Patrick Nielsen Hayden uses an exceptionally silly Guardian op-ed about New York City as a "dangerous, intoxicating fantasy of freedom from nature" to extol big cities' environmental virtues: places where no one need own a car; where energy and resource reclamation and recirculation are common; where, in short, we all need to be.
In fact, logically, unless your "save the planet" dreams include the deaths of billions of people (which might well happen), the last thing we need to do is reject "the metropolis" in favor of "rustic aspirations." What purveyors of the Jonathan Jones variety of handwringing pastoralism don't get, and are very invested in not getting, is that the big, crowded, dirty, dense metropolis, the kind where people can actually live happily without owning a car, is in fact hugely better for the planet than the way most First Worlders live.
The average Vermonter burns 540 gallons of gasoline per year, and the average Manhattanite burns just 90.
8% of Americans don't own a car. In Manhattan, it's about 77%.
I'm sure that in his dim, sentimental "trees good, skyscrapers bad" way, Jonathan Jones means well. But if our children and our children's children really do wind up in a world of apocalyptic climate change, "incompatible with human civilization", then cliche-ridden, thought-free nonsense like what Jonathan Jones is selling will be a part—a small part, admittedly, but a part—of what gets us there.
Unreflective pastoralism will kill us all [Patrick Nielsen Hayden/Making Light]
(Image: Manhatten in Panorama, Pete Stewart/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA)