Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Go poop in your house

How many times have I heard that people who are "green" or want to conserve energy should not be participating in things that consume energy? For example Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies. The logic goes as follows:

  • You want people to save trees
  • You want people to consume less electricity and fuel
  • Therefore you should not be participating in an activity that cuts down trees, uses fuel to move the huge tree, and uses electricity to keep it lit.
The argument has been taken further, to mean that if you are someone who thinks we should act against artificial climate change, then you should live in the woods, in a mud house and raise chickens and lettuce.

This attitude is epitomized in this article at Fox (no surprise there).

But this time, this 72 foot tall, eight-ton weed will be lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights. That makes the tree truly “green,” as opposed to, you know, just green.

Now, this is the equivalent of Kirstie Alley ordering four Big Macs and then washing it down with diet Coke.

I mean, imagine the fuel required to bring a tree the size of a whale from New Jersey, where it grew up. It also needs a custom made telescoping trailer, as well as a huge crew. The damn thing also has a 750-pound star — almost twice the size of Joy Behar.

See, this just shows how the green movement is a stupid joke: An ideology for idiots, where symbolism trumps substance and feeling good is all that matters, even if that feeling has no basis in reality.

I mean, if you really believe in going green, then cancel the tree lighting altogether and replace it with a pagan prayer recited by a naked Ed Begley, Jr.

So, the reasoning goes, you are a hypocrite if you want a society that cares about the environment, unless you do not do any activities that provide any harm to the environment. Its a strawman. The Greens and Cleans, are not asking everyone to stop using electricity, they are not asking people to shop only in Salvation army or to farm their own stuff. There is a place somewhere in that huge middle ground that can work for everyone and the earth. The idea is to have more available energy to use, but that this energy comes ultimately comes from the sun (wind, solar) or the earth (geothermal) and while we are not getting the energy this way, to conserve what we have.

The strawman argument has a good analogy: Poop. I never intended on writing a whole post on poop, but here goes.

At some point, even before Hammurabi, we moved out of our caves where we were just pooping near the entrance when it was cold, or even in the caves! We created some civilization, and as far back as Mesopotamia (six thousand years ago), we were building systems that were designed to deal with our poop. In mesopotamia, we have found evidence that holes in the floor was made where the fecal matter dropped down into a cesspool.

Later, in Greece and in eastern countries, waste was often dealt with in the street. A home may have had a latrine but the waste would leave the latrine, via an open topped clay trough, and taken into the street. The street itself would have gutters for the waste to flow to a final destination. A very complete description of human waste management in ancient Greece can be found here and here. They had both public and private latrines. The Greek even had toilet shaped seats, sewer systems (that could be walked in) and pipe networks. This is all pretty advanced for 2-4 thousand years ago! In many ways human waste management had not progressed from there for another 2-3 thousand years!

That is not to say there weren't improvments. The Romans certainly improved health by providing a better water source by which to wash away human waste. Most people are familiar with the Roman aqueduct system. This system not only provided potable water to the population, but also a reliable method by which to wash waste out of populated areas. It was in these times where it became clear that the government was heavily relied upon to provide a system by which poop could be taken away from the living spaces.

In the late 1500s, the beginnings of the modern toilet started making way. It was Sir John Harrington who created a flushing device for the queen to take her poop away to a cesspool.

It was not until the 1800s, when John Crapper was in business manufacturing flushing toilets, so
that not just the rich could get them. But it was not he who invented the flush down system, nor the idea that having an elbow inteh drain would prevent sewer gases from rising back up into the water closet. That honor went to his contemporary George Jennings.

While the comfort and cleanliness of the personal bowel movement improved, it was the government that was required to take all that poop out to the river. for example, in Victorian times it was the
Metropolitan Board of Works of London who put together the plans and actions to dump the poop from the citizens of London into the Thames river, to put it bluntly.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's wastewater treatment centers started to crop up. The primary purpose of these systems is to prevent concentrated wastewater from large populations from going into the nearest river as raw sewage, which is dangerous for the fish population, but also for humans and animals that use the river for recreation or work.

However, it has never been an act of individuals or small groups of individuals who have put in these methods of moving poop from inside the home to out of town. In every case it has been the large investment of the local or national government that has implemented the way to help the population keep clean. It really isnt just the moving of poop. Its the cleaning of streets, the providing of clean water, removing of garbage, and so forth that in fact have brought a heightened cleanliness, health and longevity to our populations, not to mention a better smell in the streets.

This long, but hardly complete, journey into the history of poopdom was initiated to counter the idea that Greens should be living in a mud hut. By this logic, the people who didn't want poop in the streets should have gone and lived in the woods by themselves. Instead, most people, surely not without vigorous debate, decided to go ahead and spend great sums of money to move the poop out. And the government charges everyone in taxes for this benefit.

This is the same thing the green movement is promoting. Living in a mud hut does nothing to prevent the present and future suffering that is caused not just by pollution, but reliance on fossil fuels also. Greens still want to celebrate, still want to read at night, still want the same resources that are available to them to be available to their children. But it will take large expensive actions to provide these benefits, much like the aqueduct and sewer systems of old. There will still be individuals and companies who make the specific inventions and getting rich (like the toilet makers), but to implement the strategies that will help prevent suffering and improve our economy and reduce conflict, we need to have the government do the big projects (like the aqueducts).

So the next time someone tries this line of argument with you about whether you should buy a TV if you want to conserve energy; just tell them to go poop in their house if that is the way they insist on thinking.

Submit to Skeptical Blog Anthology 2009


On 1/12/09, 5:27 PM , Anonymous said...

Wow, all that from a stoopid fox article? ;-)

I agree with your overall POV - the green movement isn't about some puritanical desire for ecological correctness. However, unfortunately the author of your quote is almost right - if folks promoted the tree as green because it had high efficiency lights then that was kind of dumb.

However, to extrapolate from some marketers desire to make a city appear green to the entire "green movement" then that is entirely dumb.

What we need to move away from (fat chance) is the he said/she said style that is thrust upon us by folks like the above blogger. You see it all the time in blogs - someone takes one aspect of something and then goes overboard and comes to some spectacular conclusion. Usually though they invoke the Nazi party not Ed Bagley Jr...

So maybe we're seeing progress in this "debate" after all? ;-)

I did like your article about poop - it is a good historical parallel to why it takes a concerted effort from the government to do the right thing (without everyone having to go start spouting off about "communist states").

However, I think you chose the wrong blog entry as your starting point.

On 1/12/09, 8:06 PM , Techskeptic said...

Funny, Maybe I should reorganize the post. I didnt write all that from a dumb fox article. The Fox article was easy to find (where else would I go for hyperbole and distortion?) for the post I wanted to introduce.

I'm glad you got the gist of it, that was the intention. And I totally agree that we need to get away from the he said/she said crap (which happens to be close to what my next post is about).

But I disagree with this:

if folks promoted the tree as green because it had high efficiency lights then that was kind of dumb

If most people drive cars that get 23 miles per gallon on average and I drive a prius, isn't my driving activity more green than most? I get the same utility, do the same activity, but I have done it with less energy.

One of the point I was trying to make (perhaps poorly) was that greenies don't want to do less things, or even have to skimp. They (we?) just want the energy come from an inexhaustible source. If we can't have that (we can't yet), then we should find ways to use less energy for the things we want to do. Like the car analogy, the christmas tree that uses less energy, is just an example. I don't really see a problem with calling it green, although I do agree that its a pretty lame attempt at greenness, it would have been better if the tree was from a place more local and maybe not so big.

Thanks for visiting!

On 7/2/10, 10:51 AM , Anonymous said...


On 7/2/10, 11:39 AM , viagra online said...

That's an exaggeration must live in harmony with nature because everything has a limit and many people have crossed that line without thinking about the problems that we can bring to all, but from there to live in mud houses and in places it´s dangerous for animals too exaggerated!

On 7/30/10, 1:24 AM , Cris said...

This information is very interesting, I really enjoyed, I would like get more information about this, because is very beautiful, thanks for sharing! costa rica investment opportunities

On 8/28/10, 6:18 PM , niz said...

Hello .. firstly I would like to send greetings to all readers. After this, I recognize the content so interesting about this article. For me personally I liked all the information. I would like to know of cases like this more often. In my personal experience I might mention a book called Generic Viagra in this book that I mentioned have very interesting topics, and also you have much to do with the main theme of this article.

On 6/13/11, 5:12 PM , free online games said...

i am so happy can be here