Sunday morning, July 5, 2015, in The Daily Beast Joel Kotkin wrote an
article entitled “Green Pope Goes Medieval on Planet” in which he projected
that if we did what the Pope proposed that we should do for the environment it
would move us back into an essentially medieval society.
I am always fearing that if Republicans (and
corporations) have their way with America we will become of society of nobles
and serfs, except most serfs will not be farmers this time around; they will
work in factories. These factories will operate without regulations or rules
making the lives of American workers as grim and empty of self-fulfillment as
we imagine Chinese jobs to be in factories run by a totalitarian state.
Kotkin objects to the “green movement” plan to shove
people into dense urban environments, to do away with suburbs which waste
resources and require extended and costly infrastructure builds for water, and
sewage. Suburban living involves transportation to and from jobs which are
usually not located in suburban neighborhoods. Commuting creates pollution and
sprawl is unnecessary and self-indulgent and unsustainable, say those in this
green movement (although I don’t believe that there is one unified green
movement at this time).
Kotkin believes, as most Republicans do, that this
is an overreaction to unproven claims about global warming and climate change
and even to overpopulation. He objects to this as cattle-prodding us towards
losing our personal space in close-packed urban centers, although this move
would return wide swaths of suburban land back into farmland or natural
habitats to help us feed the coming multitudes.
Interestingly enough the Republican plan to turn
most of us into cheap labor “fodder” in order to keep the world supplied with
goods (although who will be able to buy them) and to keep that conveyor belt
carrying money to the corporate elite will also function very well to answer
the needs of the “green movement” at least in the sense that most of us will
have a much smaller “carbon footprint”. The green movement will not be happy,
however, with the extravagant burning of fossil fuels. Will so many people
being forced to live simple, feudal, therefore medieval lives balance out the
fossil fuel assault on the earth and therefore slow down global warming?
Well I hate to see us go backwards at all. The
Middle Ages, after all, were also known as the Dark Ages; years with very
little learning, art, music, and philosophical thought illuminating the lives
of most people. They were also cold in winter and hot in summer and people were
often poorly clothed and poorly fed. Mercifully their lives were often short.
Do we have to go back there?
Not if we have the foresight to plan and the
fortitude to hold out and fight for the best deal that “commoners” can
negotiate. If makes so much sense to take care of the earth that we should not
have to argue about whether the damage has affected the planet or not. It is
clear that we have not been salting away earthy gifts because future generations
might need these gifts also. It make sense to be smart and not use and abuse
the earth even if you choose not to listen to what science has to say.
We should be able to keep our books and remain a
well-educated public, to keep our creative faculties intact, to maintain a
cultural mélange and keep an enlightened respect for human rights and still
find ways to be more minimalist; to live lightly on the earth.
If the choices are to either husband the earth’s
resources or to go out in a somewhat smoggy blaze of glory (for the wealthy)
and grim labor for the rest of us, then I would rather try the plan that the
“green movement” has hatched for sustainability. Republicans believe that we do
not need to follow a plan to live a sustainable life on earth. They believe
that no matter how we plunder the earth, it will be fine because God knows what
If it seems to some of us as if God sort of lets
affairs on earth muddle along without divine interference then we had better
pick the greens over the reds (Republicans) and allow ourselves to be
voluntarily herded into whatever configuration will help us live on earth for
the foreseeable future as long as they only try to move our bodies, but leave
our minds free.
By Nancy Brisson