I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.
The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide.
It's a really important point - and one that various green-washing companies, advertisers, and carbon-polluting interests are keen to obfuscate: Personal action in no way compensates for political action.
You'll note that at the very outset (and at the end), the author likens the environmental crisis to "Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States" - so his entire argument works within that comparison. Whether it's a valid comparison is a different debate,,
I honestly hated this article. Our industrial society is pretty much all of what makes life so good in this modern age. The very computer you use to read his article and he used to write and post it would be not even close to possible without our industrial society.
Is this one of those articles that is supposed to make people feel good about not giving a fuck?
The remainder of your comment is against a straw man, not the content of the article. First of all, he doesn't propose any detailed call to action, let alone the one you hastily assume, which seems to be "destroy our industrial society". What is being suggested -- uselessly vaguely really -- is that we do not accept the status quo and attack exploitative and disproprtionately destructive mechanisms which profit only the very few a the cost of everything else.
but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world—none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.
Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.
The only commonality is the narrow agreement on the issue at hand.
Which agreement somehow has no reflection on the personalities of the individuals at hand? Nonsense. The contortions being gone through in this thread on the premise that mass political action will somehow arise from individual inaction (beyond letter-writing, maybe) are back-breaking.
This work on yourself is necessary; this ambition justified. Lots of people let themselves be wholly absorbed by militant politics and the preparation for social revolution. Rare, much more rare, are they who, in order to prepare for the revolution, are willing to make themselves worthy of it.
- Georges Friedmann
"You know, you should put solar panels on the roof of the museum," they'd say, and I'd point out that I'd worked out that, even covering every available inch of roof surface with panels, we wouldn't be able to run either the three elevators or even the gallery lighting, let alone the HVAC that's just unavoidable in a museum (you can't hang art where you can't control temperature and humidity, alas). -- sonascope
if we need to, and play up the feel-good aspect of our great work without pointing out, well, as it happens, a Prius really doesn't get very good gas mileage. -- sonascope
And yes, I did forget to mention that as well as bunging on a per-kWh or per-cubic-metre consumption tax for all energy supplies and fuels and water, I would of course bung on a carbon tax, and that the proceeds from that would also go into the universal cost-of-living-increase refund pool. In my view, a carbon tax makes much more sense than a cap-and-trade system - at least in part because it can be used to cushion the knock-on effects of increased energy costs upon those least able to afford them.
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