While visiting Central Europe in November and December 2018 in conjunction with the United Nations climate conference in Katowice, Poland, I was quite struck by the drab and depressing architecture.
Many apartments built during the country’s communist rule all take the form of ugly, tall, concrete, block-style tenement buildings, and numerous commercial buildings are just as drab and uniformly depressing.
In Prague, at the Museum of Communism, which was built so younger generations of Czechs would understand the devastating toll authoritarian socialism imposed on the country, I was struck by a special exhibit detailing the deliberately dehumanizing nature of these buildings. The Communist Party imposed these buildings on the people in the name of “efficiency,” The exhibit explained how limiting architectural variety also deliberately limited individualism in a government-controlled society.
In 2009, Vaclav Klaus, who was then the president of the Czech Republic, warned the West that the modern environmental movement had been taken over by authoritarian socialists in disguise. Klaus saw the very same devastating agendas that were imposed on his nation by the Communist Party being reborn in the United States and elsewhere, under the guise of environmental activism and combating global warming.
Commentators such as James Delingpole have described this new movement as the “Watermelon” movement—because it’s green on the outside but red on the inside.
One such example is architecture. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ominously illustrated this development on April 24, criticizing New York City’s beautiful and iconic architecture. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, de Blasio blasted the city’s signature steel-and-glass buildings for contributing to global warming and being energy inefficient. De Blasio then pledged to eliminate architectural freedom by banning all new steel-and-glass construction under a city-wide “Green New Deal.”
If de Blasio had it his way, the iconic Chrysler Building would never have been built; neither would the Empire State Building. Instead, all of New York City would be as depressing, monotonous, and dehumanizing as the architecture in East Germany and in some older parts of Poland. De Blasio and the environmental left didn’t have the power to prevent the prior construction of New York City’s beautiful architecture, but they plan to prevent any such buildings from ever being built again.
This is not just de Blasio being a maverick. The Green New Deal congressional resolution introduced by socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) would require “eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.” This would include a “national mobilization” to require “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency.” Government workers would audit all homes and buildings and “upgrade or replace every building in the U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”
Under the Democrats’ absurd reforms, large windows allowing ambient light would no longer be permitted. Smaller windows would allow less internal heat or cooling air to escape. Steel must be replaced by more heat-retaining concrete walls.
Visually appealing design features, along with other unique and intriguing architectural designs, would need to be replaced with rectangular block construction that more efficiently retains internal temperatures.
No, these aren’t exaggerations. Changes such as these would be mandatory to meet “maximum energy efficiency … as much as technologically feasible.”
De Blasio just sent a warning shot across the bow of architectural beauty and American individuality. But de Blasio proposed nothing new; he merely illustrated to a national audience what the environmental left has long been advocating and what Klaus, Delingpole, and others have been warning us about all along: The environmental left and their Green New Deal are as much about destroying individual freedom and the iconic American culture as they are about reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
James Taylor (JTaylor@heartland.org) is a senior fellow of environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.