Social, Economic, Enviromental Responsibility

Tag: environment

Historical Perspective

Over the last decade, Christopher Columbus has become a villain. A racist tyrant, bringing with him death and enslavement to a peaceful, idyllic landscape.

Before that, he was a hero. An explorer of the highest caliber.

Both are false.

We need to stop judging historical figures solely by our current (and waivering) morality. Christopher Columbus was a man of his time, who knew no better than what he knew.

He’s vilified for what reason? He failed to rise above his social expectations and meet ours? And George W. should have known there weren’t WMDs 30 days before he knew there weren’t WMDs in Iraq.

I bring this up to illustrate our current mindset: We’re very a much an all or nothing society.

Columbus is a villain because he carried diseases and opened the Americas to colonization, Jefferson is a villain because he owned slaves. Clinton is a hero because of the economy (which we should now realize, no one has control of the economy).

In environmental terms, we need to understand that “green” technologies still have a negative side. Every decision we make is two-fold.

If we can understand that Columbus made both brilliant and terrible decisions, then we can begin to understand that solar power has negative impacts.

What we need to do is lessen our negative impact. Certain clean technologies will allow that, just like certain lifestyle changes.

There will still be impacts on the planet, but not so severe or irreversible.



People dislike government.

It’s not hard to understand why. While politicians talk about grand plans and high ideals, the day to day interaction with “Government” is terrible.

No matter how great a program might be, the awful service at the BMV, the perceived laziness of road crews, potholes, and the IRS; influence a persons overall opinion of government.

There’s a disconnect. Whether it’s a Democrat or Republican controlled government, the lines at the BMV stay long and slow.

The same thing has been occurring in the environmental movement. Well intentioned teachers taught about the destruction of the rain forest and its endangered species to young students (myself included). Those students developed a disconnect between environmental issues and their own backyards.

Deforestation only happens in the rain forest, endangered species only live in exotic locales.

What’s worse; the debate has moved into the ethereal realm of global climate change or into the visceral realm of whaling.

Like politicians failing to improve the daily interactions with government, the environmental movement has failed to connect people to the environment outside their doors.

There are endangered or threatened species in every state and every country in the world. In some areas, the extinction is so great that native species are considered foreign invaders and vice versa.

“Saving the Planet” starts in the backyard.


Something caught my ear on television today. There’s a special on Reagan’s presidency.

What caught my ear was one of Reagan’s cabinet members mentioned that he often disagreed and argued with Reagan in regards to the USSR’s economics.

What this means is that groupthink was avoided.

That is important. In one of the most heavy-handed presidencies, what Reagan wanted; Reagan got, there was actual discussion and debate.

Contrast this with the current rhetoric in the environmental “movements.” There is no discussion, there is no debate, and there certainly is no dynamic course of action.

It’s all rhetoric. The few people making inroads are the producers of “The Cove” who are slowly stopping the Japanese whaling and dolphin killing. And some automotive makers, who are making great strides in environmentally friendly automobiles.

Meanwhile, various groups with various agendas are still “protesting” and demanding “change.” What ends up occurring is discordant noise.


There are two grocery stores in the area around my parents house. Dad chooses to go to the poorer neighborhood and purchase his groceries.

The selection isn’t as good, the workers aren’t as friendly, the store isn’t as trendy as others. Why go there?

Because it’s the last grocery store in that neighborhood; if it closes, healthy food is no longer an option for hundreds of people.

It’s less convenient at times, but the importance of that small decision can not be measured.

(Yes, this is a metaphor.)


The major thought behind a free market is that everyone’s wants will check each other. Greed is good, because greed works against everyone’s greed.

This would work well, provided greedy people never ever became intelligent or powerful. Intelligent greedy people can figure out how to stay one step ahead of any free market checks, and powerful people can just smash through them.

Smart, greedy people have figured out that hiring their employees as independent contractors to keep from paying taxes.

Powerful, greedy people simple control the economy (or a particular industry) through their size. Oil companies have an incredibly valuable resource and they can charge whatever they want. Since all the oil companies work together, there is no real way to get around the pricing.

What ends up occurring is the creation of:


For example, no bank wants any person to pay off their debt. It makes for “feel good” press and lets them dodge any real penalties or regulations, if they have programs to “help.”

Think about it: If a person pays their credit card off every month, they avoid any penalty fees.

Penalty fees are 100% profit for a bank. Paying off ones debt, is a lost revenue stream.

Basically, what a bank really wants is to keep the majority of their customers in a cycle. Where the customer is just a bit behind on their payments every few months. That will minimize the threat of default, and maximize the profit margin per customer.

Why is this important to sustainability?

Because clean tech and sustainable practices are economic disincentives to certain companies. MPG standards are an economic disincentive to oil companies, renewable energy is an economic disincentive to coal companies, recycling is an economic disincentive to manufacturers and miners.

Shai Agassi illustrated it best in his talk at TED. A finite commodity will become more and more “unstable” as the supply runs out and demand stays the same. Unstable equals wildly fluctuating, ever-increasing prices. That benefits a small, powerful, greedy group of individuals. And in this situation, there is no other greed to check. So in this scenario, the free market has failed.

Not to be too Marxist, but in this situation following the money shows precisely who stands to lose the most. It also reveals who is fighting back against the necessary changes.

How Short Sighted Are We?

Peyton Manning has had three bad games. According to some, he’s finished for all time and it’s time to rope it in and head for the hills.

A new model of car or laptop comes out, and the perfectly fine older one is thrown away.

New clothes are purchased not for any real reason, but to stay in “fashion.”

The Lakers have lost four games early in the NBA’s season, and now they’re not going to win anything else, ever again.

Our entire society is focused to such a degree on the short term.

No wonder a threat that takes 50 to 100 years to develop is impossible to fathom. Even worse, the simple solutions to this threat will take 10 years to be effective.

I might as well speak in gibberish.

Oil Prices? Going Up

According to Chase and Merril Lynch, oil prices are most likely headed for the $100.00 mark again.

This is good and bad. When gasoline gets expensive, people drive less, use mass transit and walk more.

The bad however is that the last time oil reached these prices, it put the squeeze on cash strapped citizens and helped to trigger our current recession.

While I Love Retro

I want to see something new!

We generate power in the same manner we did almost a hundred years ago. Our automotive engines use the same principle means to generate power as when Henry Ford made the Model T.

Look at our clothing: We’ve burned through the 80s and are currently attempting to rehash the tasteless 90s. Is there really a 90s style? No, there isn’t and that should tell you something…

Where are the new developments?

Where’s my flying car dammit!

Picasso and the Environment

“No ma’am; it took a lifetime.”
-Pablo Picasso

With that one sentence, Picasso justified demanding an exorbitant sum of money for a quick sketch.

This story has been told repeatedly to highlight how much time it takes to become a master. Picasso’ quick sketch, easily made; was the product of a lifetime of dedication. Such an input surely justified the cost.

Or did it?

The mindset illustrated above is precisely why no mainstream company has truly leaped into the environmental/clean-tech arena. Eventually every prototype and working concept is nothing more than a pipe dream.

There seems to be this bad interpretation of “mastery” that is embodied by the above Picasso quote.

Try this:

Picasso, having seen the woman’s admiration asks her what she would pay for his work.

“Twenty-five dollars!”

The money is paid, and Picasso resumes his stroll through the park. The woman mentions to a nearby person that Picasso just sketched this portrait of her to a passer by for only $25!

Word soon spreads and before to long Picasso has made one hundred unique portraits, all of which showcase his mastery, and a cool $2500.

There is an ancient legend, of a master who is in such command of his craft, that he does it for one reason: love.

Imagine if AEP; instead of worrying about profit margins, invested heavily in clean energy and efficient transmission without visiting the cost to consumers. Word would get around that AEP delivers cleaner power, better and cheaper than any competitor. With a deregulated market, more consumers would choose AEP. More money would be made over longer periods of time. And the increase in customers would offset the lower profit margins.

Fortune favors the bold in war, in love, and in business.


Is the hot spot for tech and the environment. I have serious, serious issues with that.

Tech-wise: Products are developed that constantly decrease productivity. Sure, plenty of things occur, but not much is actually done on an iPhone. It’s like using a rocking chair; you’re moving, but you’re not getting anywhere. Think if Windows had been developed in Indiana, a state of common-sense/no nonsense thinking. Windows 3.1 would have been spectacularly productive. And Millennium would never have been spawned.

Environment-wise: Most of SoCal is utterly unsustainable for the number of residents. Yet, they’re championing solar power and electric cars. Meanwhile most of their water and electricity is shipped in from out of state. In fact, the water table keeps shrinking and shrinking.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed my visits in California, but it is a textbook example of our current schizophrenic society. A completely unsustainable model that espouses the need for environmental responsibility.

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