Daniel Smith, writing for the New York Times:
On the surface, it can indeed seem as if Kingsnorth is giving up. Last week, he and his wife made a long-planned move to rural Ireland, where they will be growing much of their own food and home schooling their children — a decision, he explained to me, that stemmed in part from a desire to distance himself from technological civilization and in part from wanting to teach his children skills they might need in a hotter future. Yet Kingsnorth has never intended to retreat altogether. For the past three years, he has spent a good portion of his time trying to stop a large supermarket from being built in Ulverston, in northern England. “Why do I do this,” he wrote to me in an email, anticipating my questions, “when I know that in a national context another supermarket will make no difference at all, and when I know that I can’t stop the trend caused by the destruction of the local economy, and when I know we probably won’t win anyway?” He does it, he said, because his sense of what is valuable and good recoils at all that supermarket chains represent. “I’m increasingly attracted by the idea that there can be at least small pockets where life and character and beauty and meaning continue. If I could help protect one of those from destruction, maybe that would be enough. Maybe it would be more than most people do.”
I’d never heard of Kingsnorth, and this was a pretty depressing piece.
I (obviously) don’t agree that all technology is bad — and frankly, unless we’re willing to kill half the earth’s population, some technology is probably necessary — but I’m also saddened by the increasing conglomerization and uniformization of culture amd life.
Ultimately though it’s not up to me. I’m struck by the idea that culture is always changing, and maybe what we’re afraid of “losing” is really just a nostalgia for a specific time, for a specific culture, that just isn’t that old to begin with.
Are some aspects of modern culture bad? Could we better nurture the environment? Sure. But to overlook all the good is a mistake.
Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, and Tyler Cowen, author of Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World’s Cultures, had an interesting discussion about this topic in a (possibly heavily edited for ideology) Cato policy report in 2003.
I’m no libertarian, and I don’t think ideas, culture, and art should only be valued insofar as they attract money, but this dilemma and the demands to fix it are as old as time.