Sunday, February 19, 2006

changing the world

The conservative position has canonically been one of restraint. As William F. Buckley said, "it is the conservative's job to stand athwart history and say 'Stop!'". Thus, one would think that following the death of the idea of state-controlled industry, that classical liberalism could define itself free of reactionary tendencies impeding progress. But one man's progress, amongst progressives, seems to be a step backwards to others.

I bring this up in reference to recent scavaging of World-Changing: This website is dedicated to an exploration of the methods and technologies used by leapfrog nations in the developing world, not only BRIC and Africa, but unexpected places like Native American reservations developing wind power. I grew very disheartened when I read the comments to an article about a solar-powered combination streetlight/wireless relay which has the potential to bring renewable nighttime lighting and network access to billions daily. But what do all the self-hating 1st World commenters have to say? Wind power will kill birds! The streetlights will cause light pollution! American roads weren't designed for hybrids!

Every argument an appeal to horrific consequences which never arise. In 1976, an EPA official scratched plans for a prototype hybrid engine remarkably similar to the Synergy drive in the Prius. The same short-sighted ignorance exists on either side of the aisle today. I find the ligth pollution charge particularly grievous: we would rather have the rest of the world curse the darkness then build a green lighting source, or, lest they add to the carbon cycle, light a sooty candle. They seem to suggest that people in the developing world don't deserve to be able to walk home at night without being mugged. If you read the article, it references actual research which shows that streetlighting reduces crime - not to mention the added benefit that foreign development workers are more likely to stay in a country with a reliable lighting and power infrastructure. Democracy depends on solid ground.

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