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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter: Course schedule printed copy

First of all, I fully support giving students the option to not receive a printed copy of the course schedule. I also fully support making distribution of the printed schedule an opt-in option. What pushes my buttons in the morally righteous rhetoric with which I was bombarded when I chose to get a printed copy of the course schedule. Now I would normally let such a minor annoyance pass, but it highlights what I believe to be wrong with the modern environmentalist movement.

Besides the subject line, there’s nothing wrong with the email. The subject line reads “”JUST SAY NO to the Printed Schedule of Courses.” In trying to mimic what is considered by many (though not, ironically, Grinnellians) universal morality regarding drugs, the subject completely misstates the email’s message. The opt-in program means every student, by default, has said no … what they mean is “JUST DON’T SAY YES,”which is a less catchy message. But the email itself simply informs me that if I want a printed schedule this semester, I must alert them via Pioneer Web. Fine.

But in telling me how to opt in, they gave me rather cryptic directions. “Look for the green frog”. What does that mean? This was my first clue that for whatever reason, they didn’t want me to give a printed schedule. But I found the green frog without too much trouble, and clicked the “opt in” link next to it. The choices were something like the following:

“Yes: I have realized that the online scheduling tools are sufficient for my needs.”

“No: The online scheduling tools are not sufficient for my needs and I would like to receive a printed copy of the course schedule”

There was a lot more morally righteous rhetoric on this page that I cannot remember off the top of my head. But by switching what any normal person would consider to be the logical definitions of “yes” and “no” (remember I’ve already said I’m trying to opt in to get the printed version) this is completely misleading. But being the thoughtful person I try to be, I actually read the descriptions and thus chose
“No”… meaning that yes, I wanted a printed schedule.

And then I was redirected to a page with a picture of a sad panda sitting on a tree stump, with the message “Colin, treehugger panda is still having a sad.”

Where, oh where, to begin.

I’ll make the assumption (which is probably wrong) that the point of setting up this process was in fact to help the environment and not, as I suspect, to save the College money.

The designer of this process is not only assuming that there exists absolute moral right and wrong, but that they know, at least in this case, which is which! This is an all too common and extremely dangerous mindset, and it is the primary mindset of the environmentalist movement. An environmentalist might say, but it is universal! Science tells us that we are the cause of global warming, and science tells us what terrible things global warming will do, so isn’t it our duty to attempt to reverse or limit this process? Isn’t that the right thing to do?
Science can tell us the cause, science can tell us the effect. Science can never tell us right and wrong. There is not universal principle of “better” or “worse”, we cannot say that the world after global warming would be any worse than the world before it. We can say that many species, including ourselves, would go extinct. But we can’t say that’s any worse.

But, the environmentalist argues, a situation in which we are extinct is certainly worse than a situation in which we are alive? Not intrinsically. That sort of “worse” is universal in a sense: (almost) all humans, motivated by the search for happiness, can agree on it. This is the language in which modern environmentalism must be rewritten. For not everyone believes they have a moral responsibility to save the whales. Not everyone believes they have a moral responsibility to humanity as a whole. But everyone seeks happiness, and in order to continue that journey, there are steps humanity as a whole must take to ensure that we do not destroy our habitat.

So no one can tell me that I was right or wrong in choosing to get a print schedule. And the attempt to make me feel guilty only ticks me off, and makes me feel (through an all too human, emotional reaction) like doing the opposite of what I’m clearly “supposed” to do.
There’s no debating with the morally righteous. The best you can do is ignore them. Ignoring environmentalism would have dangerous consequences, so I truly hope the environmentalist movement recognizes the real reason to save the planet: To save ourselves.

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