Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is "Green" Self-Eliminating?

Garrett Hardin, in his well-known Tragedy of the Commons included a section entitled “Conscience is Self-Eliminating” where he discussed Darwin’s insight that you can’t rely on human conscientiousness to control population growth because the tendency to act on conscience is a variable human trait.  The people who would act on conscience to curtail their reproductive behavior would pass this tendency along to fewer children, and the tendency to act according to conscience would be washed out of the population in just a few generations.  The potent irony with this is that the attempt to tap into our altruistic propensities would actually make things worse in the long run by eliminating those very propensities.  

Ironic and extremely counterintuitive.

I’m wondering whether there is a somewhat analogous dynamic in play with respect to “being green.”  Convincing people to “be green,” conserving gasoline, recycling, avoiding plastics, using energy efficient appliances, reducing consumption, etc., actually buys more time for the global industrial machine.  The more time the industrial machine is allowed to operate unabated, the worse off the planet will be when the machine finally implodes—the larger the dependent human population, the fewer remaining animal species, the more toxic the land, air, and oceans, etc.

Also, “green” behavior provides an outlet for the guilt people of conscience naturally feel over their complicity in the ongoing industrial holocaust.  In what ways might this guilt be harnessed if it were not for the corporate-sponsored mass-delusion that wearing hemp shirts, riding  a bicycle, and buying locally grown organic produce somehow magically helps save the planet?

I think that there might be more potent ways in which to assuage a guilty conscience.

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