shower. Two minutes faster than the morning before. One minute faster than two of his housemates.

Mr. Brown, a 21-year-old economics major, recalled the marathon runner who lived in the house last semester, saying: "He came out of the shower one morning and yelled out: 'Two minutes 18 seconds. Beat that, Lucas!' "
This brings to mind a recent piece by Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute, who noted the candy-coated, but no less deadly premise behind Earth Hour:
... [Earth Hour] sends the comforting-but-false message: Cutting off our use of fossil fuels would be easy and even fun! ...

The participants of Earth Hour spent an enjoyable sixty minutes in the dark, but all the while they remained safe in the knowledge that the comforts and life-saving benefits of industrial civilization were just a light switch away. This bears no relation whatsoever to what our lives would actually be like under the sort of draconian carbon-reduction policies that global-warming activists are demanding: punishing carbon taxes, severe emissions caps, outright bans on the construction of power plants.

What is really needed is greater awareness of just how indispensable carbon-based energy is to human life. Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth Month, without any form of fossil fuel energy? Let those who claim that we need to stop emitting carbon dioxide try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible. Those who claim that we must cut off our carbon emissions to prevent an alleged global catastrophe need to learn the indisputable fact that cutting off our carbon emissions would be a global catastrophe.
You will note from the image that the residents of Oberlin College's featured SEED (Student Experiment in Ecological Design) residence house illustrate Lockitch's point perfectly, if by accident, by means of the holier-than-thou note posted on the door of one of their refrigerators.
DON'T PUT FOOD IN HERE! This fridge is not plugged in! Refrigerators are one of the top energy suckers in a household. We decided to turn ours off and share a fridge with the other side of the house.
Why hasn't this "energy sucker" been removed from the premises and recycled -- along with that piece of paper -- by now?

At this point, most conservative commentators would be content to declare the case at Oberlin open and shut because of the blatant hypocrisy, which is underscored at the end of the article:
"Sometimes, [Brown] said, "on a Friday after a long week of finals, I have to have a bath and a beer."

What about the shower timer? He laughed, sheepishly.

"I hide it on the floor," he said.
Yes, hypocrisy is a great moral flaw, but conservatives, like environmentalists, also espouse altruism, which conflicts with the requirements for human life. As altruists, the conservatives miss or evade the fact that the very conflict of a consistently-applied code of morality with life or with enjoying life -- Why isn't our boy, Lucas Brown, treating himself to a fast, bracing cold shower? -- should be cause to examine whether that moral code is correct and whether a better one actually compatible with life exists.

In failing to do those things, many nominally pro-capitalist conservatives fail to offer moral opposition to movements like environmentalism. Instead, they merely shout, "Hypocrisy!" -- which just challenges its adherents to commit suicide more rapidly, while making it appear to the rest of us that we must choose between morality and life. That is too bad.

As for me, after a half-day at work and some more moving preps, I plan to combine a commemoration of those who fought on the battlefield for the worthy cause of individual rights with a celebration I had to postpone this year: Life on Earth Day!

Have a happy Memorial Day! As I have said before, "Our fallen would have done so, and they would wish the same for you." A feast with your loved ones and a toast is exactly the right way to remember our defenders.

-- CAV


Jim May said...

Those "conservatives" shouting "Hypocrisy" are likely to be from the "small government" wing of the party, where the most sensible --i.e. least conservtive -- individuals marching under that banner are to be found. For the core conservatives would not be hurling charges of "hypocrisy"; they don't see it as a serious vice.

This is how conservatives weasel out of the incompatibility of their ideas with life on earth -- they simply say "oh well, human nature is at fault for that incompatibility, so we'll just have to accept that no human being can be 100% morally consistent."

Leftists, on the other hand, make a big deal out of hypocrisy -- because when faced with the same incompatibility of *their* ideas with human nature, they simply dismiss the latter as being any kind of obstacle.... all we have to do is re-engineer mankind to fit their ideals.

Gus Van Horn said...


I stand corrected, and thank you for speaking up. But still, ....

That article is disgusting, but it does fit into that whole idiotic "doublethink" (for just one example) theme among certain conservatives that you, I and others have discussed here.

z said...

i just watched yaron on realplayer deliver his speech on woodstock and the religious right, which was one of the best speeches on this topic that i've seen come out of the ari in a long time. he looked so good delivering that speech he is carving a place besides ayn. long live ayn rand, and gus van horn. z

Gus Van Horn said...


And may I eventually prove worthy of such company!