Think About It

Sorry this didn’t get out on time yesterday.  I had a slight diversion to the ER. while I passed a kidney stone: very painful but apparently transitory.

NPR has a campaign sponsored by one of the fossil fuel industries (I assume) promoting the conversion to natural gas.  It’s known by it’s signature last line of appeal,the “think about it” campaign. Sort of like the “got milk?” campaign recently making news because it was being abandoned by the Milk Council (or whatever it’s called) in favor of “milk life.” (Like that is ever gonna happen!)

Problem is–you have to “think about it” only up to a point.  If you think about it too long you realize the operative phrase is “fossil fuel.”

Same thing has long struck me with respect to the electric car.

You see, both (replacing gas/coal with natural gas and replacing the internal combustion engine with electrical engines–milk I’ll stay out of) are better means of doing very stupid things.  At least very stupid on the scale we do them.

The natural gas thing is better than coal or petroleum. Emissions are better, at least.  But the problem is that the energy consumption of modern man has to get off of fossil fuel.  If we use up all the fossil fuel we can get at, the climate will be unusable.  We  won’t be able to live on the  planet.  Who cares if we can still drive from place to place on it?

Fracking, a technological innovation which makes natural gas competitive with coal price-wise, is behind the push for “thinking about it.” It has to do with continuing our use of fossil fuels, not with addressing the problems reliance on fossil fuels creates.   Same thing with electric cars. As long as we generate electricity mainly through burning coal, converting to electric is a Sisyphean exercise.

Current life is full of this kind of misdirected thinking.  Population control is  a classic example.   Something in our most human, visceral, being creates sympathy for other’s suffering.  Hence we have to respond supportively when we see a starving child in a famine prone part of the world.  Our thinking stops, though, at getting food to the victim.  Well, maybe those most thoughtful amongst us may devote our life to avoiding that circumstance from arising at all by being farmers, or advocating for food banks, or whatever. But do we associate famine with overpopulation?       There is a connection, you know.

In  fact, if you notice root causes, humanity has a very long history of not noticing the larger  implications of choices that make life easier on the short term and/or the near-horizon.  By “near horizon” I’m referring to how the decision effects one person’s life most of the time.

So, for example, we are not inclined to question indoor plumbing because it is so handy to just watch the poop disappear from our presence when we pull the lever. But the fact is that, without indoor plumbing, disease would have prevented overpopulation ever having become a problem. Modern life is chock full of such contradictions.

There is clearly no stepping back (I don’t intend to go back–do you?). But how should  we go forward? Hopefully with as much forethought as we can muster. Problem is, of  course, that  when we think on almost anything, no solutions seem to come to mind. At the moment, nothing is coming to mind.

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2 Responses to Think About It

  1. Hank Raymond says:

    With regard to electric cars… I went to the last electric car day in Reno and spoke with a guy who had an electric car and a solar array at his house. He had posted his utility bills on the window of his car. He was a net supplier of energy to the grid and the utility company paid him about $80 every quarter for the electricity he supplied to the grid, plus he was able to charge his car with his solar array and drive his car (a Toyota Leaf) as much as hi liked. Therein lies the solution to a lot of our problems. A large part of the solution lies in getting solar arrays on every rooftop.

  2. Left to non-conscious-control, species’ population will continue to fluctuate based on availability of resources. This is the natural ebb and flow of life. As you mentioned, you, yourself are not inclined to change your particular behavior regardless of the larger implications. I’m just as guilty every time I eat processed sugar, even though I know the damaging effects on my cells, teeth, etc.

    Going forward for me is to become more aware of my habits, their implications, and making better choices as I can. I can also rest assured, as Hank pointed out, that others’ passion include solutions beyond my limited thinking.

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