Climate change is genocide. Sure, I’m in. If the foreseeable consequences of our behaviors in the more developed world are going to lead to the deaths of millions of people with entire human societies especially in the developing world suffering first and suffering the most then those of us who fail to alter our behaviors bear responsibility thereof.
Michael Klare has expressed this idea in an article at Salon and in interviews. He claims that those of us who are doing what we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels are more or less without blame, but that it is in obligation, once people are made aware of the global consequences, to make those changes. I am on board with this is as well, but there is a little something that sticks in the craw about this related to professor Klare.
He is called a Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, but the primary locus of his teaching is on the campus at Hampshire College. My daughter graduated from Smith College, one of the five college consortium, and took at least one course on the campus at Hampshire College. I’ve been to a lecture at the National Yiddish Bookcenter, I’ve visited the Eric Carle Museum, and I’ve been to a wedding on the campus of the college. It has its charms. Wikipedia tells the story of the creation of the campus thusly:
It was a product of its time. An industrialized and mechanized society was being confronted by a counter culture which responded with a back-to-the-land ethos. The campus embodied separation from a wider society which was going in directions and growing in ways that these idealist sought to change.
But looking at the campus through the lens of not just climate change and resource scarcity, two topics the understanding of which Michael Klare can rightly be called an unparalleled expert, but of what he calls genocide, one can’t help but see as car-centric, fossil fuel dependent, and isolated a campus as there is in the United States:
The fact is this campus embodies everything that is wrong with the way in which America has organized itself since World War II given the combination of an abundance of fossil fuel energy and land which existed: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Look at the massive parking lagoons; yes, surrounded by grass, rolling hills, and trees. If Hampshire College students wish to engage with the wider world they use buses and cars, and their teachers, including Dr Klare, surely arrive in the same manner or else why the enormous parking areas?
Imagine professor Klare recommending this game changing strategy: Hampshire College begins a 10 year effort to relocate the campus to an underutilized section of nearby Holyoke, Massachusetts. It returns the current property to agricultural use and/or it becomes a center for the study of permaculture focusing on sustainable and carbon reducing food production.
New students at the college are not allowed to own cars, or at least are not allowed to use them to come and go for classes. While the current campus is provided with bus service by the PVTA, it doesn’t have the connectivity to the system which downtown Holyoke already enjoys. Furthermore, Holyoke sits on a rail connection, a form of transport which is much more energy efficient that cars or buses, which students and families can use to come and go during holidays and breaks. Beyond even that, on a daily basis the most efficient car or bus trip is the one that’s never made because walking and biking are realistic and practical options.
Repurposing the enormous stock of underutilized structures and space in a city like Holyoke, in combination with a student body, faculty, and staff which finds itself enabled to engage not just in life on campus, but also life off campus without the need for fossil fuel energy, will also have the benefit of re-energizing Holyoke and drawing thousands and thousands more people to live with a smaller carbon footprint.
If our current way of life is genocidal, as Michael Klare claims, then certainly he should insist that the institution he represents embody the change that such an awareness requires.