As during the Gulf oil gusher last spring and summer, CONSERVATION is the real “C word” that is so obscene that few dare speak it. It is a dirty word, a forbidden word, in even the lefty blogosphere which prides itself on its freedom to say the most obscene things allowed. I tired it just to check if what's happening in Japan, which, it increasingly seems, is going to turn out to be the single most catastrophic thing which industrial science has brought to life, would make it sayable. Just as during the Gulf oil gusher, when I tried to bring it up, talking about conservation got reactions of stunned silence, angry accusations of sanctimoniousness, derisive dismissal and certain assertions that it couldn't possibly happen.
The analysis of the United States as a country that is religion ridden is way overblown. Not because atheism is far more common than is believed but because what the quite secular worship of Mammon is the real state religion. That's understandable, given our modern culture. It's a thoroughly modern religion quite compatible with modern science and the culture of modernism, post-modernism (whatever that is), and just about every other kind of -ism imaginable, except that minor religion, environmentalism. It is very compatible with pseudo-christianity, the obnoxiously ubiquitious religion that floods the airwaves, inspires right-wing politics, and whose obscenenly compensated clergy is a scandal of consumption too much for even many an ardent Mammonist to stomach.
One of the most telling reactions a mention of conservation got on the blogs this weekend was a dismissive snark asking how many people were going to volunteer to set their thermostats at 59 degrees F. Something that hadn't been mentioned since I didn't bring up specifics in the preliminary attempt to initiate discussion. The idea that it's outrageous to present the idea that instead of destroying the environment and our species with it might be worth going to the effort of conserving energy is one of the most absurd faith holdings of secular America, I assume it is considered outlandish in other places but I know it is here. The proposition holds that our extinction isn't enough to make people put on a sweater inside.
The idea that it is impossible to get people to change their behavior through the application of reason is something I've brought up here before. It's widely believed today thanks to the faith holdings of determinists of biology and the social sciences. We are taught from an early age that we are automatons controlled by atavistic forces, our unthinking, unreasoning genes, which are engaged in a relentless and unstoppable persuit of the dreariest and most unpleasant and persistent inventions of psychological mythology “the pleasure principle”, somehow to ensure their persistence in the bodies of their hosts, us. It is an idea which has no actual evidentiary basis in anything like real science but in explanatory myths.
Democracy is the belief that The People, acting as a body, can make informed decisions, the outcomes of which will change the world for the better. Or that, at the very least that those decisions CAN be, more often than not, better than any other alternative. That is the very idea which is damaged by two things, the first is this academic faith that people can't change what it asserts is their nature, a nature defined as being far more depraved and predetermined than that proposed by John Calvin.
The other thing it can't survive are lies told through the mass media and the lies encouraging consumption to increase the profits of the corporate elite have made the concept of unprofitable conservation the most unmentionable, if not obscene concepts of this new century.
Of course, it's all a lie, history shows that it is a lie, people CAN be convinced to do what they don't want to because the consequences of not doing it are worse than doing it, they can even be convinced to sacrifice their pleasure to aid people they don't know and will never see. They can be convinced to do it in favor of animals they won't see. That used to be quite common back before the advertising industry, the actual most successful application of psychology, relentlessly pounded it into the minds of Americans, hour after hour, that they were to consume, consume, consume. And that isn't evidence of the correctness of the many contradicting psychological theories of the consultants bought by the advertising agencies to give them more effective ways to corrupt The People, it's nothing more complex than the fact that it's far easier to get people to act selfishly than for the common, or even their own good. Doing the right thing is harder than doing what's wrong, but it's not impossible. No more impossible than getting an 8-year-old to do their math homework.
If this doesn't stop, we or our hoped for children and grandchildren are all going to die. I'd rather take a chance that the biological determinists are wrong and die in the attempt to save life on this planet than to just give up. That's not something which the depraved corporate media thinks is worth saying. You might have noticed that the media has been full of the hired liars of the nuclear industry, just as it was those of the petroleum industry this week, even as we see a nation and the major biological environment on our planet facing an unprecedented, conceivably fatal threat. I think it's worth the effort, I have just enough faith in human nature to think that it's worth trying. I have even more faith that the better nature of human beings matched with our ability to reason can save us from unreasoning greed.