Last year, before the Fall semester started, I posted Teaching Secular Blasphemy, where I attacked the whole “perfect life” concept that pervades our culture, inflates our expectations and makes us depressed and angry when they don’t work out. I didn’t attack this idea because of their psychological or sociological damage (which are evident) but because it is inherently unscientific.
We’re facing the beginning of another Fall semester, and once again I’m up against concepts which are at the same time unscientific and damaging to us individually and collectively. At the tip of this iceberg is the anti-natalist sentiment that pervades the upper reaches of our society. Taken to its natural conclusion, that means that my classrooms should be empty because most of my students are “traditional students,” i.e., people who graduate from high school and start college within a short time. Since their birth was after the Dinosaur Age, and since people being born are bad for the planet, they shouldn’t be there. (Such logic should give academics who advocate for progressive policies pause, but…)
At the root of this sentiment is the American environmental movement. Now I have students who will go into environmental work, and that’s a good thing. In the fog of amnesia that pervades our society, what they don’t realise is that a great deal of the environmental movement in this country is not fuelled by science but by a system of thought (if you can call it that) which is deeply unscientific and, like the perfect life idea, harmful to us all around. Let me give a few of these assumptions:
- The world was a pristine, paradisaical wilderness before the arrival of humans. That’s especially pervasive in the U.S., where the presence of the Native Americans is blithely ignored to perpetuate this idea, to say nothing of catastrophic natural events.
- This leads to the next conclusion: humans are intruders on this earthly paradise. Their footprint needs to be reduced or eliminated to rectify this problem.
- There are too many humans and the number needs to be reduced, a concept I discuss in We’re Looking for a Volunteer, Ted. (To some extent this problem is solving itself with declining general fertility, but for Americans problems never solve themselves, they have to be eradicated through social campaigns and acts of Congress.)
- The suburbs take up too much space because of “urban sprawl” and need to be eliminated. Suburbs are additionally the generators of “phonies” which are the bane of a society which values authenticity. To replace these it is necessary to house our people differently, something I discuss in Barack Obama: Dreaming of the 50 Square Metre Apartment.
- Our solutions should be “natural” and “from the earth.” That’s why renewables are such an article of faith amongst our ruling class, never mind that there are solutions which practically eliminate the carbon output while providing the energy.
- The only way to get to these results is for everyone’s (well, almost everyone’s) living standards to seriously go in reverse or, put another way, back to poverty.
There are signs that the generation coming up is starting to put things together on these issues. The most prominent sign of this is the budding pro-nuclear power movement. Boomer environmentalists (with exceptions) made nuclear power into technological pornography for about forty years. This orthodoxy is being challenged, especially in places like Germany, where the reality of a winter without Russian gas is starting to sink in.
As an engineer and a Christian, I realise that a) problems are made to the solved, and solve effectively and b) God has given us a brain and stewardship over the Earth, and we should exercise both. Additionally I know that my students are created in the image of God and that, although we frustrate each other, they deserve better than the thin gruel they’re served by their elders. My students will do more on a practical level than these myriads of activists will ever hope to accomplish.
I’m looking forward to this semester, and seeing my students in front of me.