Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sackcloth Chic

Let me introduce you, again, to David Williamson...

A blog I never miss is Van Peebles Land, written by an Irishman who now lives in Wales. David Williamson is a journalist, but I think he has credentials as a poet as well. His prose is quite extraordinary and his insights well worth thinking about. David gave me permission to reproduce this blog for you here. If you want to read him regularly, go to Van Peebles Land. The following is by David Williamson.
A Puritan spirit beats at the heart of the environmental movement and chimes with something deep in the British and Celtic soul. Thrift, careful use of resources and suspicion of ostentatious consumption are suddenly back in fashion.

While our Californian cousins – the descendants of great-grand-uncles caught up in gold-rush fever – may groan that petrol prices make driving a Hummer unviable, we never quite understood why they had bought a car the size of Cuba in the first place.

We are a generation whose grandparents told tales of World War II rationing in the cheeriest tones, nostalgic for a time when butter was as great a luxury as champagne. Going “green” is an opportunity to embrace a code of contented simplicity.

We are thrilled to have permission to create compost heaps larger than Snowdon and screwing-in high energy lightbulbs ignites the twin national joys of saving cash and DIY. The social pressure to upgrade one’s phone every couple of days has evaporated; frugality rocks.

And holidaying in Britain avoids not just carbon-spewing planes but the ghoulish experience of airport check-in. Trains are becoming once again the most romantic way to move between points on a map.

But it is hard to imagine our delight in sackcloth chic being emulated on the other side of the Atlantic, where towns have been designed to facilitate the swift passage of family cars between home and the mall, rather than the scuttle of urchins from the workhouse to the nearest chimney.

American society is likely to demand that policymakers, energy suppliers and industry do their absolute darndest to keep the running costs of multiple vehicles, air-conditioning systems and a speedboat within the reach of middle-income households. In a responsive democracy, politicians will snap to attention and plate the deserts with solar panels.

With the right investment hydrogen and – should a 21st equivalent of Isaac Newton emerge – nuclear fusion could be harnessed and usher in an era of clean and even more plentiful energy than the West has enjoyed hitherto.

Pleasure-loving epicureans will thumb their noses at hemp-wearing stoics as they drive past in pick-up trucks with hot-tubs bubbling in the back.

You can glimpse this future at, where General Motor’s showcases an upcoming electric car with a vroom-factor too high for most sandal aficionados.

In the coming reality parents may be stripped of a reason to bark at offspring to turn the lights off. War for oil would seem as ludicrous as an invasion for Marmite.

But, of course, there’s also the possibility the world’s economy will collapse if giant energy companies are left with nothing to sell.

Unfettered consumption and economic meltdown sound equally exhausting. In the meantime, we can enjoy the quietly intoxicating pleasure of moderation in all things.

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