Earth Day revisited

From the latest photographs I see that it is a clear day in Delhi. By eliminating almost all motorized traffic, shutting down all construction sites, closing a dozen coal-fired generators, and this and that, particulate levels in the world’s most air-polluted capital city have fallen to less than half the previous normal. Higher-caste residents are quoted expressing their amazement at how clean the air is, and the pleasure they take in breathing. India’s poor, and Delhi’s, may take a different view, but unknown to our global media.

It is Earth Day, the fiftieth anniversary, and this year I may feel it unnecessary to turn every electric device in my apartment on for Earth Hour, and leave the refrigerator door open. The truth is, that this had little effect anyway, for my instinctively neo-Luddite habits had long since minimized my electrical consumption, and limited my collection of artificially powered gadgets. Too, my Scottish genetic heritage kicks in. I can only bear to leave the fridge door open for about three minutes, and the stovetop burning long enough to make tea. My commitment to “iniquity signalling” is shamefully lax.

I would actually like the air to be cleaner (as it is in all developed countries), and less plastic to be floating in the oceans (mostly from the underdeveloped ones). I would also like the great sprawling conurbations, both East and West, to be downsized, broken into self-reliant neighbourhoods, detoxified, humanized instead, ticky-tack suburbs returned to farmland, and so forth. My plans for this are poorly thought through, and may be as incoherent as any fruitcake environmentalist’s. …

Well, not that incoherent. I’ve left out the maglev trains.

From the age in which I was raised, I retain at least one Whole Earth principle. The hippie it came from was Immanuel Kant. He called it the “categorical imperative,” and held that, for all sentient creatures, the central commandment of reason is to do as you’d be done by. Gentle reader will note that I amended it, discarding Kant’s universalist calculations, and substituting the implicit and explicit commandment of Jesus of Nazareth, the Saints, Moses, Socrates, the Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tan, and older moral authorities. We must not pretend that the Enlightenment changed anything, unless it was to install atheism as the default position for reason itself — which in turn leads to the abandonment of all inconvenient forms of human decency, the innumerable revolutionary massacres that followed, aborting our own children, &c.

Some hippies sometimes glimpsed the ancient truths, on their mentally clear days, grasping if only briefly that “power tripping” is the opposite of goodness.

We should try to recover our moral poise. This involves the replacement of feigned by legitimate reason, and its supplement by wisdom and faith. For better or worse, however, these possessions can be acquired by only one person at a time, through humble and unceasing work.

Earth Day, by contrast, is a celebration of eco-arrogance and vanity, for all the proponents of “structural change.” (This is the current slogan-code for the imposition of socialism.) It is an example of exactly what blocks the advancement of all such unstructured activities as kindness, devotion, loyalty and love.