Pouring out gasoline

Right before the most recent depression hit, the West was engaged in full-on manic “green” behavior.

It has fallen off somewhat, since there’s no point showing off your wealth in a recession. During hard times, you show off your humility, which is the way you saw you’re wealthy and hip enough to not have to say it.

But our green mania appears unchanged at its core, which is an obsession for buying products that show off how green the buyer is. The Toyota Prius, which saves some gasoline in exchange for the disposal nightmare of its batteries, is the most blatant example.

However, because we ignore difficult truths and prefer public image that is visually a more tangible symbol of our personal importance, we forget the most obvious green actions.

We are pouring out millions of gallons of gasoline every week. We could change this process not with some fancy technology, but by using existing technology and common sense.

Yet no one wants to do it because it’s not the self-contained individual choice. Green products are an option for purchase, and while totally ineffective are also inoffensive.

It might require some changes for all of us to avoid pouring gasoline on the ground. They would not be great, but they would puncture the bubble of our relatively absolute freedom, and require we actually cooperate instead of simply buying products to fake the appearance of something.

Our gasoline-pouring starts with traffic. At every light, and every clogged street, cars idle away prodigious amounts of gasoline. In stop-start traffic they burn even more. This could be avoided with staggered work attendance times, better street design, and just in time stoplight management. But no one seems interested.

We also pour away millions of gallons worth of energy in electronic lights and other security apparatuses. Probably a small percentage of our population commits crimes, but on the pretense of being free, we refuse to stop them. And so we all pay, every day in many ways.

Even greater amounts of energy are wasted in sending fools to desk jobs that achieve very little. Maybe they work four hours a week; stop the pretense of “equal” attendance, and require them to be at work for only those four hours.

More energy is wasted in traffic patrols, anti-crime efforts, worthless entertainment, convenience shopping and public government loyalty events. None of these actually make life better. They are simply a net drain.

Some might even say that we waste energy keeping alive many who clearly do not respect life enough to live. Criminals, the obese, the stupid and violent, the perverted and the self-destructive. Each one of them could be ten acres of forest land instead.

We focus on trivial problems in direct proportion to how serious the problems we ignore are. This is a survival mechanism, designed to keep us hiding from a predator through the process of denial. But it doesn’t work with the burden we face as those who have conquered nature.

Our real green problem is one of honesty. We can’t face our real problems and so we chase symbolic ones. If we made a simple change to that dysfunction, we could banish our woes in no time at all.

35 Comments

  1. GG says:

    Please keep up the good work everyone. Can you guys also talk some more stuff about how a society/country can be improved/better than what it is right now? Thanks

    1. OSEverything says:

      Take the money out of politics. Impose steep taxes on individuals with 1 mil+ in net assets, and reform tax law so “progressive” taxation consists of a continuous rather than discrete tax function(s). Nationalize the banking system. And that’s just the beginning.

  2. ferret says:

    “Some might even say that we waste energy keeping alive many who clearly do not respect life enough to live.”

    Some might say, and some might get prepared:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wV3vc9kDEM

    “Criminals, the obese, the stupid and violent, the perverted and the self-destructive.”

    Looks like this list covers the entire population of the planet. It would be a problem to get rid of it without hurting rabbits and ferrets. And the very last terminator should be male in order to prevent accidental breeding.

  3. Lisa Colorado says:

    I don’t mind dying. It would be nice to live truly for awhile.

    Who is this “we” keeping alive many who do not respect life enough to live? And what is this “keeping” in “keeping alive?”

    What good is despising those people? Brett, sometimes I don’t know about your philosophy. You talk about conservative philosophy, but then you talk about getting rid of those who are a waste of finite energy on the planet. That’s the hint I get, anyway.

    A philosophy that starts out talking about freedom but then in its ramifications leads to one group getting rid of another, that’s the opposite. You just can’t do that, unless you want to be subject to an opposite force. Isn’t conservatism supposed to get out of the way of liberty? It is messy. You can’t clean up the stygian mess. Why not talk about some efforts and forces that are worthy of support?

    1. “Freedom” , “liberty”, “conservatism” are all messy abstracts.

      At the heart of it, there are those who affirm what is good and transcendental in life and those who are willfully blind to it and malicious to boot.

      If I could be impolite enough to speak for Brett without his permission, I’d say he doesn’t “despise” them, but sees them as superflous obstacles.

      Wild gardens are beautiful because each plant aspires to be a truer and improved version of itself, and so a complex and elegant interplay emerges that produces wilds of greater and greater quality and authenticity.

      If too many weeds grow, first the flowers then bushes are choked, then the soil itself is depleted, and only recovery is through culling and leaving the ground to fallow.

      The plants recognise their situation and strategise accordingly, refining their adaptations so they can go on indefinitely, becoming more specialised and adept at their devotions.

      The weeds are indifferent to the quality of their own lives and the future of the garden, being weeds, and consume as much as they are able, contributing nothing.

      Brett is a very good writer in how he bridges the gap between abstractions and gardening.

      1. crow says:

        Nice one, BD. I’d say that’s about right.
        Freedom, as I imagine the concept was originally coined, was one’s own freedom, as opposed to busying oneself with freedom for every other human on the planet. Which is nobody’s business, under any circumstances.
        One is free when one is free to arrange one’s own freedom. That entails being responsible for oneself, so that one does not become enslaved to those one depends upon for survival.
        Nobody furnishes anyone else with freedom. That is more dependency than freedom, and that is what we see now.
        I don’t see Brett as advocating gunning down vast swathes of useless people, but rather declining to support their survival at the expense of the less useless, and allowing them a chance to survive, or not, by their own efforts.
        And that has more going for it, freedom-wise, than any other alternative.
        It reflects the way of nature, rather than the way of the idiot.

        1. ferret says:

          ” …declining to support their survival at the expense of the less useless, and allowing them a chance to survive, or not, by their own efforts.”

          This sounds good, especially if these useless people have a place to go where they can survive. Otherwise, they will become criminals, which is not the goal.

          If the transitional period of the support decline is long enough, and the birth rate is normalizing during this period, this crime surge may be prevented.

          1. crow says:

            If it was easy, it would already have happened.
            There is, at this point, no easy answer.
            The real thing the useless would have to give up, would be their own self-importance. Without that, others might actually offer them work, support, help. Self-importance doesn’t seem like something essential, and sooner or later, it will come down to essentials.

            1. ferret says:

              “If it was easy, it would already have happened.”

              It “was” easy, or it “were” easy? This grammar always confuses me.

              1. crow says:

                Grammar has rules, but also exceptions.
                It’s often a matter of current ‘usage’.
                In this case, both are correct, although ‘were’ may be seen to be higher-level English than ‘was’.
                ‘Were’ also places the time-frame slightly further into the past than ‘was’.
                ‘Was’ is more often used in the nearly-present, although naturally enough, also in the more distant past.
                I may be completely wrong.

                “If I were you…” is correct.
                “If I was you…” is laughably wrong, although it is idiomatic of London, UK, where ‘were’ is routinely replaced with ‘was’.

                1. ferret says:

                  An interesting observation about time difference. I will ponder on it.

                  I found on the Internet this explanaiton:

                  “If it were” is used for conditions contrary to fact, whereas “if it was” is used for simple conditions. To test the clause you can add an imaginary statement of fact. If this statement begins with “but” the condition is contrary to fact.
                  good:
                  If the polygon were simple (but it is not) we could apply the standard techniques, but now we have to come up with something clever. [http://www.cs.uu.nl/docs/tandt/html/Scholars/scholars_7.html]

        2. Dependence is slavery

        3. Lisa Colorado says:

          Great answer, crow! I had never thought of freedom that way. These new distinctions are so enlightening, honestly.

          I may have gone off the rail with my comment :) I am all for declining to support the useless. I believe they get useless by having their worst inclinations supported, out of a flipped sense of kindness.

          http://www.popecenter.org/commentaries/article.html?id=2718 Here’s a good article that gives me hope. Something being done.

      2. Missy says:

        If you think about it, “wild garden” is a contradiction. We have to look at these terms from human viewpoint (because we are human, after all).

        A garden is a cultural innovation, something that humans have cobbled together one way or another. So, any plant they don’t want there, they refer to as a “weed”. But it is the ability of these unwanted plants to grow and thrive that makes that “wild garden” wild in the first place. Those flowers and bushes (that we planted there deliberately) getting choked by weedy plants – that’s supposed to happen. So, my point is, “wild garden” is an abstraction and cannot exist.

        If you don’t want thorns and other weedy plants to thrive, you have to get rid of them all, period. Then you will have your civilized garden. However, in the field of landscape gardening, there is an approach called “naturalistic landscaping”. This is where the gardener deliberately makes his garden look wild (“natural”) but it’s all under his control and watchful eye and is not really “wild” at all. Lots of gardens (both flower & shrub, and edible food) have a wild area. But a good gardener never lets it get too natural, too wild.

        You could not stand to live in a truly wild landscape.

        1. crow says:

          I’ve lived for years in a truly wild landscape. I stood it very well :)
          Now I live in a cultivated garden.
          They are very different, but I have noticed that wildlife prefers a cultivated garden, given the choice. And so do I.
          Anyway: perhaps you have heard of The Garden Of Eden?
          I imagine it was wild, since Adam and Eve hadn’t yet been created. They were created, so we are told, to ‘tend’ that garden.
          By ‘tend’ I imagine to keep it in balance, so unproductive weeds didn’t choke it into unproductivity. Weeds are natural, for sure, in the same way typhoid is natural. Both have their functions, I am sure. Mosquitoes too, although it is difficult to see what that function is.
          It all depends upon one’s definition of the idea of ‘garden’.
          Any natural environment that remains in balance might fit the term.
          Let anything run riot and squeeze out everything else, then there is no longer any kind of a garden, only chaos.

          1. ferret says:

            “Mosquitoes too, although it is difficult to see what that function is.”

            You are great! (I’m serious this time.)

            1. crow says:

              That’s high praise :)
              Thank you.

          2. Missy says:

            When you say that “wildlife” prefers a cultivated garden, given the choice, what particular varieties are you talking about?

            1. crow says:

              Practically all varieties, excepting top predators. They don’t live long in cultivated areas, since humans do not tolerate them, and vice versa.
              There is always more food to be had in a cultivated garden, and so wildlife tends to migrate towards one.
              Spend any amount of time in wilderness/forest, and you will notice a distinct lack of wildlife. If you are hoping to eat it to live, you’re going to become very thin. This is good, of course, since thin is better. One adapts.

              But to be specific, in my own area, there are…
              Wrens, hummingbirds, sparrows, orioles, grosbeaks, finches, jays, siskins, hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures, owls, crows, ravens, ducks, geese, herons, plovers, flycatchers, martins, swallows, tanagers, wild turkeys…
              And that’s just the birds.
              There are lots of mammals, amphibians, insects, too. Far more than in the adjacent forest. Deer-fences are mandatory, or there is no cultivated garden.

              Humans leave food lying around, they grow it, they waste it, both accidently and deliberately. Wildlife is quick to notice.

              1. Missy says:

                If people don’t see much wildlife in a forest, it is likely because they saw the humans first, from a distance, and are wisely keeping out of their way. And, I do live adjacent to a large, wild forest where apparently nobody but me ever goes, and I have run into wildlife of all kinds. The birds tend to go there for the night, for one thing.

  4. decline says:

    Great Post. Stellar blog. You’ve got yourself a new reader.

    1. crow says:

      Damn right :)
      Stellar’s the word.
      Good to see you.

  5. theEndlessDark says:

    I am a mid-term lurker and must say I really like this blog, radical honesty and great writing.

    I especially like this article as it has some practical societal solutions to excess waste of energy.

    I think that one of the problems we are currently facing is that the energy required to produce something and the cost required to produce something are only marginally connected. If we prioritise making and doing things cheaply rather than efficiently, which can be cheaper in the long term, than we will waste a lot of resources.

    Rather than calculate that a certain car used 2 tonnes of steel rather than 1.5 and this steel was produced in China then moved to the US through ship and thus should cost more, because it is using more material than the 1.5 tonne one and more energy was required in production and transport due to the location of production, we say “Oh blah blah blah currency conversions, blah blah lower cost of labour so overall this big Chinese car is a lot cheaper than the smaller, more efficiently made American one.”

    This is wrong, it is just wrong. Of course there should be regional specialisation though, I’m not arguing against this.

    The other is that money, especially the fiat type, requires continuous growth. More cars, more houses, more space, more energy, more water and more resources continous and forever. Earth is finite, the wider Universe is essentially not so continued growth only makes sense in the context of space colonisation or asteroid mining.

    One of the mathematical/financial tools that I detest the most is Net Present Value, which essentially devalues future energy/cost savings and over values deferring initial capital investment. And this tool is based on the fundamental nature of money as we know it, i.e. interest earning. It leaves no room for planning for the future, for our children and innumberable descendents.

    Note, I mean the above in terms of resources. It is certainly possible to argue that we have enough solar energy hitting the planet to make energy a non constraining factor on growth.

    Sorry for the rant, I hope it inspires people to think about the nature of money and alternative systems.

  6. Tucken says:

    Always is the talk about ‘how to solve problem X’ – the environment, wars, starvation. And anyone can observe that in their lifetime(or do I speak for myself?) these problems have not been solved.
    And the talk goes “We most stop ignoring the problems and send money to research”. I’m suggesting that we must stop looking for straight answers to these problems, for they cannot be found/implemented or they would have. At least, they cannot be found by this method. That is the general political discussion and investments. Seems like Facebook groups hold tremendous power. . .

    Why don’t we try and solve problems, even if at random, in Round-about ways, instead? This is what I have found to be the answer to my personal problems. You don’t lose weight trying to lose weight or by removing stuff from your diet. To solve this problem, you must ADD to life. Add something new, something fresh to your life and magically you’ll discover that some seemingly unrelated problem has been solved. Such as the reach of your belly. Having fun is all thats necessary. Who knows, it could be the answer to world hunger. Westerners telling jokes around the table, dancing on top of it. Weird.
    FunStarvation. Miles appart, and connected.

    If a more straight forward approach is necessary, I would suggest teaching to add a pound of tomatoes, or whatever you like and is cheap, simple and practical, to your meals.

    Ways to solve a world crises:
    1. Direct ways by addition
    2. Round-about ways by addition
    3. Facebook….

    1. Lisa Colorado says:

      “Why don’t we try and solve problems, even if at random, in Round-about ways, instead? This is what I have found to be the answer to my personal problems. You don’t lose weight trying to lose weight or by removing stuff from your diet. To solve this problem, you must ADD to life. Add something new, something fresh to your life and magically you’ll discover that some seemingly unrelated problem has been solved. Such as the reach of your belly.”

      This happens to me, though it’s taking a looong time. When I’m being creative in my chosen mediums, I don’t have the emptiness that I have sometimes tried to fill up with food. It’s the best way, and yet it takes a lot of reinforcement and patience to bring about permanent changes. Neural pathways that formed a long time ago can be replaced by better ones.

      1. crow says:

        How do you feel about chocolate?
        If an alien asked me to describe human women, I would tell it that they really, really like chocolate.

        1. Anon says:

          Haha, some men (like me) like chocolate too! And I’ll have you know I’m quite manly (). It does seem to be an inherent addiction in a large section of the female populace, though…

          On a related note, most people need to go on the Paleo diet, already. Weight-loss is a joke on it, and your dietary cognition becomes more focused on optimizing your nutritional intake to suit your lifestyle, than the lesser issues such as kilo-counting (which is what most people with out-of-whack diets obsess about)

  7. Tucken says:

    There was an arrow in between Fun and Starvation, it got lost in cyberspace.
    And I see the Facebook comment look out of place, it was something that popped into my head while typing. It’s a big movement, it could be used for any change.

    1. crow says:

      It’s difficult to follow you, but I imagine you are saying that there are connections between everything, that often are not apparent?
      I say you are right, if that is what you mean.
      There are connections between everything and everything else, but our linear, western minds have lost track of this, and try to replace it with science, with often dubious results.
      What do you refer to by ‘fun’?
      There is the frivolous, entertainment-oriented fun, and then there is the fun that fills one when one takes joy and pleasure in everything because one is part of it.
      A walk in a wildlife-filled forest on a perfect day, compared to winning $25 on a gambling machine :)

      1. Tucken says:

        I mean quality fun. Such that fills you up, so the need to fill yourself with food, disappears. Happy people, with food left over, will find a creative way to stop the waste. It could turn into biogas fuel or food for the africans. Solving major issues by literally ridiculous means.
        It is a two front war, we see the large scale battles such as the pouring out gasoline. But it can not be solved, only managed, on this large scale. Partly because their is no union. There are political opposites and no sovereign leader whos will can be made. But mostly because there are too many problems, and they are too big.
        The root of the issue is the individual that make up the population and the people who are willing can do a whole lot for the world by doing something for themselves.
        Let’s radically reduce the battle overload so that it can be managed. As ‘rulers’ and individuals why don’t we give people something to protect and tend to so that they can grow and feel responsibility. A small patch of land, like the old days to keep them from folly.

        1. crow says:

          What do you want to feed Africans for? Do you want to feed Martians too? Isn’t your responsibility to feed yourself?

          Where do these ‘small patches of land’ come from? Are there any left? Would giving them away undermine whatever is left of the economy? I’ve often thought the same thing, but very few would actually work their small patches of land. There would be an awful lot of weeds around.

          But yes: people do need to ‘help’ themselves, first, rather than go around trying to ‘help’ the world. A healthier society is made up of healthier individuals, and it is not society itself that makes healthier individuals; it is the individuals that make a healthier society.

          1. Tucken says:

            I see that I have to think things through before I comment. When someone eat less the immediate result is his wallet thickens. Production would go down. Likely there wouldn’t be any food over for fuel or hungry people. Yet, less waste is a positive. I meant only to illustrate that there are things the individual can do. That problems that are big to the public and media, not necessarily to me, would shrink and become more easily managed if things are taken care of at home.

            For patches of land I have two things to say. But before that – you are right. There are no patches left.
            First, it wouldnt have to literally be a patch of land. It could for instance be new, or old, ideals supplied by Amerika. Second, it is possible to give people a small lot while… burning down their old. This way we can bring about architectual and environmental change while ‘giving’ to the public.

            I can’t help but to comment that I probably would try and feed a martian, if I was ever given the chance =). Africans…we may have bigger issues of our own, but if as individuals we’ve made use of them then perhaps it’s our responsibility to make up for it. For instance, we may have bought cheap cash-crops, such as coffee, that we consider underpriced ourselves. Perhaps we could help them tend to themselves with this:
            http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/
            We can give cheap machinery, or at least help them find the information to build it themselves. Yes this could lead to an even bigger population, increased acres for agriculture. But the information is out now, anyways, and reaching out. I don’t have any answer to it. Perhaps, offer sick and poor lethal injections while modernizing agriculture, build upwards. Make scyscrapers designed for farming. I don’t support starvation. There’s no need for people to go hungry.

            I’m torn between supporting that individuals support themselves, or are supported by their group, government. The first is not very modern, the second carries with it various risks. I think I support that people find out for themselves, how they want to have it.

            Respectfully, Tucken.

            1. crow says:

              I guess you have to wonder just how you would actually go about feeding far off people in far off places. How much food do you, personally, grow? Enough to feed yourself? No. Where would this vast amount of food come from? How would you get it to where you decide it should go? How would you distribute it, once it got there? Etc…
              It’s one thing to believe that nobody ‘deserves’ to be hungry.
              It’s quite another to demand that other people, at their own expense, implement your popular ideas and fantasies.
              Food, like so many other things, is something westerners have come to take for granted. Yet food is rare, and always has been. Having lots of it is not the usual state of things.

              Besides, who gets to decide what ‘starvation’ actually is?
              Fat westerners?
              I’ve starved. It’s not nearly as bad a thing as most believe.
              Very few westerners have ever so much as missed a meal.
              Starving involves a gradual fading away, and has a lot in common with drug-taking. Finally you go to sleep and that’s that. One less hungry mouth to feed.

              1. Tucken says:

                You make a good point as someone who knows starvation when you say it’s a fading away. But I’m not going at this from the point of view that they are suffering, you seem to assume I do.
                I’d never tell anyone what to do. I’m no enforcer. Because I value my own choosing so much. I guess this could be called liberalism, and thats what I’ll support as long as their is no real alternative to it. Left or right doesn’t make any sense, neither knows how to lead and they mess with their population. Apparently, I have more faith that humans may make good decisions on their own than you do. I seem to remember someone who realized, as a teen?, and chose on his own, that he could simply quit and leave working for dimes. He did something different, his own, it was important and he turned out fine, no? This is liberalism. It has nothing to do with equality. People can make better decisions than frivolous entertainment if they’re given the chance. Life provides chance, always. Getting rid of governing is more important than finding a good one.
                To me, it is simply up to them(africans) to decide their fate. They must take care of themselves, I’d never say it’s up to westerners to distribute food for africans. I offer info on cheap machinery, easy to make, that people can make it themselves and show innovation is possible. That is simply so and I provided a link to show it. People would be interested in building cheap machinery in the west also. If people are interested, they can have a look. I don’t care, but I present options, give advice. I do my best, it’s up to the other part whether to listen, or not. You don’t want to feed them, neither do I, but I show possibilites and in doing so I show that their socialism propaganda, or whatever they’ve been fed – is myth. They are just not taking action.
                Food has always been rare, but today it may not have to be, for humans. Don’t ignore there are possibilites, when I explicitly show an example. Fantasy is the good side and very best of humanity. It’s creative, it is evolution. It is what makes progress and development possible, to the individual and society also. The conservative looks at this and says it will create new problems, better take it slow. That may well be so. It is safe, it is slow. But that is fantasy, people are not so easily contained and now it’s more impossible than ever before. Traditional works, or rather it used to work. It’s many years too late. I’m simply being realistic, things move on. I have my doubts about conservatism and I’ll lift them up, with honesty, that the truth can be unveiled. Otherwise what are we all doing here?
                I don’t know how many people could be fed, I have no interest feeding them, but I’d enjoy bringing options, possibilites. It has always been so that a group works together, for food. You could also be a lone-wolf, to me it is fine either way. I believe people of various kind should choose what is right for them. If there is good governing, which does not exist in this world at this moment in time, then perhaps the decision can be made not by the individual but by that governing.

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