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The dying of the light

Earth Lights src="http://www.samizdata.net/blog/~pdeh/earthlights_med.jpg"
width="450" height="225" />

I never get tired of looking at this photograph. It never fails to fill me with wonder and awe at the ingenuity of my species who, against all the odds, have carved these glorious man-made islands of light out of the primordial blackness. Whenever I am heavy of heart, I open up this photograph and stare at it to remind me that, somewhere, there is light and life.

And there is. For now.

Towns and cities around the world are turning out the lights for an hour to highlight the threat of climate change.

Sydney was the first major city to begin “Earth Hour”, when at 2000 (0900 GMT), lights went out on landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Bangkok, Toronto, Chicago and Dublin are among 27 other cities officially due to follow suit at 2000 local time.

With each passing day I become more convinced that the ‘green’ movement is actually a millenarian psychosis; a mental and spiritual sickness borne, perhaps, from some degree of civilisational exhaustion. Not just a belief that the end of the world is nigh, but an active desire to bring it about. And soon. Ours is not the first age to witness such pandemics of madness but, in the Middle Ages at least, there was the excuse of a near-universal poverty. In such a state of interminable plight, despair may not be the wisest response but it is at least an understandable one.

But now we live in an age of near-universal prosperity and progress. Never before has our species enjoyed such security and such freedom from want. Yet this is clearly no defence against a recurrance of this psychological plague.

Some pubs are spending the evening without the lights on while many Australians are marking the occasion quietly in the darkness at home.

Life, laughter, love, food, drink, warmth, travel, communication, progress, a world full of unprecedented wonders and it’s all too much for them. Better to sit in the darkness and curse the lighting of even a single candle.

‘Stop the world, I want to get off’ was the plaintive refrain of some Broadway comedy show I think. It could also be the motto for the greens, except that they want everybody off. Is that what they aspire to as they sit at home quietly in that seductive, undemanding cloak of blackness? To switch off civilisation and shuffle away into the perpetual tenebrosity dragging everyone else behind them?

The conditions are ripe for the spread of this insanity. Indeed, it is spreading now. How long will it be, I wonder, before some official body somewhere floats the idea of mandatory blackouts and curfews? “The voluntary approach” they will proclaim, “has not worked”.

And what do we do in response? Laugh at them? Ignore them? Rage against them? What would work to inoculate the rest of our species? What combination or words or phrases could we use to dissipate and lay low a viral madness? I am, of course, familiar with the customary rebuttals. “We will win because we have MTV and Coca-Cola”. But without the light there is no MTV, there is no Coca-Cola. What do we have then?

The lights are not yet going out all over the world. But I fear that I will see them do so in our lifetime.

106 comments to The dying of the light

  • Nick Graham

    Does near-universal prosperity include those living on less than a dollar a day?

  • John K

    Given that HMG has a preposterous plan to build about 7000 offshore wind turbines by 2020, I imagine the lights will be going out in Britain sooner rather than later.

  • RAB

    Been there, done that,
    tie dyed the T shirt.
    It was called 1973.

  • I wonder, before some official body somewhere floats the idea of mandatory blackouts and curfews?

    I imagine the lights will be going out in Britain sooner rather than later.

    Yeah, correct. There will be blackouts without any mandates. there will be simply because power stations aren’t being built. They aren’t being built because of green obstructionism, or because of uncertainties concerning “carbon permits” and their costs. New power stations aren’t being built. The old ones will break down sooner or later, from old age. So black-outs will be the norm in the not too distant future, just as they are the norm now in failed countries like Africa or India.
    Decadence, decay, luddism, madness.

  • Ian B

    With each passing day I become more convinced that the ‘green’ movement is actually a millenarian psychosis; a mental and spiritual sickness borne, perhaps, from some degree of civilisational exhaustion. Not just a belief that the end of the world is nigh, but an active desire to bring it about. And soon.

    Well, duh.

    I’m not sure what “civilisational exhaustion” is. It seems an unnecessarily convoluted explanation whatever it may be. Greenism is just the usual old crap that has always driven religious extremists- an intense desire for spiritual purity, a belief that mundane comforts distract from and obstruct that quest, a belief in a past golden age, and a profound hatred for the lesser mortals outside the cult.

    As I said in another recent post, we live in the twilight of our civilisation. There are a number of forces pulling it down; this particular one consists of people who believe that they are tearing down a corrupt present to replace it with a future perfect world. But the world they seek will never arrive; the only part of their project which is effective and achievable is of course the destructive part.

    How people will live, say, 1000 years from now we cannot know. But whatever society they have will not be a continuation of this one. The western world is passing into the realm of history.

  • Laird

    Such beautiful writing. I hope this essay is picked up and reprinted (reposted?) widely.

  • New power stations aren’t being built

    Fortunately, they are in America. Rising oil prices are causing us to rethink our completely wrongheaded opposition to nuclear power (that largely arose in the wake of Three Mile Island), and I hear on National Proletarian Radio yesterday that there’s now a flood of applications for new nuclear power stations.

    Bring.
    It.
    On.

  • Greenazis?

    Green outside, red inside, like Hitler (and Kermit in a lliquidizer.)

    KILL THEM. KILL THEM ALL. NOW.

    Gaia will know her own, and will distinguish, when they arrive.

  • I am sorry that I suffer so abominably from “l’Esprit de l’Escalier”.

    GOOGLE was black today, in honour of the Coming Dark Age. I was irritated and thought the computers had gone wrong.

  • tranio

    All my lights and TVs and Radios are going on at 8pm. At 8:45 I’ll go for a walk and see how many of my neighbours fell for this ridiculous idea.

  • Does near-universal prosperity include those living on less than a dollar a day?

    That would be the ‘near’ bit. Never in human history have so few people lived one crop from starvation.

  • Sam Duncan

    Ditto, tranio, as I did on that ludicrous Day they had a few weeks ago that singularly failed to reduce the UK’s electricity consumption.

    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  • Millie Woods

    I’ve always thought the anti-Bush slogan Bush lied – thousands died could be applied to Rachel Carson the author of Silent Spring whose war against DDT has had the unintended consequence of thousands – perhaps millions – of deaths fropm malaria. Rachel or Carson lied millions died. It could be applied to Gore too whose idiotic theorizing and subsequent canonisation will also lead to a death toll of unintended consequences. Greenies lie millions die. Sounds not just good but true.

  • Dave

    Does near-universal prosperity include those living on less than a dollar a day?

    That would be the ‘near’ bit. Never in human history have so few people lived one crop from starvation.

    It was clear to me that you were talking about modern, western, affluent nations whose populations are afflicted with this modern green ideology. One doesn’t find Greens shutting off the lights when they can afford it or demanding that electric cars be mandated in impoverished nations where people live on a dollar a day.

  • From the article linked above about new nuclear power plants:

    But Steve Kerekes of the trade group Nuclear Energy Institute says seven proposals for new plants are now before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and dozens more are in the pipeline. He cites government projections that the U.S. will need about 30 percent more electricity by 2030 and growing concern about greenhouse gas emissions as two reasons for the resurgent interest in nuclear energy.

    I’ll believe when I actually see one in construction.
    Meanwhile, the building of conventional, carbon power stations has stopped.

  • Despite worries over the UK’s energy supplies, firms have not been building new power stations in recent years.

    Source: the BBC.

    Britain’s first major new power station in almost five years.

    And, it’s gas powered. Where do you get gas from ? For how long ?

  • Paul Marks

    Nick Graham:

    Stunts like turning the lights off at 8p.m. will mean MORE people on less than a Dollar a day – not less.

    People who support the “Green” agenda and complain about poverty contradict themselves. If you want to reduce poverty then support “evil” “anti Gaia” capitalism.

    As for C02 emissions.

    The ulitimate Gaia man is James Lovelock – the father of the British environmentalist movement.

    And even he admits that a person who says they are against C02 emissions AND that they are against nuclear power, is an arsehole.

  • Ian B

    One doesn’t find Greens [...] demanding that electric cars be mandated in impoverished nations where people live on a dollar a day.

    No, because poor people aren’t to be allowed cars (or anything else more advanced than a digging stick), period.

  • From the Telegraph

    A clear signal that the Government intends to approve Britain’s first new coal-fired power station since 1984 has been given by John Hutton, the Business Secretary.

    Maybe it “intends”, but it has not and will not.

  • That would be the ‘near’ bit. Never in human history have so few people lived one crop from starvation.

    Well that’s not quite right. The world’s population was only 200 million around 1 AD, and that’s much less than the number of people who are one crop from starving today. Perhaps you mean that never before in human history has so small a percentage of people lived one crop from starvation. I’m not so sure about that, considering the number of people who consume basically one foodstuff (rice or corn) for 80-90% of their calories. A rice blight like Ireland’s potato blight would put hundreds of millions of people in the grave.

  • Kevin B

    I’m not quite as pessimistic as some on this thread, but I still think we will live in interesting times for the next decade or so.

    Some straws in the wind.

    The price of both wheat and rice has doubled in the last few months. Harvests have been poor recently due to the cold winter that has plagued the northern hemisphere, and the cool summer that hit the southern hemisphere. Wheat prices have also been affected by the ridiculous biofuel bubble brought in to assuage the AGW lobby.

    Gordo has been making noises lately about building new nuclear power stations, not just to replace the old worn out ones but to expand our nuclear base. NuLab has seen the figures on the cost of not just buying gas from the old Soviet Union, but paying them again when we burn it, and they’re starting to panic.

    When energy and food are in short supply, perhaps one of our dumb politicians might actually see the sense in campaigning on a return to the good old days when power was cheap and everyone could afford to drive a car, especially if other parts world are doing better.

    There are signs that the climate may be entering a cooler spell such as that of the forties or seventies and I’m pretty sure that whilst the current belief in AGW, and all things green, is fairly wide, it is not very deep and a few cold years, especially if coupled with a recession might swing the pendulum back to a more sensible position.

    It comes to something when we almost have to wish for a little ice age to hit, with all the pain that would bring, in order to discredit the charlatans driving the AGW scam.

  • chip

    There are times when I’m reading Ray Kurzweil or something and I feel blessed to live in this age, poised as we are on a massive acceleration of knowledge and technology.

    But then I look at the near madness of the global warming crowd, the hysteria that greets Obama’s empty rhetoric and I think, man, we’re no more rational than we were a thousand years ago and we’re going to blow it.

    This Earth Hour, for example, is so ridiculous. The planet hasn’t warmed in a decade, and the latest data shows that the two central planks of CO2 warming theory — temps in the ocean and troposphere — are flat out wrong.

    The IPCC head is scratching is head in confusion at the data, but the world has already gone mad. When will we come to our senses?

  • Kevin B

    This might be good news from Tim Blair.

    And here’s a really crazy scenario.

    Of the three remaining Presidential candidates, McCain might be the only one who actually believes in AGW. The other two are in it purely for the votes.

    Now suppose Obama and Hillary continue their dirty war against each other, and neither win enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Since both the warring factions contain enough people who would rather die than vote for the other side, and the independants who swing most elections in the US are hearing so much dirt on both the candidates that they are very likely to vote McCain or stay home, then the Party bigwigs could decide they need a compromise candidate and come up with…. Al Gore.

    The ‘Pubs are faced with the task of either outbidding Fat Al on his ‘strong’ suit, or rolling out the big guns to attack him. Even the GOP, despite being up to their elbows in the biofuel scam, must realise the futility of trying to out-green the Gore-monster, so we may yet get the kind of debate on climate change that we desparately need.

  • John K

    Even the GOP, despite being up to their elbows in the biofuel scam, must realise the futility of trying to out-green the Gore-monster, so we may yet get the kind of debate on climate change that we desparately need.

    Ya think? They are not called the Stupid Party for nothing you know.

  • Max

    IF you stand for nothing you will fall for anything.

  • Gabriel

    The western world is passing into the realm of history.

    Because, to a large extent, of people like you. I mean that seriously and not as a gratuitous insult. You’re right about the decline and right that this Greenism is both symptom and cause (feedback loop), but you can’t see another very important symptom/cause because you are part of it.
    I also mean what follows very seriously, though I imagine that the overwhelming majority of people who look at it will think it’s simply a massive non-sequitur equivalent to “I enjoy pasta because my house is made of bricks”. People who agree will more or less know what I mean and people who don’t won’t get it if I wrote a book length comment, so here goes: we wouldn’t have any of this horsehit if we still taught Latin in schools. Really.

  • Ian B

    Gabriel, I learned Latin at school, seriously.

    What particular part of what I am is contributing to the extinction of the West? Not the hobbit porn, surely?

  • so here goes: we wouldn’t have any of this horsehit if we still taught Latin in schools. Really.

    I just cannot take your arguments seriously. Also I get the impression from previous comments that you think if people followed various sundry empty rituals, like going to church on Sunday and balancing food on the back of their forks, would that also be a sign of a return to sanity. I think the ‘good old days’ were not as desirable as you think they were.

  • Gabriel

    I just cannot take your arguments seriously.

    I know Perry, I said so. But because I decided not to do the thing I was going to do I’ll write more.

    1) Greenism is fairly obviously a symptom of a culture in a state of extreme spasm where healthy means of expression are not available to its members. What people seem to forget, though, is that a civilization is not a geographical thing, but an agglomeration of utterances, some written down, some passed down orally. If we cease to be immersed in these utterances, our civilzation ceases and we end up with the grotesque silliness that is environmentalism as a substitute.
    Seeing as you brought it up. A civilization effectively devoid of religion is an experiment more or less unprecedented in the history of humankind and if it fails (and, wake up, because its failing) it should hardly be as much of a surprise as you make out.

    2) Environmentalism is, on a more banal level, a symptom of what can only be described as an epidemic of stupidity. The brain is a muscle (excuse the cliché) and, as such, it needs to be exercised. One way of doing this is working on a farm or down a pit; another is receiving a rigorous education. Going through the crap that is the contemporary school system is an appallingly bad way of exercising the mind and I’m tempted to think, pace standard wisdom, that the root problem with today’s youth is that they don’t skive school enough.
    We try to mask this by telling ourselves’ that we have achieved mass literacy, in the sense that most people can more or less read the menu at Burger King (though if you visit a bad comprehensive I assure you that you will find that even this is breaking down as cultural decline goes into tailspin). However, it seems clear enough to me: a huge amount of people today are just really dumb, so dumb that they simply wouldn’t survive in in any century before 1900, and they are dumb because of progressive education, the collapse of both high and low culture and the welfare state.
    Again, because you insisted on bringing it up, being exposed to some of the best literature ever written every Sunday morning hardly did anyone any harm.

    Though this will cause great offence to many here, it still remains worth pointing out that human beings, individual human beings with their own minds and even perhaps souls, are, to a very large extent, the product of their environment. Our current world is calibrated to produce idiots and so it does.

    For the immediate purposes of this post (2) is by far and away the more important point.

    Ian, I’m not suggesting you are a symptom yourself (and lucky you because my school didn’t offer it), I’m saying the ideology you espouse is what has got us into the mess we’re in.

  • Gabriel

    I should add that it’s possible to self-educate, both in the sense of becoming civilized and in terms of mental exercise. In fact, everyone does it to some extent and some do to a quite incredible one. However, if we put all our hopes in this, we will sooner or later find we are screwed.

  • Tood

    This is a slippery slope towards genocide.

    How long before some green nut shoots up a school in order to reduce the number of children who are casting a carbon footprint? And surely some public figure will defend the action.

    The fact that such a thing is actually possible shows how far the green nuts have gone.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: Dyings & Lights

    How poetic, this. Almost suicidal in it’s import.

    You Brits like to pride yourself on being more ‘intelligent’ than the rest of us. However, I’ll point out that LiveLeak just pulled Fatin from their servers because someone threatened to begin killing them.

    Ya gotta problem, bro. You need to gird up your loins, cause this problem ain’t gonna go away….without a fight.

    LiveLeak failed to remember their Gibbon…..

    In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free. — Edward Gibbon

    However, having served my ‘time’ in the service of my country—not yours—I remember him as well as some others (see below).

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin]

  • Chuck Pelto

    P.S. Lovely shot of the Earth that. Very ‘telling’, vis-a-vis intelligence and industry.

    Thanks for that one…..

  • Pete

    All they ask is to identify and turn of unnecessary lights. The naysayers proffer that ALL LIGHTS should be extinguished. Rubbish. Not all lights. How is it bad to look around and identify waste? The goal is not to shut of everything, but shut off what is not needed. And after that is done, why do people turn those lights back on the next day, after having identified them as unnecessary?

    A very simple way to focus on your own wasteful practices. It is for the individual to assess what is not necessary, and take the bold move to save money and not continue a wasteful practice. pete@darksky.org

  • george

    The sun come up, it was blue and gold,
    The sun come up, it was blue and gold,
    The sun come up, it was blue and gold,
    Ever since I put your picture in a frame.

    It’ll be ok.

    People still live and breed and die.
    What you got here is a loss of nerve on the part of an elite. They will be replaced by people who live and breed.

    I love you baby and i always will.
    Ever since I put your picture in a frame.

  • Brian Macker

    Hmm…. I start my vegables under lights at exactly this time of year. I just powered up 12 – 40 watt bulbs during this blackout. Of course they are overdriven for maximum brightness and therefore draw 80 watts per bulb. That’s 960 watts a day for the few weeks my starts are inside.

    Sorry, but I figure my solar powered garden makes up for my sin.

  • Daveon

    Well, I quite like the principle of the idea, probably for all the wrong reasons. Waste is waste and there’s certainly a lot of that in night time lighting and in office buildings around the western world. We don’t really have that much of an energy crisis, but just using it without thinking about when we don’t have a sensible Nuclear power system and distributed grid is basically dumb and, in the case of Britain, leaves us increasingly hostage to the Russians.

    My other problem is I miss the night sky. It is relatively simple to shield the lights and shine more light onto the street and not out into space. It saves power and you get the stars back.

  • eric

    It is an inspiring photograph. I love too the way the sky glows slightly orange in Atlanta on a cloudy or misty night from all the low pressure sodium streetlights. At the same time, though, it would be nice to occasionally see stars like one does out at sea.

  • As usual, human ingenuity will triumph. We are a weedy species, able to surmount nearly any amount of cultivation.

    With thermonuclear power, it will cost less to artificially heat and cool the earth than it costs now to illuminate.

  • Shockingly.Conservative

    That picture is quite old. I used it as my desktop wallpaper at work, until some idiot came up to me and said it was racist. I now have a picture of Kellog’s Cornflakes “SNAP! CRACKLE! and POP!” as my wallpaper.
    I hope you get what I am trying say…

  • Jon

    The Google bit it especially ridiculous — given that the black background wastes energy, according to Google’s “Green Czar.”(Link)

  • What do you want to bet that folks who leave their lights on Monday night will be attacked here and there around the world?

  • Whoops – I misread the wikipedia page. It is tonight, as y’all already know.

  • Nick

    At 8 pm here in Seattle (Washington, USA) when the lights go off it will be 36 degrees — 33 degrees with wind chill, cold rain, and perhaps some hail as well (it has been snowing around the area for the past two days…)

    It’s tough being Green (Heh)

  • RAB

    George. It’s polite to mention whos lyrics you are quoting, otherwise people may think they are your own.
    I know it’s Tom Waits, but others may not.

    Funnily enough I have just been burning a copy of Under Milk Wood for a friend…

  • Whew! I had forgotten all about this lunacy. At 8:15, I had time to run through my house and turn on all the lights. I found four that need to be replaced so it was not an entirely gratuitous exercise.

    One thing these idiots never think about is how the electric grid works. If this stupid exercise actually accomplished something, it would stress that grid immensely. Can you imagine what would happen at 9:00pm when everyone turns their lights back on at more-or-less the same time? Perhaps the “mandatory rolling blackouts” are not future plans.

    Go nukes!

  • P.S. Puer est agricolam is about the extent of my Latin, these days. I did read the first half of Virgil in High School, however. (And does reading Aristotle in translation and learning Russian at my advanced age count for anything?)

  • Midwesterner

    Thaddeus,

    Where might I find a high resolution version of that photograph? It is almost like looking at stars in the night sky. Weird.

    The two brightest countries outside of US and western Europe are India and Japan. One got their constitution from the US and the other was built by the UK. Shining the light.

    Thanks.

  • Linda Morgan

    Midwesterner, you can click into a high-resolution version of the Earth Lights photo here.

    I love it. It’s the most beautiful picture of this planet I’ve ever seen.

    My favorite detail is also the most frightening: that stark contrast between North and South Korea that really just lays it down for all to see.

    Viewed from space, Dear Leader makes the greenies look like a bunch of pikers.

  • Thomas Kincaide goes worldwide!

  • A civilization effectively devoid of religion is an experiment more or less unprecedented in the history of humankind

    I still fail to see how pretending that some invisible guy-in-the-sky is watching us is a prerequisite for a successful civilisation. Why do our irrationalities need codification?

  • DoctorOfLove

    They first came for the unnecessary lights
    and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t think any of my lights were unnecessay
    Then they came for the beef, and I didn’t speak up, because, well, I could use a little dieting.

  • You Brits like to pride yourself on being more ‘intelligent’ than the rest of us [...] However, having served my ‘time’ in the service of my country—not yours—I remember him as well as some others (see below).

    I just cannot find enough ways to tell you to shove it, Chuck. ‘You Brits’? Just what is it that every Brit thinks? Does that include the Brits who don’t even think of themselves as Brits? Or maybe just the Brits in Islington? Not sure I know what ‘us Brits’ think and you such as hell don’t. ‘My’ country? Sorry, you must be thinking of someone else because I don’t own a county and I go to considerable length to avoid any country owning me.

  • kcom

    “All they ask is to identify and turn of unnecessary lights. The naysayers proffer that ALL LIGHTS should be extinguished. Rubbish. Not all lights. How is it bad to look around and identify waste? The goal is not to shut of everything, but shut off what is not needed. And after that is done, why do people turn those lights back on the next day, after having identified them as unnecessary?”

    Well, that’s not all, actually. Their own website shows people standing around with candles. Obviously, they’ve turned off more than just unnecessary lights. And of course candles are a less efficient and more polluting manner of providing a given amount of illumination. So no, they aren’t trying to be practical, they’re trying to make a symbolic gesture. It’s meaningless as a long-term solution, of course, but apparently it will make them feel good, and for many people that seems to be an end in itself.

    And, of course, some people will always take the opportunity to turn a voluntary event meant to inspire individual action into a forced imposition of environmental purity.

    “We will be turning off the lights in the 35 units which we manage at Byron Central Apartments for the hour. We will be advising our holiday makers that this will be happening.” What, they couldn’t make an argument that would persuade the vacationers to join them?

    Link

    There are also examples of “light Nazis” going around attempting to shame people into toeing the party line instead of inspiring them to join the movement. I would actually put Google in this category. From their Search page:

    “We’ve turned the lights out. Now it’s your turn.” In response, I offer them a hearty, “Screw you.” All they have done is made their page unreadable with the dark background. It hasn’t saved a single kilowatt of electricity. And they don’t even have the decency to ask for my cooperation. They could have said “We’ve turned the lights out. We ask that you join us.” That would have been a polite way to put their point across and try to persuade me of their position. But they don’t even attempt that. Somehow they seem to think I owe it to them to do what they say no matter what my thoughts are on the whole topic of Earth Hour and global warming.

    Yeah, I know it sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill, but I found my reaction to the Google page visceral, beyond whatever intellectual response I had. Earth Hour might be innocuous enough in itself, but without doubt it’s going to inspire certain people to be more and more obnoxious about the whole thing and the voluntary aspect will become less and less important to them. So there’s more at issue than turning off a few lights for one hour.

  • Kevin

    I have been getting involved on the fringes of the green movement, and I see the sickness. Everyone who tries to propose workable, sensible, logical solutions to the supposed enviro-holocaust is pointedly ignored while the futile feel-good gesture is given free publicity as a newsworthy event. Suggest to people to insulate their homes, or use energy more efficiently and all you hear are crickets. Tell them to turn off their lights, and they will watch TV by candle light smugly secure in the knowledge that they saved the earth with their one hour of discomfort. The Environmental movement is rife with shamans and snake oil salesmen who drown out the honest people who try to make a difference. Sometimes I think it would be better if we just sacrificed virgins to the volcano goddess, but last I heard, Virgins are on the endangered species list, and the ACLU has a lawsuit against the acknowledgment of Volcano deities on public property.

  • tranio

    I went for my walk at 8:45, one house had candles burning in the living room, the rest, 35 homes, had lots of lights going. Well done the West side of Vancouver, just one dufus in my neighbourhood.

  • Evan Kirchhoff

    Here in a highrise area of San Francisco, I turned our apartment Christmas lights on for the previous Blackout Time, which was nowhere near Christmas. I noticed that one person across the street either picked up on the cue or had the idea simultaneously.

    During tonight’s Blackout Time (are these getting more frequent?), we turned on the Christmas lights again, and this time about 3-4 other apartments did it. I propose that this could be an easily spreadable counterprotest among people like me, who are basically too lazy to take the Christmas lights off the balcony during the year :)

    More seriously, the point would be that Christmas lights are “unnecessary”, nice to look at, and not likely to be turned on spontaneously in March, hence they can serve as a more specific gesture than just turning ALL the apartment lights on.

  • Ivan

    Perry de Havilland:

    I still fail to see how pretending that some invisible guy-in-the-sky is watching us is a prerequisite for a successful civilisation. Why do our irrationalities need codification?

    Well, one could argue that humans have an inborn and inextinguishable need for irrationalities in the form of belief in imaginary beings as the ultimate moral guide, and that the least bad kind of such irrationality is and old traditional belief in a guy-in-the-sky who doesn’t require much more than some occasional lip service. One could further argue that disappearance of such traditional beliefs tends to open space not for increased rationality, but instead for much more dangerous and destructive radical beliefs. Godless as I am, when I observe the ideologies that have been shaking the world in the past century or so and their rather merciless deities of hypostatized race, nation, class, or even (as the latest trend) Gaia, I find such an argument eminently plausible. Yes, it is a rather dim view of human nature, but it’s hardly inconsistent with reality…

  • I love this photo too. It is, in a way, a map of my customers.

    I’ve been told (but cannot prove) that 50% of the light you can see in that picture comes from our production.

    We supply, and have for more than a decade, some 80% of the lighting industry’s scandium. This is an essential part of metal halide light bulbs. The vast majority of street and outside lighting is indeed metal halide and operates on a sodium/scandium iodide basis.

    In fact, I like this map a lot.

  • djr

    This action from the green movement is the irrational conduct of an increasingly errational – spreading – culture. If not environmentalism, it’d be something else that would have the same effect. W/o a solid reason-based philosophy [Objectivism for example] the enlightenment was / is under attack from half of the people, while mere drift-wood to the other half.

  • Since Perry brought God into the conversation, here’s The Gospel of John, Chapter 3, verses 19 and 20. An appropriate commentary for Earth Day blackouts:

    “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world. But men love darkness rather than light, for their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

  • Ivan, that, however, does not answer Perry’s second question: Why do our irrationalities need codification? The answer, I think, is that we tend to codify everything, including our (and others’) beliefs, rational or not. I have to agree with Gabriel. Humans have the need to believe in something outside ourselves, and we like our “religions” organized, and spread as widely as possible.

  • Nick M

    Mid,
    Like looking at the stars eh? Well, in another life I was an astrophysicist and a friend of mine went into historical astronomy. It’s a truly fascinating field because you can extend the realm of observed phenomena dramatically. It works like this: Some geezer in C11th China describes a “guest star”. He compares it over the months in brightness to other stars. Plot the light curve. Bingo that’s a Type 2 Supernova. Cool!

    Anyway, I was chatting with John and he told me a tale of an African tribe. They look up at night and see the stars and this is their explanation for them. They are the camp fires of people up there. People looking down seeing pretty much the same thing.

    Thaddeus,
    You left out one thing. You left out the “Rage”. Well, I guess it was implied. The fuckers now want to banish fire from the cave?

    To really enrage the Greens and lift the spirits may I suggest this.

    We have come far since Ugg thought it would be neat to bring fire into the cave. We have come far since a pair of lads in a shed in Ohio thought “It shouldn’t just be for the birds” and some bunch of dickless fuckers (yes that’s you Porritt) want this to stop.

    Ian B. I don’t buy your decline and fall stuff wrt to Islam but you almost convince me about Greenery because make no mistake the Green movement is the greatest threat we face. It is a far greater threat than Islam because it’s “nice”. Hell, they’ve even co-opted the word “ethical” to their cause. The fact that I’d like to dig up Rachel Carson and blow-torch what’s left of the bitch is beside the point. They have taken a moral high-ground and it will take dynamite to shift them.

    It has become demented. The EU is planning on banning the incandescent bulb. It wastes energy. Yeah, fucking A, but that wasted energy is emitted as heat. That has it’s uses too. because shock, horror, we tend to use the lights more after dark and in the winter which is exactly when we turn the heating up.

    I live just south of Manchester Airport. I can sit in my garden and watch the take-off pattern. No matter how many times I see 200 tons of duralumin take to the skies with 300 folks aboard all set on adventures I never tire. 105 years ago there were just birds up there (and bats, and bugs). And now they want to stop this! They call it “Plane Sense”. They need to broken on the wheel. I want to die at a considerably higher Mach number than I currently have so they can go fuck themselves. Swampy and pals kicked up an almighty stink over Manchester’s second runway.

    I am against a third runway at Heathrow. Heathrow has jumped the shark. We need a new airport in the Thames Estuary. They did it in Osaka. It would be linked from Kent and Essex (providing a much needed road/rail connection), it would function as a tidal barrage providing flood protection to millions and generating ‘tricity. It’s just win,win,win. I outlined this idea to my father-in-law…

    Guess what he said? He said it would destroy the habitats of wading birds.

    Wading birds.

    Fucking birds that fucking wade.

    This comment is to be accompanied by the shortest violin concerto ever written. And all for the fucking wading fucking birds.

  • Julian Taylor

    Idle speculation at what attempts ‘green’ Chinese are making to switch off unused lightbulbs or even make a token attempt to deal with the truly horrendous pollution in Beijing and Shanghai. Perhaps green campaigners in Sydney might think about that.

    Personally I am always reminded (often by Mr Pearce) of the famous Bono ‘heart on my sleeve’ rant where he shouted out at a concert that “Every time I clap my hands another child in Africa dies”, the witty response from a concert-goer being “well stop f/ing well clapping then Bono!”

  • Midwesterner

    Linda Morgan,

    Thanks. Right into my bookmarks.

    kcom,

    Absolutely. Seeing the Google page generated a visceral hate spasm and reminded me just how badly I want to find a comparable non-Google search engine. I find that unethical people and companies with marketing savvy often take their weakest point and announce it as a strength. What is the Google motto again?

    Evan Kirchhof,

    I had the same thought about the Christmas lights. What is really really stupid is that I installed LED Christmas lights this year. The entire triple strand uses less energy than my reading light. It would be a celebration of efficient leading edge technology to turn it on. Once again the Greens demonstrate that they don’t want to do anything other than drive us back into the Dark Ages. Literally dark.

    Allen in Ft. Worth,

    Spread that correlation in your circles. Maybe it will find traction.

    Nick M,

    I like that mental image. Campfires in the sky. Cool. Thanks.

  • Nick M

    Horseshit was mentioned.

    Recently, on the M56 from Liverpool John Lennon Airport (motto: Above us only Sky) we passed a Land Rover Discovery.

    Now this wasn’t the sort of Discovery used to take Tarquin and Jocasta to school, this was a beat-up vehicle which clearly belonged to an agriculturalist. It was the sort of vehicle you can imagine a sick ewe being manhandled in to the back of for a trip to see Mr Farnon.

    Anyhoo. On the back door in 36 pt print it had a sign. “Horseshit comes from stables, bullshit comes from parliament.”

    Now riddle me this… We are facing massive increases in the cost of food yet all the fields round my mother’s house are set-aside. When I was a kid they grew maize, barley and were used to raise dairy cattle (Friesans) but for some reason that don’t work no more despite a rise in the price of agricultural products.

    Am I the only one who thinks the world has gone nucking futz? I mean that’s bloody good agricultural land up there in the Tyne Valley. Romans, Celts, Saxons, Vikings, Jocks and Geordies shed blood for that land…

  • joel

    About God:

    Some Englishman observed:

    Once a man stops believing in God, the problem is not that he believes nothing. The problem is he will believe anything.

    Think about Communism, for example.

    It is clear that humans need to believe in some higher, eternal values to be happy. Humans know they are transient, and so they invent or discover things that they love which will continue after their own day is over.

    Some call it God.

    In more pragmatic terms, those who believe in God have more children than those who don’t. So, its just Darwinism. Questioning why humans should have religion is like questioning why humans should have a spleen.

  • Once a man stops believing in God, the problem is not that he believes nothing. The problem is he will believe anything.

    Believing in God is believing on ‘anything’ in my view. These days I just cannot get past the sheer silliness of it all, which is why I became a Pastafarian :-)

    It is clear that humans need to believe in some higher, eternal values to be happy.

    Whatever that means. I ‘believe’ in liberty. Does that count? It is a great deal more real to me than muttering the words of others to some invisible imaginary friend.

    In more pragmatic terms, those who believe in God have more children than those who don’t. So, its just Darwinism.

    But unlike breeding animals, the children of ‘God fearing’ parents can see the light and take a more reasonable view of reality (I did). Quite possibly the most enraged I have ever caused another human being to become in two short minutes was when I had an argument with a Muslim which went as follows:

    Muslim chap: “We are out-breeding you. The future is a global Islamic civilisation. History is demographics.”

    Me: “No, history is history and demographics is demographics. But thanks for producing all those children whilst so many people from Western civilisation have more productive things to do… Our civilisation will take the children you have so thoughtfully provided and fill their minds with high quality pornography, cool products, happy lifestyle choices and broad horizons. Your grandchildren will be shoulder shrugging atheist western consumers. So please keep breeding, we need new markets.”

    At which point he threatened me and I took off my glasses and invited him to feel free to try. He declined.

    Questioning why humans should have religion is like questioning why humans should have a spleen.

    No, it is like questioning why some people try to think with their spleens rather than their brains.

  • Laird

    Sorry, Joel, that quotation (not truly an “argument”) is obviously from someone rationalizing his belief in the supernatural. Those of us who don’t share his belief system don’t “believe anything”, we actually think for ourselves. Obviously, that’s anathema to the purveyors of the irrational, codified, anthromorphic, hierarchical power base they call “religion.”

    Communists’ belief in communism doesn’t stem from their non-belief in a supernatural deity. Rather, the reverse is true; religion (as a competing power base) is their enemy, so they oppose it. There are plenty (most?) of us athiests who aren’t communists. What I believe in is the power of ratiocination, and that’s enough for me. I pity those who require the crutch of religion. Try standing on your own; you might like it.

  • I ‘believe’ in liberty. Does that count?

    Of course it does – exactly my point. It doesn’t have to be supernatural, it doesn’t have to be a deity or even a person. It can be an idea.

    At which point he threatened me and I took off my glasses and invited him to feel free to try. He declined.

    LOL!

  • Nick M

    joel,
    I don’t believe in anything higher than myself.

    Nope, nothing.

    I vaguely believe in the scientific method but with reservations.

    I guess I have other beliefs but they’re not profound.

    Giovanni Palestrina and Johann Sebastian Bach could knock out better tunes than me, Raphael would make a better fist of decorating your bathroom than I would and Newton, well we all know about Sir Isaac…

    I am matter in motion, I am data being processed by 75kgs of meat and blood and bone. I can feel pain, fear, love and envy – somehow. I know what I am and I know that I obey Fermi-Dirac statistics. I know Josiah Willard Gibb’s Grand Canonical Ensemble and Dr Maxwell’s wonderful equations.

    I don’t know if my cat knows what it is but I suspect it has a vague insight. I know my wife knows what she is.

    But then, everything persists in it’s desire to remain what it is. The tiger wishes to remain a tiger and the stone wishes to remain a stone. Again, not a profound view because it’s one I stole from Borges.

    And you know what, that’s enough.

    I have travelled at 0.8 Mach across the Atlantic. I have built computers. I have swum with sharks and barracudas. I have gazed upon the death mask of Agamemnon. I have comprehended Quantum Theory and General Relativity. I have even told a disbelieving Paul Marks about that. I was conceived in Africa but I have never been there. I have walked the streets of two continents. I have done things my Grandparents would not believe.

    I have not had a remarkable life for my generation. What is remarkable is that this is now mundane. And that is remarkable in the context of the thousands of generations of this particular ape. How many of those saw the earth from space? How many of them even had a telescope? I have a telescope, it’s just to my left.

    And that’s enough. I don’t have to believe in a higher power. I never have done and I never will.

    I have enough, just being me.

    “Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere”. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more?”
    “The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part – perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some common starting point when they were perhaps all together. What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it.”
    “For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it?”
    “What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?”

    – RPF, Physicist.

  • Nick M

    Perry,
    I have been a reader and commentator on this blog for some time. Your final paragraph was, on it’s own, worth the price of admission.

    The rest of your comment was pretty good too.

  • jk

    Great Post, Thaddeus. I get to look at this picture even more often than you, because we use it as a banner on our blog.

    Karl Popper (pictured on your blog header, man this is a tortured segue) talks about those who would send up back to the caves — that is the recipe for “living on $1/day” those who light the lights are making things better.

  • Paul Marks

    Gabriel:

    I think I understand something of what you mean.

    Because most people are no longer taught either a respect for tradition – nor given a grounding in rigorous learning and reasoning (teaching Latin is a sign of both things in education) people are now open to any fad – of which “Greenism” is an example (and a part of a wider soft minded collectivism).

    I am not a civilized man, I am a barbarian who has a deep respect for civilization (you will understand how different that is).

    I was taught nothing at school – for example I was even taught to read by an old lady in a village near Kettering (sadly this lady did not teach me to spell and so on – and I have been too lazy to teach myself). So I certainly would not defend the modern “education system” – any more than I would defend the main stream media.

    In fact British schools are set to get even worse, with even the pretense of teaching formal subjects (such as history) rejected by many powerful people – in favour of teaching “active citizenship” including “what we must do to help fight globel warming”. I am not making this up – the progressives have gone beyond wanting to twist and distort subjects like history, to wanting to get rid of formal subjects at all.

    I am told the cultural practices and traditions do exist in some government schools in the word – for example those of Bavaria (Latin is even taught in such schools – as a standard subject). Bavaria is also the place (again I am told) where the curriculum is one page long – as tradition is so strong that there is no need to watch out for leftist teachers (who, of course, will gain control of any long curriculum supposed to control their antics).

    But I think it is error to look for any restoration of sanity in the “public services” (I am NOT saying you do make that mistake – I am just saying it is a mistake).

    Even civilization is to be save it will have to be by voluntary effort. Turning away from statism rather than trying to restore such things as government schools to a better condition.

    Before anyone mentions it – NO I do not favour drunks and drug abusers being allowed into libraries because “government ownership means no one owns the libraries” I am NOT a radical (even Rothbard was not such a person – and said so, using the government library example).

    However, I do not believe that government libraries can be restored to the places of learning they once were – the decay in the state has gone too far for that.

    It is outside of government services that civilized people (such as yourself) must seek the salvation of civilization.

  • Paul Marks

    Before anyone says I am being utopian…..

    I will use historical evidence/examples even though I am not a suppporter of empricism – I use the historical examples because they are quick and “reach” people.

    We know that the arts can exist without the taxpayer funding – because this taxpayer funding (in Britain) only really started with World War II.

    Indeed the decline of the arts (music, painting, sculpture, architecture….) seems to have only really got under way after state funding – I am NOT saying it would not have happened anyway, but clearly taxpayer funding is not needed for the arts.

    We know that taxpayer funding for the universities is not needed – for, again, this only really got under way in Britain after World War II. There had been gifts by Kings in previous centuries – but universities largely paid their own way via management of their own property (made up from gifts of many different people, and their own investments).

    And we know that state schooling is not needed – we have known that since at least 1965, when E.G. West (in “Education and the State”) expossed the great lie that state schooling speeded up the decline of literacy in the 19th century.

    Indeed even in poverty stricken Iceland at the start of the 20th century there was hardly a person who could not read and write (often in more than one language) – and yet government funding of education was virtually nonexistant.

    The people of Iceland in 1901 may not have known Latin (although some of them did) – but they did understand logical reasoning (although they did not understand it enough – for they fell for statist nonsense only a few years later) and they did have respect for their own traditions.

    The fact that these where the nordic traditions of the sagas, (rather than those of classical culture) did not make them unworthy of respect.

  • watcher in the dark

    Greenies wanting to rage against the (night) light will be especially pleased to see that in the world map of human “electric waste”, there is a clean cut line across the border between South Korea and North Korea.

  • Ivan

    I ‘believe’ in liberty. Does that count? It is a great deal more real to me than muttering the words of others to some invisible imaginary friend.

    But the problem is — how can the ideas of liberty be competitive against irrational and collectivist ideas? It seems to me that in the last few generations, ideas of liberty have been constantly losing the battle pretty badly. Sure, there have been dramatic reversals of fortune in the directions of greater liberty, most notably the fall of the Soviet Empire, but I wouldn’t say that these were due to success of pro-liberty ideas in the ideological struggle — they came about only after decades-long series of cataclysmic failures of practical collectivist experiments (and in fact, I am astonished how firmly so many people have held to empirically totally discredited collectivist ideas to the present day). I can hardly think of one single historical instance of peaceful intellectual and ideological struggle in the last hundred years that ended with a triumph of pro-liberty ideas.

    Therefore, we might be faced with the very ugly truth that in the open marketplace of free ideological discourse, ideas of liberty just can’t compete with collectivism, the latter being infinitely more attractive to the typical person. If this is true — I’m not claiming confidently that it is, although I am becoming more and more inclined to believe so as the time goes by — then a free society can exist only if the ideas of liberty have an ultimately irrational basis in traditional beliefs and customs, and the disappearance of such a basis will open the space for infinitely worse collectivist ideologies. So, however bombastic his rhetoric might sound occasionally, Gabriel might be right after all.

  • CMK

    “At which point he threatened me and I took off my glasses and invited him to feel free to try. He declined.”

    I tried that once as a kid and got punched in the face. Never did it again. (True story!) ;)

    I identify with your desire for a more rational world, that doesn’t “need the crutch” of religion. But the reality is, not everyone can get to where you are. Have a little empathy if you can, for those needing the crutch. For example, some see their child, dead, far too young, and desperately need a reason to justify their pain and loss. Their faith can provide the reason. What can you offer them instead, to ease their suffering?

    My faith in a caring deity grows weaker the longer I live, and the more I question; but I am not heartless enough to pull the crutch away from those who need it. Some take a lot of comfort from their faith, and at times of personal loss on my part, I sometimes envy them.

  • Tennwriter

    You cling to the notion that you are ‘rational’, and ‘independent-minded’, and that trying an experiment that five thousand years of kings would have condemned as reckless is a sign of being smart, and that the pendulum does not swing from Materialist to Mad Magician even though experience says otherwise. You make quips to cover fear, and to substitute for logic.

    When the holy warriors of the Greenies come, will you then admit you were wrong, and call out to the Author of Liberty, the Source of Reason, the Logical Lawgiver, and beg Him to come to your aid as the Lord of Hosts? Or does your hate for Him rise above your love of liberty?

    You claim Reason as your ally, but the problem with that is that Reason is a two-edged sword, and your edge is rusted and dull. The logical, reasonable choice is to have faith in Jehovah.

    Or as the Lord said…’Come let us reason together…’ My God is the author of reason, and the founder of liberty. You hold respect for one small element of his nature. You should get to know the rest of Him.

    Or you can let the Greenies win.

  • The logical, reasonable choice is to have faith in Jehovah.

    Or you can let the Greenies win.

    That is ridiculous.

    I have a lot of sympathy to religion (though not religious myself), along the lines Ivan and CMK mentioned above. Religion has withstood the test of time, and helped man along, promoting some useful ideas.

    But – what has it got to do with protecting us from the greenies ?? A lot of religious people have turned green, and also adopted the “church of liberation” i.e. have embraced socialism. So, how does religion protect us from green (or socialist) madness ?

    I understand that religious people will push religion at every opportunity. But in this, here debate, religion is utterly irrelevant.

    I concede that the fiercest opponents of communism and Nazism (of barbarity) were religious people. Lamentably I don’t see any religious people in the forefront of the struggle against green luddism.

  • Laird

    I’m not trying to pull away anyone’s crutch; I’m saying that I don’t need it and suggesting that they try walking without one, too. That’s true empathy. The alternative is simply encouraging weakness.

    I have no “hate” for any god (how can you hate something that doesn’t exist?), but I do despise organized religion. And what’s this “the Source of Reason” nonsense? Give me a break. The fundamental premise of Western religions is irrationality (perhaps you prefer to call it “faith”, but it’s the same thing).

    If you insist on religion, try Spinoza’s version; it’s the closest thing to a rational approach I’ve seen. (Of course, it did get him excommunicated by the Jews, with takes a lot of doing.)

  • Gabriel

    Paul, I would never dream of claiming to be more civilized than you. You quite plainly have better appreciation of History than almost anyone and I’m just a guy who happened to grow up in a house with a lot of books who like winding up Libertarians on the internet. My formal education is more or less nill too.

    The fact that these where the nordic traditions of the sagas, (rather than those of classical culture) did not make them unworthy of respect.

    Absolutely, lots of traditions are worthwhile. I suspect even parroting the Koran for 14 years is of more use than progressive education. It’s just we used to have a tradition of teaching Latin and we replaced it with nothing.

    Everyone else seems to be ascribing to me arguments that I don’t necessarily disagree with, but was not arguing. It’s not that religion causes culture, or is a bulwark to culture, or inoculates us against all sorts of crap ideas. It’s just that to a very large extent religion is culture.

    What does a religion less culture look like? Do you walk around talking about how rational and free you are, liberally quoting Spencer or whatever, or what? (Of course one model looks like this, but I was looking for a good one.)

  • Seerak

    What a fitting symbol for the end of the Enlightenment.

    Or at least those seeking its end.

  • Nick M

    CMK,
    God as placebo? The problem is that it doesn’t work like that. First off you have to actually believe otherwise you are engaging in a facile self-delusion. Now, OK, that might work for some people but surely they can’t be very smart.

    Or put it another way. I have never met a genuinely religious person who was bright and wasn’t intensely curious as to what they actually believed. If you believe in God then that’s a big deal and it is something one thinks about especially in this current godless age.

    The short version of the garbled verbiage is that religion just can’t be a crutch or a bulwark or a tradition. Someone who goes to church for those reasons is not a religious person they are merely supporting the heritage industry.

    A great many Anglicans seem to have lost this point and see their role entirely as preserving old buildings or as low-end social workers.

    And it doesn’t work. Near where I grew up there was a very nice church. The vicar was an ace fund-raiser. He’d had the roof done, the walls sand-blasted of a centuries worth of industrial grime and the stained glass cleaned. Yet, he once said to me, “It must be a wonderful thing to have faith”. That was a touche moment. I mean, What do you say? He didn’t believe in God which despite his excellent running of the real estate made him about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    I once had a GP who, amongst the usual chit chat asked me what I was doing. I told him I was a physics student. He said he wished he’d done that and he’d only studied medicine because that’s what his mother wanted. Another chocolate teapot.

    I just don’t believe and I see no point pretending. A major beef I have with Islam is that the word “kufr” and the whole Islamic conception of the infidel is of someone who is almost deliberately dissing the obvious one true faith. I am not a Muslim out of perversity though. I just think it’s superstitious guff.

    And Gabriel, for that reason, I think parrotting the Qu’ran for 14 years is at best a complete waste of time.

    Watching Spongebob Squarepants DVDs would be a better idea. Trying to teach a cat Esperanto would achieve more.

  • Indeed the decline of the arts (music, painting, sculpture, architecture….) seems to have only really got under way after state funding – I am NOT saying it would not have happened anyway, but clearly taxpayer funding is not needed for the arts.

    Horsehockey.

    First the stage play replaces the homeric epic, and Plato deems it (1) too violent, (2) too sexual and (3) too close to reality to prevent people from idling away their time. Then the serial novel comes out and the same things are said. Then radio comes out and the same things are said. Then the motion picture, and the same things are said. Then television, and the same things are said. Now we have video games and the same thingss are being said.

    Why art would ignore new technology when nothing else does is beyond me. May I ask, how many video games are you playing? At one point in time, movies were mocked as nothing more than a childish amusement, but with popularity came revenue, with revenue resources, with resources an influx of talent and with the influx of talent great art.

    We’re on the verge of the artistic boom in video games. Things are lining up perfectly with the reduction in cost of digital audio and digital storage space. Whether or not the old guard can adapt to an interactive art form or will foolishly shun it like a previous old guard once did the motion picture remains to be seen.

    But I don’t advocate using a digging stick over a tractor like the greens would have us do. Why would I choose marble sculpture over the video game?

  • Tennwriter:

    Or does your hate for Him rise above your love of liberty?

    I no more ‘hate’ God than I ‘hate’ Mickey Mouse for being fictional. If you need an invisible imaginary friend to help you through the day, I am not stopping you. Many of the contributors to this blog are believers, but as I said before, personally I just cannot get past the whole silliness of it all and your florid comment just reinforces that notion. Given that I think God is a psychological artifice with no objective existence, when you write things like…

    When the holy warriors of the Greenies come, will you then admit you were wrong, and call out to the Author of Liberty, the Source of Reason, the Logical Lawgiver, and beg Him to come to your aid as the Lord of Hosts?

    … I cannot really see the difference between that and the sort of florid comments left by Islamic fundamentalists on this blog on many occasions, as if some words from the Koran would have the magic effect of making me drop to my knees and face Mecca. Ain’t gonna happen. However if you are a friend of individual liberty and think ‘God’ is the reason, that is great and I really do not care how you got there.

    And when the holy warriors of the Greenies come, I guess I will start filling bottles with gasoline and soap flakes.

    Kyle:

    Why would I choose marble sculpture over the video game?

    Amen to that! The notion that there has been a ‘decline’ in the arts is utterly preposterous. We are awash in vast quantities of truly great stuff as never before in human history.

    Ivan:

    Therefore, we might be faced with the very ugly truth that in the open marketplace of free ideological discourse, ideas of liberty just can’t compete with collectivism, the latter being infinitely more attractive to the typical person

    Yeah I have days like that too… but in truth that is that is not what I think. Let me clear up a misconception that The Other Side can appeal to the emotions whereas we cannot not: I do not think the cause of liberty needs to (or even should be) ‘marketed’ in arid intellectual terms. I am all for stirring the senses, raising the banner and singing the Anti-Nationale. We do not have to concede any part of the mental bandwidth to The Other Side. I have made arguments to a room of Christian Socialists why liberty and individual moral choice are the only political underpinnings compatible with Christian morality and I got a great deal of traction, somewhat to my surprise.

    And of course we have the advantage of being correct about the advantages of liberty, which always helps.

  • My copy of this picture (that I use as the wallpaper for most of my computers) identifies it as the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for November 27, 2000. So the picture is more than eight years old (and it may be a little older than that – I don’t know when the data they used to contruct it dates from). There has been a lot of economic growth in various places since then. If the same exercise were done again now, some places – especially China but also lots of other places in Asia, and I would bet to some degree even parts of Africa and South America – would be a lot brighter. This is good, of course.

  • Jacob

    Gabriel,
    I’ll put my question directly:
    How can religion help us combat green luddism ?
    My impresion is that many religious authorities, like the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury and many religious denominations in the US don’t oppose the green ideology, but rather embrace it.

  • Nick, I don’t know about Christianity, but there are quite a few genuinely religious Jews who are very bright, and indeed are in hard sciences, math, computers etc. This is not a black and white issue.

  • There is certainly a tradition of scientific investigation amongst the Jesuits, for one thing. The late Arthur C Clarke made a Jesuit scientist the protagonist of one of his most famous stories, of course. I don’t think you could describe the story as pro-Christian, although it is not anti-Christians as people.

  • Jacob–

    If only the problem were as simple as “green obstructionism”. I don’t know where you live, but new power plants are being built here in the Appalachians–and then once built, sizable portions of the output are being sold off elsewhere. The same way that while we complain about not having enough domestic oil, as much as a fifth of the output from the Alaskan Pipeline goes to Japan some years, and as high a percentage or more of the coal mined here in the Blue Ridge Mountains often goes to other countries.

    Many of the energy companies simply want to have their cake and eat it too–sell to higher-paying foreign customers and then blame the domestic lack on environmentalists.

  • the other rob

    Alisa said “Nick, I don’t know about Christianity, but there are quite a few genuinely religious Jews who are very bright, and indeed are in hard sciences, math, computers etc. This is not a black and white issue.”

    I’d say, yes, the position with Christianity is pretty much the same you describe it with Judaism. I might even go so far as to say that it is so with most, if not all religions.

    Though, if I’m honest, I must admit to a hesitancy as regards Islam: purely personal, I just get a bit peeved at being under sentence of death for apostasy on account of being C of E with a Muslim father…

  • the other rob

    Well, so I’m told anyway. Nobody has yet threatened to come to my house and kill me, so it might be BS…

  • If only the problem were as simple as “green obstructionism”. I don’t know where you live, but new power plants are being built here in the Appalachians–and then once built, sizable portions of the output are being sold off elsewhere.

    If consumers in other countries are paying more, why on earth shouldn’t they get the product they are willing to pay for? It is called… a market! Are you saying that if US energy producers wanted to build more power plants to satisfy all their customers, they could just build them without any political interference and yet for some strange reason prefer to let some demand go unserviced? That would be strange behaviour on the part of the companies.

  • Sunfish

    Trying to teach a cat Esperanto would achieve more.

    Possibly. I can talk to my cat in four different languages (although two of them are sad jokes) and he’ll give me the “You obviously have confused me with someone who gives a crap” look.

    Tennwriter,
    Unlike most here, I actually am a practicing Christian, and you’re making us all look like idiots. You start with the perfectly-reasonable premise of Greens being fascist morons, and that’s okay. However, that does not contain within itself an argument for the presence v. absence v. involvement v. uninvolvement of God. Nor is it relevant to any arguments about God.

    That’s the whole point of faith: it’s outside the realm of logic entirely. Which is fine: it makes religion generally[1] immune to empirical disproof, but also impossible of empirical proof. Now, if you want to try to construct logical arguments based upon unprovable premises, knock yourself out, but you’ll still be trying to build sand castles a foot off the ground. Doesn’t work all that well, IME.

    Paul: You call yourself a barbarian. Okay, I didn’t think “Marks” was a Greek name, but it looks like you’re trying to kick yourself in the knee with the term and I’m just not following.

    Re: the decline in art.

    If it is declining…I can’t speak to visual arts (with the exception of naked pictures of Alyson Hannigan) but I don’t think music has declined.

    Is it not the purpose of art to convey idea and emotion? Bach does nothing for me. Shawn Colvin, OTOH…[2]…the first half of “A Few Small Repairs” was like turning on a light switch after a hurricane and actually having the lights come on. Wow.

    [1] Except for crap about the Earth being created 6000 years ago. That stuff is just arrant nonsense.

    [2] I don’t care if she’s two decades older than I am, she is teh hawt!

  • Paul Marks

    No I am not a civilized man Gabriel – and I suspect you are.

    Nor do I mean “I am poor” (although I am poor) when I say I am not civilized. I mean that various things that a civilized (or cultured) man has (often simply takes for granted) I was not taught – and I am not talking about school stuff.

    I have an educated voice – but everything else (when to talk when not to talk, how to sit, how to eat….) is guess work. And I often guess wrong.

    Although I do my best to hide it I have more in common with those people in the photograph than you might think. Even though the local M.P. is a member of the Cornerstone Group.

    As for the appeal of collectivism (Ivan’s point).

    Yes – human beings evolved in hunter-gatherer packs (yes I am taking this from F.A. Hayek) with all the nasty “social justice” savagery this implies.

    Civilization is made up of cultural traditions – traditions that can be overthrown by appeals (often subtle) to our base instincts.

    A civilization may be eaten away like wood worms eat away wood – and then (with a sudden shock) collapse (yes, I know, Edmund Burke).

    Our civilization is indeed eaten away by wood worms – Herbert Marcuse and so on (and their vast “Legion” of followers – most of whom have never heard the names of the main characters).

    HOWEVER.

    Hunter-gatherer packs did not become civilizations by magic.

    And nor can one explain the transformation totally by talking about “the results of human action not human design”.

    People must choose to turn away from evil, for example to respect the property rights of those weaker than themselves (even if this violates the doctrine of “fair shares”).

    Only then can civilization develop and such choices become cultural traditions.

    The ideas come first – not afterwards. Contra Hayek.

    As for God:

    He can take care of Himself.

    If God exists people will, in the end, return to Him.

    How odd – I sound optimistic.

  • Paul Marks

    No I am not a civilized man Gabriel – and I suspect you are.

    Nor do I mean “I am poor” (although I am poor) when I say I am not civilized. I mean that various things that a civilized (or cultured) man has (often simply takes for granted) I was not taught – and I am not talking about school stuff.

    I have an educated voice – but everything else (when to talk when not to talk, how to sit, how to eat….) is guess work. And I often guess wrong.

    Although I do my best to hide it I have more in common with those people in the photograph than you might think. Even though the local M.P. is a member of the Cornerstone Group.

    As for the appeal of collectivism (Ivan’s point).

    Yes – human beings evolved in hunter-gatherer packs (yes I am taking this from F.A. Hayek) with all the nasty “social justice” savagery this implies.

    Civilization is made up of cultural traditions – traditions that can be overthrown by appeals (often subtle) to our base instincts.

    A civilization may be eaten away like wood worms eat away wood – and then (with a sudden shock) collapse (yes, I know, Edmund Burke).

    Our civilization is indeed eaten away by wood worms – Herbert Marcuse and so on (and their vast “Legion” of followers – most of whom have never heard the names of the main characters).

    HOWEVER.

    Hunter-gatherer packs did not become civilizations by magic.

    And nor can one explain the transformation totally by talking about “the results of human action not human design”.

    People must choose to turn away from evil, for example to respect the property rights of those weaker than themselves (even if this violates the doctrine of “fair shares”).

    Only then can civilization develop and such choices become cultural traditions.

    The ideas come first – not afterwards. Contra Hayek.

    As for God:

    He can take care of Himself.

    If God exists people will, in the end, return to Him.

    How odd – I sound optimistic.

  • CMK

    “God as placebo?”

    Interesting question. My answer, after thinking about it, is this: God is just a placebo if you don’t believe in the healing power of God. People of faith wouldn’t see God as a placebo.

    There may be those who turn to God only in times of crisis, and perhaps they don’t really “believe”, but lie to themselves in order to handle their pain. Who am I to judge them? Praying to a “made-up” God is better than drowning their sorrows in alcohol or slitting their wrists. We can convince ourselves of a lot of things, and lie to ourselves all the time, in order to make it through life- “no, I’m not that fat; yes, I’m smarter than the average guy; no, a blow job is not sex” – things like that. ;) If it works for them, why is it wrong? If it doesn’t work for you, or for me, that’s fine too. We live in a society where we are free to choose; and that’s all right with me.

    As for preserving buildings and social work, if it gives someone’s life meaning and purpose to do so, I’m not going to complain. I’d rather see a social worker convince kids to sit through Sunday school in these old building, or have the kids paint the old buildings, than see the kids burn them down in an act of vandalism.

    I like the “religion as crutch” analogy BTW, since it led me to think that we are all handicapped in various degrees by the things we can’t explain through reason alone. Our faulty reasoning can lead us to all sorts of strange beliefs and false conclusions. “Religion” is what we create to answer the unanswerable, and rationalize the irrational; and religion can be different things to different people. I had never thought of it that way before, so I must say this comment thread has been very thought provoking. My thanks to the author of the piece for initiating this stimulating dialogue, and to those who responded to my post, for making me think! Always a good thing. ;)

  • Midwesterner

    CMK,

    I think you are not fully understanding the placebo comparison. The point of a placebo in testing is that it is not ‘real’, its effect derives entirely from the fact that the person taking it ‘believes’ it is real. They are used in testing to sort results that are from the drug’s own consequences and those that come from the expectations of the subject.

    A placebo God would be one that the person believes is a source of outer strength (a real God) but is in fact an activator of their own inner strength. At least that is what I took the example to mean.

    Other than that, I found your comment interesting. I think I would phrase your last paragraph with a few qualifications. I would change “unanswerable” to “as yet unanswered” because to declare something unknowable is in fact a statement of knowledge. I would also change “irrational” to “apparently irrational”. Those points are mostly ones of epistemology.

  • Gabriel

    How can religion help us combat green luddism ?

    My case was that a remotely healthy civilization would be more or less immune from Greenism. My arbitrary choice was Latin in schools. Perry brought up religion and while I do indeed think that the decline of traditional religion has been catastrophic in this regard, I hold out no hope that the remnants of it will combat Greenism.

    And Gabriel, for that reason, I think parrotting the Qu’ran for 14 years is at best a complete waste of time.

    Education isn’t useful in an instrumental sense. However, I agree that the Koran may not even be useful in a true educational sense. The Bible contains History, poetry, songs, philosophic treatises and much else. Though I wouldn’t recommend it, someone who did nothing but read it would have a decent chance of coming out a halfway cultivated and intelligent individual. I’ve only read bits of the Koran (traditional English transliterations please!) in the Penguin, but it seems, well, pretty monotonous and bit crap. Kind of as if the Bible consisted of nothing but bits of the Pentateuch and Nahum.

  • Jacob

    My case was that a remotely healthy civilization would be more or less immune from Greenism.

    When was civilization healthy and immune from harm ?
    Before the French revolution ? in the 19th century ? in ancient times ?
    Civilization was never “healthy and immune”. And will never be, there can be no such thing.
    I think you’re expressing a nostalgia for a golden past that never was.

  • I think you have the greens pegged about right.

  • Gabriel

    When was civilization healthy and immune from harm ?

    Not immune from ‘harm’, immune from hegemonic moral imbecility.

    As to when, Britain from about 1690 to very recently. Much of continental Europe has rarely been able to escape it for more than a few decades, but we used to have a good thing going.

  • Gabriel

    In short, a necessary pre-condition of the current prevalence of Greenism is the fact that millions upon millions of people are incapable of thinking properly. We must therefore look at what conditions have created so many of these people (who are not, in the main, simply born with a low IQ or whatever).