The Simple Life?

It’s 2016, and I still encounter people who yearn, and call, for what they consider a ‘simple life,’ like the lives our ancestors lived. Now, I have no problem with people making their own clothes, growing their own fruits and vegetables, etc. What I do have a problem with is people decrying those aspects of modern development and progress which, among other things, keep us alive, and make our lives easier.

These are the folks who protest things like genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) crops, demanding instead an all-organic-all-the-time-regardless-of-the-circumstances lifestyle, call for everyone to ‘get off the grid,’ and protest development of any kind, even in underdeveloped, or Third World, nations, going so far as to romanticize the ‘traditional’ ways of those nations. (Tradition for tradition’s sake is, in my humble opinion, foolish.) And these folks say they protest these things because they’re concerned about, among other things, the environment; the claimed concern about the environment has gotten to the point where the desire for the ‘simple life’ has been confused, and conflated, with environmentalism. But are these people really concerned about the environment? I actually don’t doubt they are, but I also believe they’re trying to have it both ways, in that they fight any kind of development anywhere in the world, while themselves enjoying the fruits of that development at home. Never mind that people who don’t have access to these developments–for instance, farming technology and medicine–die because they don’t have these developments or access thereto. It seems, to me, that the anti-development, anti-GM, all-organic-all-the-time crowd is made up mainly of middle- to upper-class people who were bred, if not born, in more or less sheltered ivory towers, who apparently can’t be bothered checking their privilege at the door.

I don’t support science for the sake of supporting science; I support science because it has a proven track record of actually working. For instance, genetically engineered crops such as golden rice have the potential to feed people all over the world, including those who have no other options, whereas crop yields of organic farming, by itself, are 25% less than those of conventional farming. The folks who oppose GE crops of any kind and cry ‘organic is the only way,’ and oppose any other kind of development and progress, claim they have scientific evidence to back up their claims, but, if they ever present any, it’s bogus, as the anti-progress crowd actively misrepresents science,  and/or use scare tactics and appeals to emotion to get the public to listen to them, and to get what they want. If this crowd has science on its side, why do the people therein feel the need to use such tactics? And let’s not forget that, as often happens when this crowd gets what it wants, people die. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t consider any ‘solution’ that results in genocide on a scale that would make Pol Pot and Augusto Pinochet look like humanitarians to be any kind of solution at all.

The truth is, the world is much different place now, in 2016, than it was even one hundred years ago. We’ve come too far, in terms of scientific, technological, social, and other forms of progress and development, to ‘get off the grid,’ turn the clock back and live the lives our ancestors lived. But, because of the scientific and technological advancements we have in this day and age, we in developed societies live longer and better lives than our ancestors did. I realize the planet we live on is the only one we know we’ve got, and I want to protect what we’ve got for the sake of future generations, but I’m not about to give up the advancements I’ve spent my life taking for granted and go back to the Dark Ages, or earlier. Also, what’s deemed the ‘simple life’ is actually anything but–our ancestors didn’t have the machines or other advancements that we have, so they actually had to perform hours of (literally as well as figuratively) backbreaking work to feed, house, and clothe themselves, and their life expectancies were shorter than ours are–hell, children have been known to die, sometimes before their fifth birthdays, mostly because of diseases which, in our era, are fully preventable, by way of hygiene and medicine. And yet those who live among us now who call for the world to give up the advances we have and our current quality of life and return to the ways of our ancestors don’t seem to realize that the vast majority of people who would do so wouldn’t last very long. Also, the vast majority of us, especially in developed, industrialized societies, after years of taking things like running water/indoor plumbing, refrigeration, central heating, medicine, and other scientific and technological advancements for granted, are too soft to stick this sort of thing out for very long.

That’s what angers me most about these people who decry the advancements we have now and call for a return to the ways of those who came before us: They ignore reality, cherry-pick the past (much like folks like David Barton), and use sensationalism, and even doomsday rhetoric, in an attempt to get the rest of us on board with their program(s). Alarmism sells ideas, but Chicken Little rhetoric is not what we need right now. Progress is not only a good thing, it’s necessary. But the world needs progress that benefits everyone, and doesn’t just make someone a buck.


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