Environmentalism and puritanism

Charlie Stross links to this piece about environmentalism, which says some interesting things (e.g., “Go after pollution sources with the highest benefit/cost ratio, not those which are most noticeable” — such as underground coal fires rather than aviation emissions), and then goes on to say some interesting things himself:

Expecting everyone to dump their standard of living in the shitter in order to save the environment is not a realistic strategy because humans don’t work that way. … If you really want to know how humans work, in the mass, you need to look to economics; and if you want to effect positive environmental change, you need to figure out how to make people want it.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the modern environmentalist movement is a puritan religious movement in secular drag. But that doesn’t mean that fixing our environmental problems isn’t a good idea. Nor are we going to get there by wearing sackcloth and ashes, mortifying the flesh, and trying to live like mediaeval subsistence-farming peasants.

The Puritans weren’t the archetype of self-abnegating killjoys; they were simply the English 16th-century manifestation of a human tendency that persists to this day.