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Big Idea: Being Crunchy and Conservative These Days
So I hope I didn’t offend either American Conservatives or crunchy conservatives in my previous post. I was trying to burst stereotypes about conservatives in general for an audience unfamiliar with their work. So I’m going to digress once again by thinking a bit about being crunchy and being conservative.
In my discussion of Mr. Dreher, I was trying to say he’s the furthest thing from being a redneck or a fundamentalist or a plutocrat or whatever. He’s a literary guy dressed according to the latest “downscale” fashion hanging out at the coffee shop or wine bar with his laptop. He might be rural in theory (as so many literary types are—they have to have some place to write about, the best American literature tends to be Southern etc.) but hardly that much in practice, even as he returns for spiritual and admirable family reasons to his hometown of St. Francisville, LA. Dreher remembers that as a smart, bookish nerd he didn’t really fit in in his rural, gun-and-football-loving hometown as a kid, and he has to be okay with not quite becoming one of the guys even now.
Have you noticed that many Americans are returning for “lifestyle” reasons to rural, small town America? They can do so because they can “telecommute” and all that. Doing their work—their “mental labor”—doesn’t require that they be located in any geographical place in particular. Because they can be “displaced” economically, they can think a lot more about the place that’s best to live for reasons having nothing to do with work. They can go home, like Dreher, or they can find a place that looks a lot like home should look.
There’s a lot to the “crunchy conservative” insight that those who really care about ecology should care about a small-scale, humanly sustainable, particular place. Think locally, act locally might make a lot more sense than think globally, act locally. You don’t have to be nearly as extreme as Wendell Berry to realize that ecology includes moral ecology—acquiring the habits, manners, and morals associated with a way of life a people share in common.
Is this migration good for rural America? Well, yes and no. It’s surely good for the sticks to have more people doing high-powered mental labor. The telecommuters might be understood to compensate for the “brain drain” that came with economic centralization, globalization, and all that. The locals who work at the Walmart that replaced the local five-and-dime and hardware store and so forth aren’t allowed to think much on their jobs. And the same goes for the locals who run the bank—which is now usually merely an insignificant branch of some multinational conglomerate. The lawyers aren't usually much like Atticus Finch.
Marx was all for capitalism because it saves so many people from rural idiocy and for urbane sophistication. Capitalism is nothing if not a victory for the cities over the country. But capitalism also seems to make what remains of the country more idiotic. For a long time, people with brains and ambition had to leave the country to make their mark. But at a certain stage in technological development it becomes possible for some mental laborers—some members of the bourgeoisie—to move back.
Now the telecommuters don’t contribute much to the local economy through their work. Dreher in St. Francisville isn’t creating any significant number of jobs for the locals. When he works, he really isn’t at home.
The telecommuter’s contribution is in the demand for goods and services. He or she will want the schools, restaurants, stores, and so forth to be better or more tasteful and thoughtful. Arguably that demand for “bourgeois bohemian” amenities—such as the reconstructed “historic” downtown with all kinds of new and interesting places—is even more at the expense of communal integrity than Walmart. Things might get better—but also more expensive and less authentically local. Now the telecommuter might intend to become part of the community in his manners and morals, but that’s pretty hard to do for someone who’s had the experience of liberated sophistication. It’s not, as they say, really authentic. (For lovers of classic TV, we can call this the Green Acres problem.) It’s been said that the greatest ecological threat to rural America is telecommuting.
Is rural life really so ecological anyway? It might whip the suburbs or at least the exurbs. But it sure does require a lot of driving. People in the country aren’t subsistence farmers spending most of the time at home. Most of them drive long distances to work and the store and the movies. Now the telecommuting mental laborer works at home, but he or she too has to do some serious driving to experience what he or she knows are the good things of life. The rural orthodox believer also usually has many, many miles to travel just to get to church. There's the occasional small town—maybe St. Francisville is one—which is full of living traditions but nonetheless is large and diverse and self-sufficient enough to meet all one’s needs and wants. But they are rare and getting rarer.
If you want to find healthy, ecological living, look to our urban neighborhoods. There’s a lot less driving—a diverse array of fascinating goods and services are so close by. People get by with a lot fewer square feet, and so in another way consume much less fossil fuel. People in the city walk a lot more. For one reason, traversing city blocks is more enjoyable or more diverting than a stroll through some boring field. And walking in the city isn’t mainly for exercise or edification; it’s often just the best way to get where you really need to be.
So we see, of course, both our crunchy liberals and our crunchy conservatives in motion in two directions: toward the city and the country. It’s surely hard to be crunchy in the stylish sense in the city, but it may actually be easier to find the “community” for which all we displaced, restless Americans long in some way or another. People living on top of each other actually need each other more. And genuinely intact rural communities with living traditions treat almost all newcomers (with some good reason) as “resident aliens." (I am surely an alien—after 33 years—in the not-so-small-or-rural Rome, GA, but I have to admit I'm maybe too much about being an alien in America—another literary pretense.)
Of course if your vision of home includes lots of kids, it’s hard to choose the city. We sophisticates can’t imagine crowding kids into tiny apartments or row houses the way people so recently did without a second thought.
So my own real experience is that the highly literate crunchies, like most of us, are happiest when the herd together. And the most family-friendly and tasteful crunchy communities I know about turn out to be our older (and so sidewalk-, park-, bungalow-, and restaurant-laden) suburbs such as Decatur, GA, which has excellent or very sophisticated, high-performing schools. Because Decatur is a suburb of the southern city of Atlanta (sometimes known as the city of churches), it’s possible to be a believing, orthodox crunchy (conservative in that sense) and not be marginalized. Decatur's traditions, thanks to the crunchies, are evolving, surely for the better.
One problem: It's quickly becoming very expensive to buy even a modest home in Decatur.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.
- The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
- Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
- Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Pandemic-inspired housing innovation will collide with techno-acceleration.