A gay rights lawyer known for his gay marriage advocacy and defending transgender rights lit himself on fire and committed suicide yesterday as a protest against global warming.
Sixty-year-old David Buckel was found burned to death in Brooklyn with a note near the body that said:
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” Buckel wrote the Times in an email. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
“A life of privilege requires actions to balance the harm caused, and the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility,” Buckel added.
“For if one does not leave behind a world better for having lived in it, all that remains are selfish ends, sometimes wrapped in family or nation.”
It would be unseemly to speak ill of such a disturbed individual. Instead, we should blame liberalism, which fosters such outrageously exaggerated sentiments — embracing them as reality instead of simple, moral posturing.
First, he is wrong historically. The history of human progress is the history of a journey from primitive conditions, long working hours and backbreaking toil into one of much greater leisure, abundance and health. This is one of the many things that fossil fuels have done for us: by supplying the energy intensity equivalent of many hundreds of horses, many thousands of men. Compare the average lifespan of people who lived in the West before the Industrial Revolution and people who live in it now. The disparity makes an absolute nonsense of that stuff about “many” dying “early deaths”: people had it way worse in the pre-industrial age.
Second, he is wrong economically. Every decision involves trade offs. When we opt to use, say, renewables over fossil fuels we are sending a message to the world: that we prize green virtue-signalling and the bank balances of crony capitalists in the renewables sector over the needs of ordinary energy users and the broader economy. There is nothing intrinsically noble about rejecting fossil fuels in favor of energy which is more expensive, more inefficient, more economically disruptive and, ultimately, more environmentally damaging.
Third he is wrong logically. Dousing yourself in gasoline and committing suicide by self-immolation is a horrible way to go. But it tells us no more about the evils of fossil fuels than driving your car at 100mph into a tree would tell you about the evils of cars. “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” claimed Buckel in one of his suicide messages. But there was no honor in this death. It was just ugly, pointless and sad.
Is it worth it being so analytical about someone who has lost touch with reality? Ascribing logic or reason to the illogical and unreasonable is futile.
Instead, as a critique of the ideology underpinning Buckel’s words, it is spot on.