… is from page 45 of Will and Ariel Durant’s 1965 book The Age of Voltaire:

Word peddlers tend to idealize the countryside if they are exempt from its harassments, boredom, insects, and toil.

The sort of affection that modern humans – those of us accustomed to commerce’s cornucopia – have for nature is chiefly an artifact of trade, industry, and other economic arrangements that so many environmentalists, such as Bill McKibben, unthinkingly disdain.

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SaulOhio November 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

Thats why, when we want to spend time in nature, we do it on vacation, just a week or two out of the year, and we bring as much civilization as we can on our backs. Bug spray, matches, tools, tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, and so on.

jjoxman November 21, 2011 at 8:27 am

Yup. These guys should try a summer on my little hobby-farm. I do most of my chores on the low-tech side, but only because I like to. When you think for a living, working with your hands can be meditative. If I had to actually scratch out a living using hand-tools, it’d be damn hard. Especially with the winters we get. The only reason I can get away with being way lower-tech than all my neighbors is because of externally-generated income, that I can only do because I’m high-tech in my income-generating business.

I’d like to see one of these nature-as-ideal pinheads spend just a day with me planting. They wouldn’t last an hour.

Paul Brinkley November 21, 2011 at 8:45 am

Perhaps what you really meant was “I do most of my chores on the low-tech side, but only *when* I like to”.

As you imply, it’s one thing to spend a week at a dude ranch. It’s another thing entirely to run a farm well enough to live off it. I remember getting up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, finding no pressure, and realizing I had to suit up, walk the ground from the house to the well two pastures away until I feel squishing, dig around there until I find the leak (gophers gnaw PVC for some reason – still, I’m thankful for PVC over the iron pipe we used to have), and patch the pipe. It didn’t matter that it was 1am in January – in fact, it made it more important, since all that expensive water running all over the place was likely to spread and freeze and make the leak even harder to find and fix in the morning.

Much as I don’t like desk jobs, I remember the alternatives.

Some might say, “that may be great for you, but someone else still has to work that crap job on the farm”. I say, no, not really. People got good enough at farming to sustain more and more non-farmers. Those non-farmers have since gone and made the farming life much easier in turn. Remember: PVC.

rbd November 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

Good point. I grew up farming in western KY. There came a time when we decided to “rent” out our farm to those who had invested in the technology and could do it cheaper than we could. It freed us up to pursue other, more profitable (and certainly less labor-intensive) jobs. We have since sold all of our equipment, and just rent out the land.

I don’t miss farming, except for having 300 wide-open acres at my back door.

jjoxman November 21, 2011 at 10:36 am

Yeah, that’s probably more accurate. If I’m in a hurry (because winter is coming, for example) I bust out the motorized hardware.

W.E. Heasley November 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

“Word peddlers tend to idealize the countryside if they are exempt from its harassments, boredom, insects, and toil“. – Will and Ariel Durant

“The sort of affection that modern humans – those of us accustomed to commerce’s cornucopia – have for nature is chiefly an artifact of trade, industry, and other economic arrangements that so many environmentalists, such as Bill McKibben, unthinkingly disdain“. – Don Boudreaux

Yes, that sentimental countryside. Yes, that golden age that never existed in the first place. Eden as it were. Maybe environmentalists are really half-baked sentimentalists.

“No doubt one chief reason for the unclear and contradictory theories of class relations lies in the fact that our society, largely controlled in all its organization by one set of doctrines, still contains survivals of old social theories which are totally inconsistent with the former. In the Middle Ages men were united by custom and prescription into associations, ranks, guilds, and communities of various kinds. These ties endured as long as life lasted. Consequently society was dependent, throughout all its details, on status, and the tie, or bond, was sentimental.

In our modern state, and in the United States more than anywhere else, the social structure is based on contract, and status is of the least importance. Contract, however, is rational – even rationalistic. It is also realistic, cold, and matter-of-fact.

A contract relation is based on a sufficient reason, not on custom or prescription. It is not permanent. It endures only so long as the reason for it endures. In a state based on contract sentiment is out of place in any public or common affairs. It is relegated to the sphere of private and personal relations, where it depends not at all on class types, but on personal acquaintance and personal estimates.

The sentimentalists among us always seize upon the survivals of the old order. They want to save them and restore them.”

– William Graham Sumner, 1883

Greg Webb, librarian clowns, et al November 21, 2011 at 11:31 am

Humans are part of nature, usually a bad, destructive part, unfortunately. To call that affection or appreciation for nature an “artifact” is a bizarre choice of words. Nature isn’t artificial, capitalism, militarism, billionaireism, etc. IS thoroughly artificial.

Human population is out of control and has created huge calamitous distortions in the natural world, causing mass extinctions of vast ecosystem and lifeforms, and is unsustainable – leading to collapse. In 1930 there were 2 billion people on earth; in 1960, 3 billion; now, there are 7 billion. Where and when will the madness stop? Librarians don’t care a wit about these problems. They only care about their ice cream sundae and smelly old librarian books. Truely an addled-brain syndrome for which a cure is not readily available. Some sicknesses have no cure.

Urstoff November 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

Says the still-breathing human posting on an internet blog.

Not Sure November 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

“Where and when will the madness stop?”

I don’t know, but progressives at least are sure to stop reproducing in order to alleviate the problem any day now, probably.

Fred November 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Poverty is romantic.

Jon Murphy November 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm

One of the things I have found…less then compelling about the environmentalist/overpopulationist Malthusian predictions is that the world cannot support the 7B people currently living here, that we will run out of resources and everyone will starve.

Where, exactly, is the evidence for this?

One may point to hunger worldwide, but those issues are caused by interventions to trade. North Korea refuses to grow enough food. Governments block GM foods (despite the fact no one has gotten sick never mind died from these foods). The US ethanol & farm subsidies constantly drive the price of foodstuffs higher worldwide. We eliminate those barriers and global hunger will be greatly reduced if not eliminated.

Also, where is the evidence we will run out of resources? As Don has said (and is on the record), our supplies of natural resources have increased, not decreased. Plus, as technology is invented, our resources can be stretched farther and farther. There is no historical precedence for such a fear, so why does it happen?

Matt Ridley wrote about this very topic in his book The Rational Optimist. If you’ve not read it, I suggest you do.

Jon Murphy November 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm
Greg Webb November 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm

It is an excellent book!

GiT November 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Sounds familiar.

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.”

vidyohs November 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Just the other night I was channeling my Great Grandfather Og 500 times removed, and he told me and my family, “Don’t let any of those silly shits in the that whackoenviro movement try to tell you that living off of nature is an ideal life……..oooops gotta go now, have a Cave Bear trying to force its way in to eat the children.”

It made for an interesting conversation in the home after he broke the connection.

Russell Nelson November 22, 2011 at 1:58 am

s/insects/pests/ because mice can be really bad in the countryside…

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