The Biscayne Times

Aug 23rd
A New Look at Enviro-Relativism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
September 2018

Take their furs, but don’t mess with my A/C

Wbigstock-Air-conditioner-on-backyard-31978166e are not quite at the last straw, though authorities in Santa Barbara, California, are zealously ferreting out the last droopy holdouts, claiming plastic straws to be some kind of menace to the environment. But even those straws were not needed to break Joe Camel’s back; they took him out years ago. Environmentalist and conservationist groups have grown very powerful indeed in our society.

For the most part, I view this as a positive development. I am not endorsing any particular organization, but if someone claims to have seen a receipt from the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society among my tax returns, I would not be predisposed to deny the claim. Still, I try to be alert to the perils inherent in the political and cultural firestorms these organizations are wont to set off. Actually, we might do better using ice as a metaphor, instead of fire, because this type of activism is always conducted on the slipperiest of slopes.

For those unfamiliar with the expression, a “slippery slope” argument is used to support battles far from the fault lines of an issue. Opponents of legalized abortion will argue it is a slippery slope leading to infanticide. Proponents of legalized abortion argue that outlawing it is a slippery slope leading to outlawing contraception or hysterectomies. The result is that all the battles are conducted at the extremes, which in turn makes the organizations on each side of a debate more and more radicalized.

Thus, most of the supporters of causes find themselves funding entities holding much more extreme views, in the hope that they will not create monsters and that they will be able to rein in the fanatics when it becomes necessary. We do a lot of rolling of the eyes, even as we eye our bankrolls and peel off a few bills. We might be fooling ourselves a little bit, but this strikes us as a necessary evil.

For example, many of us write checks to PETA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. This organization has accomplished some important things, like improving conditions for animals in the slaughterhouse and the laboratory. However, if you listen to the leaders of the group, you quickly realize they are way off anything resembling a reservation. Ingrid Newkirk, the British woman who has been at the top of the organization for 25 years, has said clearly in interviews and debates that she sees no ethical difference between a rat and a human being. She believes that if you see a human being and a rat drowning and you can only save one, you can choose whichever you prefer.

Most interviewers just let that one hang in the air, assuming that the majority of listeners or viewers will deem it to be monstrous. But as awful as that notion is, any logician can take her thought one step further to realize that if you could save two rats or one human, you would be obligated by her ethics to save the rats!

Now I may not be the kind of nuanced philosophical thinker who can lay out for you exactly why she is wrong, and how we can prove her wrong, but I am content to say that American society rightly rejects that outlier view. And I can still write a check to PETA from time to time, under the premise that animals need some advocacy to prevent rampant abuse. Who better to do that than a crazed animal lover?

Of course, I am poised to jump ship if PETA ever gets powerful enough to challenge our right to be carnivores or to own pets. This calls for “hand-eye coordination,” keeping one hand open and one eye open at all times.

All of this brings me to the subject of air conditioning and our lives in South Florida. If there is one thing we know how to do better here than the rest of the country, it is air conditioning. You can go to Chicago in the summer, or New York City, or Washington, D.C., and you will be shocked at how high a percentage of your day is spent being uncomfortably hot. Whether in people’s homes, in business offices, department stores, or taxicabs, you find everyone is under-cooling. Somehow consciousness of heat follows you into every situation, every interaction. And whether a negotiation concerns the lunch menu or a million-dollar real estate deal, it is difficult to conduct as little droplets of perspiration roll down your spine.

Here at home we don’t worry about such things. It may be hot outside, but we don’t live out there; we live in here. We move seamlessly from house to car to store to office to restaurant and back to house. This strikes us as a pretty balanced day all around, and every bit of it is thankfully conducted in blissfully cool environments.

This has come to seem so natural to us that we manage to forget that all this has to be facilitated electronically. When the electric bills come, we remind ourselves for a moment that our cool air is actually the result of piping, and that the piper must be paid.

Indeed, the history of Florida is divided into two parts, the small state before air conditioning and the booming state after the blessed invention.

We know that the environmentalists have their hearts set on shutting down our blessed lifelines of cooled air. They went after the Freon used to cool cars, but they found some other substance that works just as well, so we began using it. But now let them dare to breathe a word against our palaces of cool, and we will banish them to the rain jungle or somewhere.

They don’t like it, we can tell. There’s something too unnatural in their eyes with turning a too-hot climate into a habitat for life lived to its fullest. They want life to be lived in its natural state or not at all. Electronically supporting life by blowing on people is seen as too bourgeois, too crass, too decadent, too self-indulgent. But much as we would like to live poetically correct lives, we are not prepared to sweat for that purpose.

Charlton Heston famously said they would have to pry his gun from his cold dead hands. Well, it turned out that no prying was necessary. Once the hands go cold, the guns are gone.

We say the opposite. You can have our guns if you can make us safer without them, but you cannot shut down the coolness of our living hands.

Blowers of the world, unite!


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