Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Tribute to "Hard Green"

Popularized by Peter Huber, "Hard Green" is the title of a book as well as somewhat of a mental paradigm combining great optimism for future technology mixed with great disdain for traditional environmentalists. I'm no biologist so I won't go into the science of it, but it's worth reading for the rhetoric alone.

In particular, this passage cracks me up every time I read it:
We can go it alone. We need energy, nothing more, and know how to get it from many more places than the plants do. We don’t need the forest for medicine; as often as not we need medicine to protect us from what emerges by blind chance from the forest. We don’t need other forms of life to maintain a breathable balance of gas in the atmosphere or a temperate climate. We don’t need redwoods and whales at all, not for ordinary life at least, no more than we need Plato, Beethoven, or the stars in the firmament of heaven. Cut down the last redwood for chopsticks, harpoon the last blue whale for sushi, and the additional mouths fed will nourish additional human brains, which will soon invent ways to replace blubber with olestra, pine, and plastic. Humanity can survive just fine in a planet-covering crypt of concrete and computers. (Huber 2000)
Quality of life inside a "crypt of concrete and computers" aside, I'm sympathetic to this view. The greatest resource is still human ingenuity; nearly everything else can be replaced. However, lots of people seem to enjoy looking at or interacting with nature, so it's probably worth saving for its consumption value, at least. Deep ecologists, gnash your teeth.

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