What Living a Green Life Actually Looks Like

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Living a green lifestyle is great – until you see how your life would actually look if you followed the basic recommendations set forth by some leaders of the environmental movement.

Some of the “minor inconveniences” of being green include:

  • A 420 sq. ft. house
  • A highly efficient refrigerator – and no other appliances
  • No internet
  • Three of four outfits worth of clothes
  • Cold showers
  • No air conditioning

In other words, your life would suck royally – almost as bad as having to watch The Watch once a day, every day, for the rest of your life.

Read the whole piece here.

Drew Johnson



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59 Responses to “What Living a Green Life Actually Looks Like”

  1. #1 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    Well, I guess there’s no point in even trying, then. In that case, I’m off to go dump a couple of barrels of crude oil in an old growth forest and then set the whole thing on fire, just because. (You might object that I don’t own the forest, but I must assure you that in the coming libertarian paradise it will be the first thing I buy.)

    There seriously are times when I think that libertarianism deserves much more respect than it gets. (I know, I know, you are deeply concerned about my respect.) There are other times when I suspect that libertarianism is less about principle and more about ressentiment. This would be one of the latter times.

  2. #2 |  Captain Noble | 

    There are crazies in every movement. I wish less time was spent criticizing them and more time spent with the more “realistic” people. I think a it’s important for us to become more green and more sustainable and I think this can be done without going to this sort of extreme. Mocking wingnuts is sort of fun and probably needs to be done from time to time, but I think our energy would be better spent not worrying about the extremists and engaging with more moderate people.

  3. #3 |  RLB | 

    Of course, this article exists only because it misquotes McKibben. It quotes only the first part of his statement, not the next part where he says that we have nearly two decades to achieve a low level of energy consumption and, more important, that technology improvements during this time will allow us to live closer to our current lifestyles. McKibben is an extremist only because you distort him.

  4. #4 |  crzyb0b | 

    Drew Johnson is a prime example of the right wing misinformation machine in action.
    Pick up an anonymous and poorly sourced OPINION piece and repeat it, amplifying its most misinformed falsehoods as if they were fact.

    Way to go Drew, you’re part of the problem. Here’s an idea, why don’t you actually go do some research into what a sustainable lifestyle actually means, and then get back to us? But why am I asking? Actual research is beyond this mindless automaton.

  5. #5 |  el coronado | 

    That there’s 3 *fiiiine* examples of the “libertarians” checking into this “libertarian” site, huh? When did libertarianism morph into “Do what WE tell you to do, not what THEY tell you to do!”

    Did I not get that memo?

  6. #6 |  Daniel Murphy | 

    Is there anyone who says that green and sustainable living means we all have to have a 420 sq. ft. house with one appliance, no internet, three of four outfits of clothes, cold showers, and no air conditioning? Other than Mr. Strawman?

  7. #7 |  crzyb0b | 

    Just FYI Drew, Here’s an example of sustainability:


    Sustainable practices TRIPLE the productivity of ranchland – resulting in LOWER costs, which translates to higher standard of living, for all of us.

  8. #8 |  maybelogics | 

    Not much of a camper are you, Drew? Ah well, it takes all kinds, I guess.

    Read your full text. Funny you mention those silly anti-fracking activists. Lead story today in the Columbus Dispatch was about a man who refused to sell mineral rights to his land because he’s afraid his well water will be polluted. Chesapeake Energy is fracking it anyway, using antiquated state law that permits companies to force landowners to give over their rights if at least 65% of the area signed on willingly. He isn’t some hippie dippie treehugger, this guy just wants to protect his own property. If that’s what you call living a “green” life, I’m all for it.

    Sometimes people take actions that get them bashed as “environmentalists” for convenient reasons by folks who like taking pot shots at stereotypes and straw men. In other words, by folks keen on convincing but short on curiosity.

  9. #9 |  V | 

    What’s wrong with 420 square feet of space?

  10. #10 |  Jack | 

    ^My thoughts, as well . . . I’d be more likely to get into real estate if I could get a small home. As it is the smallest condo available around here is 1000+ sq ft – too big for my needs. Developers are either building homes that are still entirely too enormous or are waiting around for the economy to pick back up so they can continue building such homes that fewer and fewer people want these days.

  11. #11 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 


    Well, for one thing, I couldn’t fit my personal library into 420 CUBIC feet. And I’m not giving up my books.

  12. #12 |  Leonson | 

    Minus the refrigerator and it sounds like a prison cell.

  13. #13 |  Ariel | 

    Hey, Hilzoy Fangirl,

    You know starting that fire 20 years ago would have been the act of a savior. Arizona has had such really terrible fires, not because of AGW or bark beetles, but because our forest managers, under the aegis of environmentalists, allowed the average number of pines at the rim and north grow from 50 to 100 per acre, this normal amount going back centuries, to 500 to 1000 per acre. Really nice, unsustainable, non-pristine forests. So in the last ten years we’ve had crown fire after crown fire. Crown fires destroy forests, ground fires don’t. Love that moving baseline.

    Arizona has been in a drought for thirteen years, but the mistake of not keeping to the original density of pine goes back a lot longer. Controlled ground burns or even natural ground burns were stopped over and over again. So crown fires instead. Really good for maintaining old growth forests.

    The humans that destroy the environment aren’t always the ones you think.

  14. #14 |  el coronado | 

    Another couple of relevant questions might be….

    1) Who the fuck is Bill Mckibben to tell me to limit my choices, curtail my wardrobe/computer usage/eschew air conditioning (in a city where we got to 114 earlier this month) and all the rest? Despite the fact I pay for it all by myself, never asking Uncle Sam or little Billy for a nickel?

    2) How does Bill propose to enforce his planet-savin’ diktats? Will there be a Gaian priestly caste, charged with inspection? If so, then there must be *some* kind of enforcement mechanism Bill has in mind, right? How will Bill punish those who don’t measure up to his standards?

    3) On a planet that’s featured a multitude of radical climate changes throughout its history, how did Bill determine that the climate today – **right now! Conveniently, right while BILL is alive!!** – is the bestest solution for an optimal ecosystem?

  15. #15 |  ricketson | 

    I’m currently sharing 1000 sq ft with my wife. I’d prefer a bigger place, but this isn’t poverty by any means…. 840 would be a bit tight, but it could be reasonable depending on one’s lifestyle.

  16. #16 |  Christopher Swing | 

    Wow, Drew. You wrote a dishonest, distorted right-wingnut editorial for the paper you work at (where it’s getting torn up in the comments, as well), then abused your guest-blogging privileges to crosspost it here.


    How long until you delete this post, too?

  17. #17 |  Chaz | 

    Reminds me of the story on “To The Best of Our Knowledge” a few months ago they talked about someone who lives in a 12×12 in North Carolina. Just small enough to not qualify as a house so no property taxes.


  18. #18 |  Xenocles | 

    I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a bigger version of that home when the kids move out – not strictly for environmental reasons but because I do have a desire to live more simply. I could see such a setup working with a few more appliances.

    The whole idea of not being able to wash your clothes is sort of ridiculous. Countless people don’t have a washer/dryer in their homes – you go to the laundromat or use one of those camp washers and a line. I did the former in my first two apartments.

  19. #19 |  albatross | 

    I could swear I’ve seen this same article written about libertarians, survivalists, geeks, etc. There is nothing easier than plucking some out of context quotes and gluing them together to form a funny and creepy image of whatever group or ideology you dislike. It’s basically the strawman fallacy done via cut and paste. And you can usually count on the mental laziness of unsympathetic readers to accept an unflattering picture of folks they don’t like without doing any of that distasteful thinking stuff that causes so many problems in the world.

    After all, once I quote one libertarian who thinks we should legalize indentured servitude and another who thinks peoples’ organs should be sold off to pay their debts, I stop having to engage with any actual libertarian ideas. I can just use offense and outrage. Throw in a few lines about closing the schools and selling the roads, and most of my unsypathetic-to-libertarianism readers will be well protected from the dangers of learning anything about what libertarians believe or why.

  20. #20 |  V | 

    @ C. S. P. Schofield

    Mental note: NEVER help you move =)


    My girlfriend and I have roughly less than 650 square feet. My last apartment was that size and I knew there was space I wasn’t using.

    I take it some here haven’t seen the video of the Hong Kong architect who turned his 344 sq. ft apartment into 24 rooms: http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/architect-in-hong-kong-converts-small-apartment-into-24-rooms-20100427/

  21. #21 |  Psion | 

    Drew … you’ve put your foot in it this time. Big ‘E’ Environmentalists don’t like to be challenged and they’ll come out in droves to protect the delicate minds of their converts. It’s amusing how many of the comments over at Times Free Press make passing swipes at the religion of folks who don’t accept Green ideology … while failing to see their own religious fervor in defending Gaia’s will.

    If I might suggest, carefully source all your quotes with footnotes next time that refer back to their original source. Too many of your detractors claim you’re repeating “right-wing lies” when it would be entertaining to show who actually said what first.

  22. #22 |  William Kern | 

    Some people live green like a boss:

  23. #23 |  Bob | 

    Man! These comments are harsh!

    You know, I’m all for reducing the “Carbon footprint.” I’m all for “Moving away from fossil fuels.”

    Clearly, we are utterly destroying the planet with the way we’re doing it now.

    I think in the future, after a small group of humans leave the planet (Leaving the rest to die in a polluted hell, by the way…) two things will be clear: First, that everyone names their first planet after their generic name for dirt, (As such… ALL planets still occupied by their original occupants will be called “Earth”.) And second, all civilizations destroy their first planet.

    And here comes the “But..”

    But! Fossil fuel WORKS. Solar is a joke… it’s fun in small quantities when used in conjunction with the existing power grid… but just try to power a house off-grid with solar power. Even the most mickey mouse house with a refrigerator, a laptop, and a few light bulbs is going to set you back 10K to start, then have recurring maintenance costs of about 1K a year. You want to power a modern house that way? With a washing machine and A/C? Forget it!

    Wind? Not enough room here to even start with that, except to say it has the same primary drawback solar does… the need for batteries.

    The problem here is that the energy genie is out of the bottle. People have A/C. They have easy to use washing machines and cooking appliances. Yes, you CAN use the sun for a lot of those things… but it’s a pain in the ass. Getting people to voluntarily give that up so they can live like hermits in the forest is simply not going to go over.

    And we’re not even talking about vehicles yet. Not everyone can ride a bike. Electric cars are cool when used in conjunction with the grid, but once you start working out the logistics of charging it off grid, you start to see some serious problems.

    What CAN be done is being done. There are people working on sustainable farming (Yay Joel Salatin! My hero!) There are people pioneering living like hermits in the woods. There is research continually being done on alternate energy sources.

    Bottom line? Living “Green” means either developing some super energy system powered by magic, or abandoning cities.

    The first can’t happen because we haven’t developed the magic yet, the second won’t happen by choice.

  24. #24 |  Bob | 

    #20: V

    I take it some here haven’t seen the video of the Hong Kong architect who turned his 344 sq. ft apartment into 24 rooms: http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/architect-in-hong-kong-converts-small-apartment-into-24-rooms-20100427/

    My favorite line: “Chang, who is a bachelor,”

    Shit. Could you imagine having this guy for a roommate? This guy makes Felix Unger look like a slob.

  25. #25 |  Psion | 

    Bob, I don’t think I agree with the idea of calling future energy sources “magic” … they’re just undeveloped. Fusion shouldn’t be very much further off — the National Ignition Facility claims that they’ll demonstrate a net energy gain using high-energy laser ignition by the end of this year. That remains to be seen, yet I think we’re narrowing the gap on the old joke about fusion being just fifty years away.

    Improvements in solar efficiency will eventually be cost-effective enough to allow homeowners to start making use of the technology without needing a second mortgage and subsidies from their less affluent neighbors.

    And nuclear fission remains a proven source of energy … new reactor designs even burn the waste of old reactors. The biggest hindrance to nuclear energy today comes from environmentalists and anti-nuke alarmists who throw down a gauntlet of regulatory red-tape and legal challenges to any effort at new construction; a strategy now being applied to coal plants. And the same will happen to solar power once it truly catches on without subsidies and people start looking at the icky things that go into a solar panel.

    The sad fact is that breakthrough technologies in power generation and space travel (as you reference) are more likely to be developed faster in a world with plenty of power, food, and disposable income. Yet, the very people who claim to want to save the earth often seem to be determined to hinder progress as much as possible and keep us becalmed in a Sargasso Sea of taxes and red-tape that delay progress.

    I also disagree with the notion that we’re “utterly destroying” the planet right now. Stepping past the obvious hyperbole, there’s plenty of evidence that we’re living in healthier conditions than at any point in the last 150 years. Water quality (in the U.S., at least) has improved dramatically as has particulate contamination in the air. While some of the credit for these improvements is certainly owed to the early regulations and bureaucracies that have grown so objectionable today, I like to point out that industry, too, favors efficiency, and therefore a reduction of waste. Consider the steam locomotive … once a source of tremendous pollution as the engine of the industrial revolution, but replaced before the advent of environmental regulation with the cleaner, more efficient diesel-electric locomotive.

  26. #26 |  Bob | 


    I was hinting at Arthur C. Clark. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    The problem with solar isn’t efficiency. It’s the batteries. The batteries are always the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

    In a nutshell, though… yes. the ‘magic’ is just undeveloped technology. Technology that will be developed by well funded engineers working in comfortable, air conditioned spaces.

  27. #27 |  David | 

    I’m holding my breath for the New York Times op-ed, “The Conversion of a Climate Change Believer”.

    ….But I’ll make sure to write my will beforehand.

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Like most religions (I haven’t actually met one that would be an exception, but I won’t deny the possibility) Greenism has parts that are common sense, and parts that make no sense whatsoever.

    Christianity; “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” ; common sense. “Women must cover their hair in Church”; not so much.

    Greenism; “We are drawing down on aquifers that took centuries to fill”; common sense. “We need to move energy production to a broad variety of sources that have never worked in large scale, and everybody who insists on running the numbers is a heretic”; not so much.

    If the Greenies would admit that they are a religion, accept separation of Church and State to the extent that it is enforced on Christians (spotty), and leave those of us who aren’t going to convert the hell alone, I would mind them a good deal less.

    Living in a 420 square ft house is like self flagellation or wearing a hair shirt dipped in brine; it doesn’t convince me of your piety, it doesn’t convince me that you have the answer to the world’s woes, it convinces me that you have a highly developed instinct for being ostentatiously unhappy.

  29. #29 |  Susan | 


    Please tell me about the “Magic of the Marketplace” and the “Invisible Hand”. I’d like to learn more about that religion.

  30. #30 |  Psion | 

    Bob, the Clarke quote went right over my head … and it shouldn’t have; it’s a favorite of mine. You’re also right about the batteries, but so little of the total solar insolation actually gets converted to useful energy with current photovoltaics anyway. An increase in efficiency would allow more energy to be generated “at home” during the day, cutting back demand on large power plants. During summer months, or in warmer climates, this would have the effect of allowing air conditioning to run with less strain on the community even if the demand picked up after the sun went down.

  31. #31 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 


    I didn’t say word one about the “Magic of the Marketplace” or the “Invisible Hand”. I don’t think I have EVER used either phrase anywhere I’ve posted or commented.

    Don’t put words in my mouth; it’s a VERY unsanitary habit.

  32. #32 |  Elliot | 

    hilzoy fangirl (#1): Well, I guess there’s no point in even trying, then.

    Actually, if you’re talking about trying to change the global temperature, you are exactly correct.

    If alarmists are correct and the anthropogenic factor in global warming is well above 50%, closer to 100%, then the only way to reverse global warming is to completely dismantle most of human industry. Tens of millions, if not more, will starve, and anyone not politically connected will live in pre-industrial misery. If you don’t take such drastic measures, then all the symbolic reusable grocery bags and whatnot will not affect global temperatures even 0.01°C.

    If skeptics are correct and the anthropogenic factor in global warming is closer to 0%, then all the deprivations will not change the natural factors which may raise global temperatures (as has happened countless times in the history of Earth) or which may cycle back down, oblivious to all the actions of humans.

    So no, there basically is no point in trying to lower global temperatures.

    Not polluting, on the other hand, is a different matter. That doesn’t require excessive deprivations to “live green”, mostly refraining from obnoxious actions like this:

    In that case, I’m off to go dump a couple of barrels of crude oil in an old growth forest and then set the whole thing on fire, just because.

    And, you are just wrong about this:

    There are other times when I suspect that libertarianism is less about principle and more about ressentiment [sic].

  33. #33 |  Elliot | 

    Captain Noble (#2):Mocking wingnuts is sort of fun and probably needs to be done from time to time, but I think our energy would be better spent not worrying about the extremists and engaging with more moderate people.

    Except the nutty alarmists are taken seriously by journalists (most of who are too stupid to understand math and science) and given money. Watch some documentary programs on the science-oriented cable channels. Read the newspapers.

    The most reasonable, careful catastrophic AGW skeptics who use scientific, mathematically sound counterarguments are pilloried in the media and by Democrats and their ilk as being tantamount to Holcaust deniers. Any media or university which includes skeptics in debates are harrangued and abused for giving these “awful” people any voice.

    If anyone needs your advice, it’s those who are on the side of the alarmists, not the skeptics.

  34. #34 |  Elliot | 

    Daniel Murphy (#6):Is there anyone who says that green and sustainable living means we all have to have a 420 sq. ft. house with one appliance, no internet, three of four outfits of clothes, cold showers, and no air conditioning? Other than Mr. Strawman?

    A few people do make such arguments. The point of this article is that the more “mainstream” politicians, journalists, activists, and vocal scientists tend to gloss over the ugly details of what it will mean to “save the Earth”.

    Simply take the projections of alarmists, the current rates of fossil fuel usage, the population, etc. and it is mathematically impossible to reversed global warming without reductions in human industry far beyond what most imagine. I suspect that most people who buy into the alarmist predictions don’t analyze such figures, but buy the promises that “investing” in “green technology” is going to produce miracle-like innovations so we’ll have the sorts of things you see in Star Trek. Go back to the mid 20th century and compare the predictions of what life will be like today with the reality.

    Don’t expect miracles in energy technology and manufacturing. There will be small improvements and plenty of Solyndra-type boondoggles, in which the politically connected bilk the taxpayers while the getting is good.

  35. #35 |  Elliot | 

    maybelogics (#8):Sometimes people take actions that get them bashed as “environmentalists” for convenient reasons by folks who like taking pot shots at stereotypes and straw men. In other words, by folks keen on convincing but short on curiosity.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    As I said a couple comments above, the most reasonable, careful, scrupulous skeptics of catastrophic AGW are attacked as Nazi Holocaust deniers. Some idiot politicians even suggest charging them with crimes. Some idiot journalists even suggest burning their homes down to teach them a lesson.

    Stop whining and crying about poor, poor alarmists being picked on. They’ve got over 90% of the media on their side, giving them the sole voice on the topic. They’ve got $billions in research grants and oodles of politicians. They are not victims.

    Furthermore, those who assert the need for government to infringe upon our freedoms and property rights, as well as taxing us through one scheme or another, are actually doing harm to the rest of us based upon computer models and such. The skeptics, who demand scientific and mathematical rigor, transparency, honest data, etc. are not demanding to infringe upon your rights.

    The victims are taxpayers and businesses which fall on the wrong side of the political railroad tracks, regulated out of business.

  36. #36 |  el coronado | 

    “fusion shouldn’t be much farther off…”

    Nobody has any idea what tech the future will or will not bring. Not one damn clue. Nobody in the ’80’s ever conceived of a future in which people would fall in love with their precious portable wireless telephones; or spend 3 hours together and not say one thing to another: too busy texting.

    As for the stuff they *did* conceive of…’should be along real soon!’….how’s our moon base working out? The flying cars? Jetpacks? Rayguns? Paperless offices??

  37. #37 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @35 – Yes, it’s so terrible that radical anti-science activists on this topic get far more than the airtime which the 0.6% or so of climate scientists who disagree with AGW deserve.

    Never mind that it’s quite possible to radically cut emissions…by building nuclear power plants. (And indeed, peak-provision and use the non-peak excess for a hydrogen economy, for instance…or to run chemical processes which are technically inefficient but a LOT greener – there are alternative processes to many petroleum-derived products for instance!)

    No, you keep up on your crusade against *today’s* technology. We have the answers, but not the political will to USE them.

  38. #38 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @36 – Hey! My office is paperless. My co-workers, for that matter, are scattered across the globe. As to the Moon Base, China’s working on that.

  39. #39 |  Elliot | 

    CSP Schofield (#28):Living in a 420 square ft house is like self flagellation or wearing a hair shirt dipped in brine; it doesn’t convince me of your piety, it doesn’t convince me that you have the answer to the world’s woes, it convinces me that you have a highly developed instinct for being ostentatiously unhappy.

    “…ostentatiously unhappy.” Excellent turn of phrase.

    There are people who can live in such a place and be happy. There are people who can live in a McMansion and be unhappy. I admire people who do this sort of thing as a way of trading a lesser value (to them) for a greater value, not as a way to impress others. I detest those who expect or demand that others make the same choices, disregarding the values of those people.

  40. #40 |  Elliot | 

    Susan (#29):Please tell me about the ‘Magic of the Marketplace’ and the ‘Invisible Hand’. I’d like to learn more about that religion.

    For people who understand the free market as an ethical end, rather than a “system” in comparison to the other systems of controlling the economic exchanges of others through force, such metaphors are counterproductive. Those terms are used by proponents of capitalism who mindlessly repeat such nonsense, or by anti-capitalists who would rather pick on a straw man than on the fundamental principle of freedom.

    The free market is not a system by which to rule others. It’s the lack of a system. It’s not magic. There is no hand, invisible or otherwise, greater than the hands of individuals making choices to interact with others peaceably and for mutual benefit. Also, there are no guarantees. Anyone who guarantees success is either scamming you, or using other people’s money to accomplish the goal. And, you know what they say about using other people’s money.

  41. #41 |  Elliot | 

    Leon Wolfeson (#37):Yes, it’s so terrible that radical anti-science activists on this topic get far more than the airtime which the 0.6% or so of climate scientists who disagree with AGW deserve.

    What are you watching? I’m not even talking about “airtime” but about printed news and academic debates. Perhaps I’m missing some of that because I don’t bother to watch politicians who deny global warming entirely (nevermind whether it is anthropogenic), who (in my limited observation) also tend to deny evolution and make ridiculous arguments based upon religious ignorance and bigotry. Just as I turn off the TV when Obama comes on. I’ll read about what he or the religious right nuts say, but it’s too irritating to me to spend time watching them.

    Never mind that it’s quite possible to radically cut emissions…by building nuclear power plants.

    Not in the US. Three Mile Island. Done.

    We have the answers, but not the political will to USE them.

    Don’t say “we”. That’s the Fallacy of the Collective. I am not interested in political “answers” because they always come at the price of individual rights. I’m certainly interested in free market solutions. When the technology makes something profitable, people don’t need tax subsidies to do it. When it isn’t, the carpet baggers will rake in the tax dollars all day long, while progress takes a back seat to cronyism.

  42. #42 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @41 – Ah right. YOU are a NIMBY, who whines and prevents solutions. My bad!

    You care about raising prices on the poor, because what are they gonna do? Not have heating? A typical Corporatist Capitalist answer.

  43. #43 |  Nick M. | 

    @42 – Leon,

    I think he was commenting on the status of nuclear power generation development in the US and the reasons behind it, not that he was personally against it.

  44. #44 |  Elliot | 

    Leon Wolfeson (#42):Ah right. YOU are a NIMBY, who whines and prevents solutions.

    Quite the opposite. I simply point out that, since TMI, the environmentalists and NIMBYs don’t allow new nuclear power plants to be built. Yet, they whine about coal and oil, when nuclear plants have clean emissions. Sure, there’s the waste, which is a trade off. But blocking coal and nuclear energy is economic suicide.

    You care about raising prices on the poor, because what are they gonna do? Not have heating? A typical Corporatist Capitalist answer.

    Clearly, you misunderstood my comment to be an endorsement, rather than a criticism. I have discussions with people who struggle to pay their bills who think it’s wonderful that Obama and the Democrats are punishing those bad old wascally oil companies. They just don’t have a clue that when the Democrats/greens hamstring energy, their utility bills are going to double, triple, or worse. Not to mention the cascading inflation of everything else, like groceries, since it takes energy to produce and transport food, and to light and cool a store.

  45. #45 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 


    I started with a statement by the short story writer Saki (H.H. Munro) who had one of his characters call health food faddists (of the Edwardian era) people who “have an instinct for being unhappy, highly developed.”. To that I added the word Ostentatiously, which in this age of various pious twits flaunting their adherence to this or that Cause, is severely under-used.

    Elliot & Leon Wolfeson,

    One of the reasons that I despise the “Alternative Energy” crowd is there complete detachment from any realistic benchmark; they want pie in the sky, now. They are, consequently, unwilling to seriously examine the actual casualty list for Three Mile Island, and compare it to, say, the yearly casualty list for mining the coal necessary to replace TMI. Or, for that matter, the expected casualty list from the window-washers necessary to keep a 1,000 kilowatt solar farm clean enough to function.

    So few people really want to look at the actual numbers; sometimes because they aren’t good with numbers but more often (I fell, anyway) because actually looking at the numbers won’t forward their agenda or highlight their Political Piety.

    I, BTW, would be happy to have a nuclear generator in my back yard, on the proviso that I got my electricity free. If radiation was going to mess with my life, the fact that my Father spent WWII refining uranium for the Manhattan Project would have rendered the issue moot.

  46. #46 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Um, the key word is “some” — which pretty much robs your article of any relevance. The following things…

    shortening supply and distribution chains and scaling production at a local level where that’s more efficient than the state-subsidized gigantism and centralism we have now;

    replacing the state-subsidized car culture we have now with mixed use development and walkable communities;

    low-cost passive solar heating and cooling techniques;

    cogeneration and recycling of waste heat;

    intelligent systems design of the kind Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins describe, that optimizes the efficiency of systems as a whole at an actual cost reduction rather than optimizing each step…

    …could easily achieve something like a Factor Four reduction in energy consumption with an increase in quality of life.

    Whatever “green” said the half-witted measures you listed above would be necessary to reduce our ecological footprint (or whatever right-winger compiled the crudely caricatured strawman — George Reisman???) is a technological ignoramus.

  47. #47 |  Kevin Carson | 

    BTW, it strikes me your “critique” of the greens is directly analogous, in its depth of analysis, to the “But where would we get the roooaaaaads?” liberal “critique” of anarchism.

  48. #48 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Kevin Carson,

    All debates about political systems tend to devolve into each side contrasting the worst case of their opponents’ system with the best case for theirs. On this basis Monarchy does rather well; in the best case you have someone running things who was raised from infancy to do the job. In the worst case you only have to shoot one idiot to change the government.

    Which doesn’t mean I want to live under a monarchy.

  49. #49 |  Elliot | 

    Kevin Carson (#46):…could easily achieve something like a Factor Four reduction in energy consumption with an increase in quality of life.

    Except the quality of life, as with all values, is a personal determination. You give your dream of “walkable communities”, which is fine for some people. But other people prefer the freedom to get into a car and go where they want, to drive hours to see family and friends or to have fun. For them, the quality of life will be lower if the central planners decree that they live according to some anti-car blueprint. And, to force such a plan means to violate the rights of individuals, instead of allowing them to choose their own values.

  50. #50 |  Elliot | 

    @Kevin Carson: The term “Factor Four” is a distortion of the mathematical term “factor”. Correctly used, a “factor of four” improvement means 1,000 times as much of a quantity.

  51. #51 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @45 – Basically. The real issue with nuclear power is that old reactors have been kept online because of the NIMBY’s refusing to allow new ones.

    China is probably going to build the next generation of UK reactors because they REALLY don’t give a **** about NIMBY’s, and are building tens of GW’s of nuclear power this decade alone.

    (Also, bluntly, having a Queen? Is a cheap way of ensuring that there’s ONE head of Government, who is elected. Nice tourist attraction, too – that’s the sum impact of the Monarchy on me)

    @46 – Certainly. But that requires, first, a way to raise capital separate from the current bank system…

  52. #52 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Am I wrong that the house on wheels pictured above is not anywhere near 420 sq. ft. in its current configuration? To hazard a very liberal guess, I’d say that it’s 7 ft. wide and 21 ft. long, or 147 sq. ft,. but in fact it looks more like 6×18, or 108 sq. ft.

    On closer examination, it appears that it has a folding ceiling, allowing it to be collapsed for easy transport (as shown in the picture, with the house riding on a noncommercial travel trailer) and expanded to size on site. It appears that its real footprint once assembled is more than three times its travel size. I also know from personal experience that a 420 sq. ft. studio is a lot bigger than the house shown above; I’ve stayed with friends in studios of about that size, and I’ve lived in studios that were between 500 and 600 sq. ft.

    In point of fact, after full assembly this house is NOT the equivalent of a garden shed perched on a household travel trailer. It’s small, but not remotely that small. Insinuating that it is is intellectually dishonest.

    Drew, it’s no wonder that you’re getting hosed in the comment threads.

  53. #53 |  el coronado | 

    No, why Drew’s getting hosed in the comments is because he accurately quoted a priest of the Green movement. Some asswipe named Bill Mckibben, a green advocate, said all those things. They’re right there in the link. The green movement is in a somewhat tricky spot right now, what with people starting to care more about “having a job” than “impressing morons by living a greener-than-thou life”, and they’re (obviously) not happy at having their dirty laundry exposed/quoted accurately. To (semi) quote a commenter in another thread, the biggest red flag here is the almost puritanical righteous fury the greenies show at having their dogma questioned. (Rather like the gun-grabbers and Scientology, now I think of it…..)

    As for the picture, I think Drew dared to tweak the state-sponsored Religion of the Moment by illustrating his point with an obviously ‘not 420 sq. ft.’ microshack. Humorous exaggeration on a BLOG?!? On the INTERNET??? My God…..The Horror…

  54. #54 |  americanadian | 

    Life’s tough. Do nothing then. In 50 years I wonder what a comparable article would look like. No hope, no future. The planet is warming & population growth is exploding; we’re heading to a great extinction event. Why the hell people would have children now is beyond me but have at it with your gas guzzlin cars, your freedoms, your coal, frackin, etc. Oh, & your incandescent light bulbs.
    It’s everyone’s right to burn as much energy as they want, isn’t it?
    And your health care sucks. Too.

  55. #55 |  Psion | 

    It’s a date then, Americanadian! See you in fifty years and you’ll see how the neo-Malthusians have been lying to you for their own personal gain.

  56. #56 |  Andrew Roth | 

    El Coronado,

    Drew didn’t invite criticism just by quoting McKibben. The picture of that house is misleading, particularly since he explicitly labeled it “420 sq ft house.” My guess is that the original publishers of the picture specified that it showed the house configured for transportation and touted the ease with which it could be expanded to size; I’ve seen much the same thing in the likes of the Whole Earth Catalog.

    I don’t believe that the manner in which Drew presented the house picture can be reasonably construed as hyperbolic artistic license, a reductio ad absurdum, or satire. Everything else about this post and his previous Agitator posts (with the exception of the Traficant post, perhaps) is too earnest for that. Incorporating that sort of exaggeration into an obviously satirical post would be fine, but incorporating it into a strident, earnest broadside is intellectually dishonest. Drew clearly lured his readers in with an unironic expression of outrage, so it’s completely reasonable for his readers to expect that his outrage be grounded in empirical facts, or at least reasonable observations, rather than half-cocked prejudices or visual sleights of hand. I have no way to know whether he mislabeled the house picture on purpose or out of sloppiness, but in either event it was poor journalism, so of course he has been called out on it.

    To put it another way, there’s a difference between P.J. O’Rourke taking liberties with the facts and John Stossel taking liberties with the facts. In this case, Drew is clearly channelling Stossel.

    This isn’t the first time that Drew has walked into a firestorm by resorting to dubious sources. The flak that he took a few weeks ago for using an atrocious screed in the Daily Caller as the basis for a critique of government dependency was even more deserved than what he’s taking for this piece.

    I guess the upshot is that, regardless of who writes it, partisan hackwork doesn’t go uncriticized around here. I certainly wouldn’t have challenged Drew so aggressively if he had used better sources and been more meticulous in his writing.

  57. #57 |  Elliot | 

    @americanadian (#54), you come across as a parody, compressing an impressive number of cliched hyperboles. You watch too many movies.

    If the global temperature continues to increase, then in 50 years people will likely be adapting to the change, as they have done throughout history. Sea walls may protect coastal cities. Russia and Canada will enjoy a bounty of riches as warmer temperatures will benefit them. People will watch documentaries and clip shows showing predictions from today, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

    Even better, if natural forces cause global temperatures to go into a cooling cycle, Canada will miss out on the benefits of warming, and people will still laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

  58. #58 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: Psion #55:

    I’m willing to entertain the notion that some of the Malthusians have ulterior motives because I damn near know for a fact that some of their adversaries on the right have ulterior motives. I stress some, not all, but at the same time most of the noise on the right with respect to population comes from the asshat contingent.

    These are generally the same people who insist on imposing their sick sexual neuroses and geopolitical paranoia on the public at large, e.g., Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. On the be-fruitful-and-multiply right, there’s a lot of common cause between the deeply repressed and resentful fringe of Catholic natural family planning zealots, the Mormon manifest destiny set and the Baptist/evangelical quiverfull breeders. It’s not uncommon to hear politicians, preachers or public intellectuals from this coalition speak approvingly of the fact that their followers are raising more children for the war (sometimes metaphorical, sometimes literal) against Islam and/or atheistic hedonism.

    In my more cynical moments I’ve wondered whether one of the reasons for the Catholic Church’s positions against birth control and in support of reckless breeding is to raise more children for the pleasure of pedophile priests. It’s a sick and disturbing thought, but I can’t imagine a much more positive gloss being put on simultaneous campaigns by an institution to suppress sexuality among its happily and willfully married couples and to harbor and obstruct justice on behalf of known sexual predators in its clergy. At the same time, the desire to raise more children in order to more readily go to war at a time when the US is killing and maiming the best of its youth in pursuit of dubious objectives abroad (more often an old line Protestant or nondenominational goal than a Catholic one) is equally hideous on examination, just in a different way from the pedophile priest scandal.

    For the record, I joined the Catholic Church in spite of this sickness, not because of it. I may have been too optimistic about the Church’s ability or willingness to move beyond its more stupid and destructive obsessions.

    One thing I can say for sure is that I’m awfully sick of the insinuations that the childless are that way because they hate children and families. Of course the Catholic clergy and religious are exempted from this critique because they (ostensibly) aren’t having illicit sexy time, a situation that makes the scolding all the more ridiculous but also all the more scary because people actually put credence in it.

    It has become painfully clear to me that regardless of the underlying virtue of the practices being advocated, once matters of sex and childrearing become politicized it’s time for reasonable people of goodwill to cry foul. Loudly. The zealots on both sides are prone to thrash around like bulls in a china shop, with no regard for the amount of collateral damage that they cause in the pursuit of their monomaniacal goals. A decent society confronts such people.

    All the same, it’s no wonder that so many reasonable people of goodwill disengage from the political system when they see what an intractable mess the crazies have made of it. The loudest, most influential factions in many debates clearly have no interest in compromise, consensus or the commonweal. All they want to do is foam and spit venom at their adversaries.

  59. #59 |  Elliot | 

    @Andrew Roth (#58): “left” and “right” describe directions, not politics. That’s a counter-intellectual, archaic model from centuries ago, which excludes important disctinctions and stupidly puts highly similar people at opposite ends (e.g., Hitler and Stalin) but is also used to squash highly dissimilar people into a single point (e.g., religious right and secular libertarians).

    I don’t care if people choose to have more children, so long as they take responsibility for providing for them and raising them. Any government law, tax, etc. which punishes or encourages more or less children is anti-freedom.

    The arguments against the Malthusians which I have read basically compare the predicitons with the current data, so we can all laugh. Of those sources I can recall, none of them were religious in nature, or “right wing” by any reasonable measure.

    You need to get out more. Seek out authors who are rational who express skepticism and criticism of whatever you take as common wisdom. Ignore the religious knee-jerkers.