JOEL KOTKIN AND MARSHALL TOPLANSKY: Engineered California.
“Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.”
—Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi,” 1970
Nothing so illustrates the mindset of green politics, particularly in California, as the word “natural,” which is taken to mean unspoiled, pure, and better than the workings of man. Yet few places are as fundamentally artificial, if measured by its dependency on human intervention, as California.
So why do California’s progressives, and so many others, yearn for what the historian Leo Marx dubbed the “pastoral ideal”? Much has to do with the state’s rapid population growth from 1.5 million in 1900 to nearly 40 million today, which resulted in a regime of environmental rapine that many still living experienced.
California would not exist in anything like its modern form without massive engineering. Largely dominated by desert, flammable, dry chaparral and high mountains, California depends on human-created technology to bring water to its bone-dry coast. It taps distant dams for the bulk of its electricity and food and would have never grown its population without this manufactured transformation of its natural environment. “Science,” as the University of California’s second president, Daniel Coit Gilman, put it, “is the mother of California.”
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Equally missing is a clear appreciation of the economic effects of the state’s green policies. Historically, California’s public works—the freeways, aqueduct, power stations—were designed to grow the opportunity horizon for the majority by boosting the economy, creating opportunities for new production, and forging new communities. The current policy agenda, in contrast, has proven catastrophic for many middle and working class families.
Attorney Jennifer Hernandez has demonstrated in a recent report for the Breakthrough Institute what she calls “the green Jim Crow.“ Pushed by overwhelmingly white billionaires, these policies have escalated housing and energy prices, driving jobs and people out of the state. This has hurt minorities in particular, she claims, “deepening the state’s shameful legacy of racial injustice.”
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Found via Hugh Hewitt’s co-blogger John Schroeder, who writes, “The modern environmental movement is built on false philosophical premises – that mankind is apart from nature, that nature is static, and many others. What I find most fascinating about all this, is the adoption of such false philosophical premises is rooted in a presumption of god-like status for mankind. For Christians, seeking such a status is the very root and beginning of the concept of sin.”