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So I hear India has been recognized by the National Geographic Society for being the greenest country in the world. Isn’t that nice?

According to the international polling firm GlobeScan, India earned this distinction through its dedication to “environmentally sustainable behavior” such as eating locally grown foods, lack of meat consumption, scarcity of electricity and running water, and deficiency of motorized transportation (public or otherwise).

India scored first with a Greendex score of 59.5. (America scored an embarrassingly low 43.7.) I assume the National Geographic Society would be delighted if everyone scored 100 by living naked in caves.

The article does admit India scored this high “more out of compulsion than conviction.” I’m sure if someone offered to provide all Indians with indoor toilets and clean running water, they would reject such amenities lest they disrupt their commitment to saving the planet (and imperil their chances for future awards).

Sadly, India’s “greenness” is decreasing as portions of the country adopt modern amenities and pull themselves out of poverty. Shocking, I know. How could they be so thoughtless? “India is … the only country surveyed experiencing increased bottled water consumption,” snarks the article, without perhaps considering that water in many parts of India isn’t treated and is rife with disease. I’d drink bottled water, too.

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Regarding the scores for other countries, GlobeScan gloats, “… economic troubles may have worked to the environment’s advantage. … Among those who reported that they reduced energy consumption at home over the past year, some 80 percent say that cost was one of the top two reasons they did so.” Translation: The poorer you are, the greener you are. Cave living, anyone?

Fortunately much of India is experiencing a severe drought, resulting in crop failures across the country. For many rural poor, this means potential starvation because electricity and irrigation (which might otherwise balance agriculture during a drought) are nonexistent. Isn’t this great? It means India can keep its high Greendex score for the foreseeable future.

Take a look at the Greendex calculator quiz, designed to test your personal Greendex score. Under the section 8, which surveys one’s opinions about the environment, there used to be a statement along the lines of “Less developed countries should have their standard of living raised closer to that of the United States.” Agreeing with this statement dinged your “Greendex” score. I notice the quiz no longer has that statement. Perhaps India complained.

This strikes me as the cruelest expression of the green movement – to self-righteously condemn the bulk of the world’s population to grinding poverty, then praise them for their commitment to saving the earth. Twisted, seriously twisted.

I understand the reason behind Greenies’ venomous condemnation of Western Civilization, particularly America. We maintain a high standard of living through equally high resource consumption. Every time you get in your car, sleep in a bed, drink potable water or eat three square meals a day, you are more fortunate than a huge percentage of the globe’s population. (That’s why I find it so ticklishly cute when someone claims they’re saving the earth by, oh, driving to a “save the whale” rally.)

But should I praise Third World countries for their generous assistance to Gaia by starving to death? Should I congratulate India for its widespread involuntary poverty as a means to save the earth? Should I discourage poor countries from improving their standard of living lest they use more resources and (gasp) maybe even have indoor plumbing?

I see hypocrisy all over this. Greenies praise poverty-stricken countries for their minimal use of resources while they themselves take hot showers, commute to their nonprofit office jobs (taking public transportation for granted) and self-righteously shop at farmer’s markets for organic bean curd. If they’re so hot to save the world’s resources through poverty, they should be the first to reduce their wardrobe to a single outfit and live in a box. Think of the resources they’d save!

I’m not justifying excessive consumerism or a go-to-hell attitude toward wise stewardship of our resources. Far from it; that’s why we ourselves live green. But I feel compelled to point out that it’s usually someone wealthy enough to choose poverty and then proclaim their lofty and superior greenness, who yell the loudest when a Third World country starts to pull itself out of privation and by extension uses more resources.

I remember reading a comment by a returning Peace Corps worker who lamented the introduction of electricity into a poor African village, alleviating some of its hardship. Somehow the village managed to obtain a television set. Now the villagers all sat around in the evening watching TV instead of gathering in the town square.

I have no love for television (actually I hate it), but I’m disturbed by the implication that staying poorer was better; that poverty equals happiness. By this criterion, portions of India should be delirious with joy.

What the Peace Corps worker didn’t want to admire (prior to electricity) was the life expectancy of 40 years, the babies lost to cholera and other water-borne illnesses, the swollen bellies and skeletal limbs. But hey, at least the villagers were living lightly upon Mother Earth! Isn’t that swell?

And now the greenies are salivating at the thought of reducing America’s standard of living toward that of India. Al “I-can’t-be-bothered-to-turn-off-my-lights-during-Earth-hour” Gore cheered the idea of vast new taxes in response to cap-and-trade. “Those taxes are good,” assured Gore. I can just see America’s Greendex score rising in direct correlation to our lowering affluence. Yippee!

Obama’s proposed “green jobs” created by carbon taxes, cap-and-trade legislation and other limits on traditional industry will result in higher unemployment, with as many as nine jobs lost for every four jobs created. This is great! It means fewer cars on the road and a diet of (locally grown) rice and beans for more people.

Now to all the nice folks at the National Geographic Society, please take a peek at Al’s 9,000-square-foot, 20-room mansion. I think he needs a few lessons from India.

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