A quote often attributed to Gandhi reads “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This sentiment seems lost on Stephen Hesse, who, in his Aug. 26 article titled “If we ruin the air, what will our children breathe?“, writes about his trans-Pacific sojourn with a group of Japanese university students and then decries the existence of air travel as a contributor to global catastrophe.
If he believed his own rhetoric, he would persuade those students that any benefit they might receive from studying abroad is not worth the carbon dioxide emissions produced by their flights. Therein lies the conceit of the modern environmentalist. When the environmentalist flies, or uses a car, or orders trees to be cut down in order to print a book, he or she somehow does not act as accountable as the uneducated masses who are said to be killing the Earth in pursuit of their own happiness.
If Hesse truly loved the Earth, he would be living naked in a cave, chasing down wild boar with a sharpened stick.
Where Hesse — and many climate scientists — go wrong is trying to leap a two-part rhetorical chasm: Human activity is contributing to climate change; therefore, drastic restrictions on property rights and freedom in general are in order to reduce the human contribution to climate change.
That is where I disagree. Perhaps in Hesse’s world, only the “right” books would be deemed “valuable enough” to require the sacrificing of trees to make paper, and travel would only be permitted for the “right people,” and for “good reasons,” because of the carbon dioxide that would be emitted.
James Madison (the fourth U.S. president) got it wrong. “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land,” it will be in the guise of fighting not a foreign enemy, but climate change.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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