Michael Hanlon

Why do greens hate machines?

The best way to save the planet, says Michael Hanlon, is for the eco-lobby to abandon its ideological aversion to new technology

When George W. Bush last week stunned the world with his plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, no one was more surprised than the green lobby. Human psychology being what it is, no one was more furious. It is not so much the scale of the planned reductions that have offended the eco-warriors: how could they possibly quibble with a proposal — supported by China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia — to reduce greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent? No: what gets the greens’ goat is the methods that Mr Bush proposes to employ.

What drives the greens nuts is the boundless technological optimism of Washington, and they have dismissed the plan in withering terms. In the words of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Mr Bush’s efforts are like ‘a peace plan that allows guns to be fired’. It should go without saying that it is Mr Bush who is right to place his faith in mankind’s ability to think our way out of problems; and it is the poor benighted greens who are wrong.

To the greens, and to many scientists, there is only one True Path to environmental righteousness. That is, of course, to change our lifestyles. To prevent global warming, we must stop generating carbon dioxide. That means driving more economical cars, cutting down dramatically on emissions from power stations, and swathing our houses in polystyrene foam and our fells and dales in windmills.

That is what they say; what they mean, of course, is that we shouldn’t just cut down on these things but stop doing them altogether. Sell the car, take the bus. Better still, walk. Stop going on holiday to easyJetland, stay in a tent. In Wales. In the rain. Forget our civilisation and all the benefits it has brought us, forget any idea of progress and go back to keeping goats.

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