08 November 2015

Planetary Magic

On a finite planet with a closed atmosphere, we continue extract coal, oil, gas and water as if all three are replenished by magic springs, partying like it's 1999 (or 1929). We then dump the spoils of all this consumption, our tremendous amount of waste and pollutants, onto and into the land, sea and air as if magic filters will scour and remove our slag and detritus as quickly as we deposit it.

It is easy to understand becoming drunk on power with the advent of pistons, turbines and electric current doing the work of multiple humans. Who wouldn't embrace affordable lighting, heating, refrigeration, sanitation, and fast, comfortable transit, mass or personal? Even allowing for ignorance and greed during our early years of ecstasy as the Industrial Revolution unfolded, or blind faith that all this magic will continue to be provided by just-in-time technology or "god," by now anyone with even a modicum of wisdom can see that this is fantasy and fallacy. Oil, gas and water are dwindling and becoming more difficult, costly, and risky to extract. If these gods are going to step in and make it all better before Earth is just a tiny, spinning, lifeless cesspool in the universe, they'd better be about it.

Anyone who cannot see that we are fouling and killing land, air and sea as well as their inhabitants is in deep denial—or doesn't give a shit, which is even worse. Those who can afford to own, heat and cool one or more homes that contain arguably ten times the reasonable living space required per any human occupant, do so. Those who cannot afford to, thanks to the different magic provided by the finance industry, do so as well. By many estimates, we throw away up to 40% of our food, much of it before it even has a chance to be prepared. From Harley to HUMMER to Hatteras to Gulfstream, it ain't all-Amurican recreational fun if it ain't big and loud and it don't burn fossil fuel. A certain breed of asshole adopted the truly idiotic and obnoxious practice of "rolling coal," which takes something known for its fuel efficiency and, in recent years and despite recent setbacks, even cleanliness—the diesel engine—and makes it as fuel inefficient (and dirty) as is possible. What exactly is the primary winning force at work here that continues to feed this culturegreed, corruption, stupidity, apathy or denial?

All this reckless behavior while continuing to crank out consuming and waste-producing people at a rate faster than they're dying (or we're killing them) off. I personally remain in a non-dead condition thanks in large part to modern medicine—and the insurance that I am fortunate to have. (That it cost a million bucks for my cancer treatment, and whether I'm even worth two commas, is fodder for a future entry.) But we're keeping people alive, myself included, who simply would not survive the beginning of life or, if so, make a shorter run to the end of it.

Until we get real about having had the gift of some readily available and extremely dense energy sources along with clean, safe water sources for the past couple of centuries or so and understand that we simply must throttle back and make do with less, things are not going to work out. It takes twenty square feet of solar panels and ten hours of bright sunshine to produce the same amount of energy contained in the single gallon of diesel fuel you can carry with one arm. [I pulled that ratio straight out of my ass; to anyone who bothers to do the math/research and provides proof, I'll be happy to make the correction and give credit.] The sooner we all figure out and accept reality, the less painful—if even possibleadapting to it will be. And for most of us who don't manage to exit the premises before the defecation begins to truly hit the ventilation, it will be painful. Heading toward wind, solar, and whatever renewable resources we can develop and tap will be more like heading toward the era of burning wood and dung than it will be like the era of burning gas and oil.

If only we could harness and convert to usable energy the effort that goes into producing all the bullshit that goes toward convincing us that everything will be fine.