by Patrick Appel
Elizabeth Kolbert has penned an entertaining article on No Impact Man and similar eco-crusade books:
The nouveau Thoreauvians have picked up from “Walden” its dramaturgy of austerity. Their schemes require them to renounce (if only temporarily) various material comfortscars, elevators, Starbucksthat their neighbors take for granted. Renunciation sets them apart and organizes their lives in the name of some higher purpose. The troubleor, at least, a troubleis that it’s hard to say exactly what that purpose is.
A more pointed paragraph:
A more honest title for Beavan’s book would have been “Low Impact Man,” and a truly honest title would have been “Not Quite So High Impact Man.” Even during the year that Beavan spent drinking out of a Mason jar, more than two billion people were, quite inadvertently, living lives of lower impact than his. Most of them were struggling to get by in the slums of Delhi or Rio or scratching out a living in rural Africa or South America. A few were sleeping in cardboard boxes on the street not far from Beavan’s Fifth Avenue apartment.