The White House Office of Science and Technology Director John P. Holdren went on record this week as standing by his stance to de-develop the US to pre-1973 standards. “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States,” Holdren wrote along with Paul and Anne H. Ehrlich in the “recommendations” concluding their 1973 book Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions.
Yeah, right. So let's talk about what is was like to live in the northeast during the cold winter of 1973. And let's think about what it might have been like to have been more "pre-industrial."
In 1973, Flat Stanley was starting her senior year of high school. There was a fuel-oil shortage. Flat Stanley and her mother lived in upstate New York in a double-wide, on a hill, that had just been put in that summer. That made the family "new customers." New Customers couldn't get fuel oil deliveries that winter. The closest place to buy fuel oil was in a town 20 miles away. Sales were limited to five gallons per purchase, and only on the days when your license plate ended in odd or even.
Practically speaking, this meant that on the lucky Saturdays when the fuel oil store was open on days that matched the family car's license plate, that FS's mother could spend her Saturday making as many trips over snowy roads to the fuel oil station as time and weather permitted. Unless, of course, the owner was feeling pissy, in which case he would only sell to the mother one or two times instead of three, four or five times that day. And assuming, of course, that the driver could afford the fuel to make the trips.
FS and her mother would haul those precious, smelly, heavy five gallon cans of fuel up an unplowable, undrivaeble, rutted, snow-filled, dirt driveway to stand on a rickety stool, lift the can over our heads, and pour into an empty fuel tank. It was a long, cold, hard winter.
There was no running water in that trailer, and so what if there had been? There wasn't enough heat to keep the pipes thawed. We hauled our sewage out to a pit that had been dug to hold an unconnected septic tank that remained empty while our nightsoil drained into the earth. Or froze, then flowed away with the spring thaw.
For showers that year, Flat Stanley walked about a mile to a bar that had an unlit bathroom facility in an unlocked basement for summer campers. Yes, Virginia, wet, frozen hair does break on the walk home.
De-develop? How romantic -- and naive -- can a person get? Roughing it on a camping weekend, my friends, is not the same as a lifestyle.
Sure, the US as a whole can become more energy conscious. But before we go about dictating or legislating simpler lifestyles, let's think about what that really means. As hard as it was, Flat Stanley and her mother were fortunate to have had the income to be able to haul that fuel oil; we were fortunate to have had the strength to drag it through the snow, lift it to the tank, and pour it in. We were fortunate to have been healthy enough to endure the cold (hurray for work and school!).
The Flat Stanley moral of the story is, until it's you who's cold, until it's you who can't get the same basic necessities as your neighbors, until it's you who goes without, your nonsensical ideas about returning to a "simpler" time are nothing more than hot air.
Take it from Flat Stanley: There is a place for hot air, and life-changing policy ain't the place.