Throughout my life I've been either burdened or blessed -- you choose -- by a keen awareness that mankind lives on a razors' edge. My first recollection of this was in 1962 after I got my first drivers license. I was at my neighborhood gas station fuel up my first car, a green, four-door 1951 Chevy. Gas was 24 cents a gallon.
As I fueled my trusty old "Pickle Wagon," (as my mortified girlfriends used to call the beast.) I watched other motorists fueling their Detroit steeds, and it just popped into my heads. I can still hear the bells dinging and dinging as six cars filled up. (Pumps had bells in those days that dinged at ten cent intervals.)
"Well, this sure can't last forever!."
Even as hormonally poisoned teenage boy with his first set of wheels, I had enough sense to know that cars, trucks, trains and planes running on finite million-year old fossilized trash from the earths' previous incarnations was not a sustainable model.
That was 45-years ago -- a long time by human standards, but less than milli-second on Mother Earths' watch. While my 1962 moment did not come with a time frame, it appears that "can't last forever" meant roughly 50 years.
Back then the term, "environment," meant where you were at any point in time. The new shopping malls, for example, were a "shopping environment." With the exception of a small handful of environmental pioneers, like Rachel Carson, the idea human activity -- short of all-out nuclear war -- could threaten the earth's life-support systems, was an awareness yet to mature.
I clearly remember the first time I even saw the term, "Environmentalist." It was a couple of years after my gas station revelation. It was scrawled on a small sign in the window of dingy second-story office on Canary Row in Monterey. I recall turning to a friend and pointing to it. "What's that," I wisecracked. "some new religion?"
It would be years more before I "got it," and came to understand that there really is no free lunch, not in business and not among creatures great and small. And that someday a million years from now my bones might be being pumped out of the ground, refined and poured into some future 16-year olds ride.
The other possibility is that my bones will lay undisturbed until the earth is swallowed by the our expanding sun 5 billion years from now, my CO2 safely sequestered to the very end -- because there would be no humans left to refine me into some manner of fuel.
Those who know me well know I am a veritable connoisseur of catastrophe. I am a professional pessimist -- which I firmly believe is a healthier way to live than being an optimist. Think about it. Optimists spend a goodly portion of thier lives being disappointed when things come up tails when they were sure they were going to be heads. Ah, but we pessimists are far better off, because part of our lives are spent being ready when sh*t hits the fan and the rest of our lives pleasantly surprised when it doesn't.
I can imagine the worst possible outcome for any given set of circumstances you can cook up. That's just the way I process data. But, it is data I am processing. When I come up with a hand-wringing scenario I can defend it with data.
Here's the kind of data that keeps me up at night lately:
- It takes an average of 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat. It takes 5,214 gallons of fresh water to produce one pound of beef. (Ummmmmmm steakkkkkk)