While walking up the mountain trail about sunset time last evening, with Koko running fast and free, birds singing gleefully all around, shafts of sun shining on the jagged Kauai peaks and the ferns and grasses blanketing the Earth in green, I figured out one of the things that’s wrong with the world:
Humans make far too many important decisions behind closed doors. And I’m not talking about the ones that are deliberately slammed to exclude us lowly humans from the back room wheelings and dealings, but the ones that regularly and consistently shut out nature — the real world, the place you can’t reduce, with any justice, to a video clip or a piece of a paper.
So many meetings — nearly all, it seems — are held in climate-controlled rooms where you never feel the breeze or hear an animal sound or sit with your back pressed against a tree or squint your eyes against the light. And that’s why we repeatedly make wrong decisions, because we forget so much of what’s around us, what supports us. In our insular little conference rooms and meeting halls it becomes all about us, and the heck with nature.
For example, you would not applaud the state’s new energy plan, which calls for, among other things, “sending wind energy from Maui, Lana'i and Moloka'i to O'ahu via state-of-the-art undersea cables,” if you had ever walked among the pohaku at Lanai’s Keahiakawelo — Garden of the Gods. The silence and splendor of this sacred wilderness would be destroyed forever by the wind farm that Castle & Cooke plans there.
And why? So Oahu, primarily, can continue to suck down electricity excessively. The entire time I was in Honolulu I was cold, except when I was walking and in my own hotel room, where I used no AC. Every building was cooled to an extreme, its chill often extending into the street. Yet when I skimmed through the energy plan, while I saw plenty of glitzy and expensive new technology, I did not see one word about conservation. Isn't that where it all should start? Cut to the bone, and then see how how much energy we really need?
I’m so tired of hearing about “green energy” when the truth is, the only “green energy” is the energy you don’t use. Otherwise, it ALL has an impact, primarily on the earth we are supposedly trying to save before our asses can no longer survive on it.
Later, I was reading a New Yorker brief entitled ”Wiz Bucks, that made this very astute observation:
Over the past thirty years, Wall Street has honed the art of creating and selling financial products with an increasingly tenuous connection to reality. It has been an extraordinarily creative period—a modernism of money, with an equivalent trend toward abstraction. Relatively simple derivatives evolved into ever more arcane contrivances. The risk and the leverage piled up, and, in the short term, the billions rolled in. This is over now.
One problem is that the contrivers mistook their art for a science. A pre-modern money manager explained last week, “They looked at it all as a science experiment.” They tested each new product—each hypothesis—against a bunch of historical precedents, running computer models to see how the product would fare under the conditions of various bygone catastrophes. “The problem was, they didn’t have any historical precedent for when it all melts down. The historical precedents they used are not relevant.”
In fact, it wasn’t science at all. It was more like what anthropologists and psychologists call magical thinking—the tendency to believe that wishing it so makes it so.
It struck me that this sort of thinking applies as well to our quest for alternative energy. If only we can get the wind, solar, geothermal, etc. up and running, we won’t have to make any fundamental changes in our wasteful society. Meanwhile, we’ve tapped into the magical thinking that all these alternatives won’t produce any waste or toxins, or demand any extractive processes from the Earth, in their manufacture, transport and inevitable retirement.
This sort of thinking also seems to explain our fascination with genetic engineering, our bizarre acceptance of the idea that we can create these new patented life forms and release them out into nature with no consequences. In truth, folks, this is another giant science experiment. And just like what’s happening with these new forms of failing financial products, we won’t have any idea what to do when it all goes wrong and the dominoes start falling.
But when you really look at all these schemes, there’s a common thread running through that isn’t at all magical. In fact, it’s one of the vices oft-cited in religious doctrines, and that’s greed. No matter how much folks try to put a green or humanitarian spin on it, it all comes down to one thing: the desire to make not just a profit, but a killing, with no desire to accept responsibility for the true costs.