Eyes Wide Open – Fourth Installment – The American Dream?

What is the American Dream?  Thomas Jefferson took the phrase “pursuit of happiness” from Locke and incorporated it into his famous statement of a peoples’ inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

I think we would all agree with this.  And we certainly see places on earth where this is far from their reality.  Let’s face it… in most cases we Americans live this dream.  In fact, we give our lives to preserve these inalienable rights.  Sure, I know there are exceptions, but work with me.

Nowhere in this document is the personal accountability to making us all happy. In fact, many of whom travel to impoverished countries find people there who are as happy or happier than we are.  They value the simple pleasures of family and friendships.

It is ironic and troubling that our children these days are less happy than we were.  You read that correctly.  All the studies point to that.  And, that dissatisfaction is the root of much of the woke nonsense we all hear about.  Consider this:

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how millennials are out of touch with reality: “What you’ve forgotten, however, is that it’s up to each generation to make its own mark. Defining yourself by your resentment of an earlier generation isn’t how to do it.”

We have given our children the best and this is how they repay us?  It is ironic that this same generation’s progressive ideas seem to be aligned with reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but they are also the least informed about how to live responsibly and sustainably.  Worst of all, they have largely lost their respect for their elders.

How did all this happen and so quickly?  It all seems to be the result of the hijacking of our education system by liberal zealots and the insatiable desire of the media to focus on the small things that go wrong in society rather than the more general beauty of American people.

So, we focus on reproductive rights rather than how to raise children to be responsible members of society which of course also includes their accountability to consider having their own children.  The American Dream does not include fathering dozens of children with a handful of women who view giving birth as an economic securitization of their lives.

We each have a part to play in this reeducation of Americans.  We all have responsibilities and roles to play in protecting each other.  It is not about my personal happiness measured by accumulation of prestige and wealth.  It is about the wellness of our communities and the celebration of simple pleasures.

We must curb our desires for things, or we will have to curb the number of people who can express their dreams this way.

Eyes Wide Open – Third Installment – Do we Need Garbage Police?

My brother lived in Australia on assignment with Exxon.  He loved it there and would tell me often about how much he liked the simpler lifestyles.  They had a small fridge that would only hold a day or so’s food, so they shopped almost every day picking up something for dinner and to replace vegetables and bread.

He also told me of the garbage collection there.  If you fail to recycle correctly, they give you a warning, and if you persist they stop picking up your garbage.  That will teach you!

We see recycle bins everywhere these days, but how much do they really get used.  Plus, even if that trash gets recycled to the collection center, how much actually is recycled into other things?

According to the EPA, Americans generate more than 267 million tons of solid waste every year. In 2017, only 94.2 million tons of that waste was either recycled or composted. That’s only about 35 percent of the total amount, and when you take into account that only 8 percent of discarded plastics were recycled that year, things start to look more unsettling.

Clearly, we have a long way to go.  But, once again, are we asking the right questions?

Did you know that bottled water ranked as the largest beverage category by volume in the United States?  The sustained growth in per capita consumption indicates that consumers see bottled water as a healthy alternative to other packaged beverages. In 2019, per capita of bottled water consumption approached 44 gallons in 2019, while average intake of carbonated soft drinks dipped below 37 gallons.

You no doubt know that bottled water is not any healthier than the water you get from your tap.  You also probably have seen customers in your market and especially at Sam’s leave with cases and cases of bottled water.

It also seems terribly ironic to me to see cases of bottled water sitting outside in the sun at gas stations.  We all know that the chemicals in those plastic bottles is leaching out into the water.

What is my point in all this?  Our drinking water in this country is excellent … in the vast majority of cases.  Stop drinking bottled water!  Not because of the water itself, but because of the waste you are producing.  It is not being recycled.

I hope you have been following the circularity movement.  They are focused on our food and water supply and working with large corporations to reduce waste associated with food packaging as well as the end-to-end food sustainability questions we all face.

There is a lot going on in this space, but I fear most of it is the same kind of greenwashing the movie Planet of the Humans talks about.


Eyes Wide Open – Second Installment – Must we limit populations?

Hopefully you watched the full movie from the first blog in this series: Planet of the Humans.

I know it was disappointing… and probably confirmed some suspicions you had about what was really going on.  But, in any event, the blinding flash of the obvious is clear.  We are headed for a disaster if we fail to control population growth and the appetite for things.

There are some bright spots on the horizon that include tiny house designs along with sustainable agriculture.  All this coupled with a growing awareness that our protein needs can’t be met by raising animals in captivity… it simply uses too much water in the feedstocks.

So, that bucolic model of living simply and gently on the land does bring us hope.  However, there are only so many we can permit to live this way.  There seems to be plenty of land.  But is there enough water?  Plus, how can we provide health care and emergency services everywhere out there?

But even water for communities is nearing exhaustion.  There are many parts of Georgia that can not tolerate further development even today because of the availability of water.  Plus, we all know how serious the situation is in the western United States.  They are already in trouble.

History offers us stark reminders that water has always been the greatest resource challenge.  We have many reminders here in the United States of earlier civilizations that were forced to move and/or were wiped out by the lack of water.

We have come a long way in our efficiency of water use of course, but the simple fact is that we use too much water per person.  Yes, I know we now mandate low flow toilets.  Yes, I know we emphasize showers over baths.  And, yes I know that we also need to reconsider ancient agreements on water use in the western states that permit and encourage water use raising crops that could never and would never be grown there if the farmers were charged the fair replacement value for that water.

How about a national strategy and focus on water?  Why isn’t that taking precedence over carbon discussions?  Think about it carefully.

Could it be that nobody wants to sacrifice their own convenience for the future of us all?

Eyes Wide Open

This blog is one of a series about the future of the planet.  No, it is not arguing about carbon… it is one of a series of articles that should truly open your eyes to the whole problem we face as a human race.

The phrase eyes wide open implies you knew the full extent of the problems and difficulties that you were likely to have.  Most of us fail to consider issues this broadly… it is just too hard or painful.

If you care about the future of the human race here on planet earth you should watch the free movie on Amazon Prime called Planet of the Humans.  You can also see it for free on www.youtube.com : Planet of the Humans 

The movie exposes the truth behind the big money playing us all for fools with the current carbon fixation (pun intended).  I am not going to review the criminal behaviors that, rather than reducing carbon, are going to significantly increase carbon dioxide into the environment, as well as ravaging the planet of limited natural resources in the process.  Leave that alone … just watch the movie.

The key question raised by the dozens of experts is simply this: If we fail to control both the population of the planet along with its craving for things we are tilting at windmills.  Every species on the planet can outstrip its ability to thrive.  It is part of the natural cycle.  And, we are approaching this now for the human species and its ravenous appetite for water, food, shelter, and things.

Most of the movie emphasizes how the professionals we all count on to do this planning have been bought and paid for by big money.  They periodically put on performances chanting the kumbaya to sweep us up in the dream that everything will be just fine if we keep building wind turbines and solar panels.  We will all live happily ever after if we pay our carbon taxes so big corporations can rid us of this deleterious gas.  Oh how I wish that were true.

Nope, we are lambs being lead to our slaughter.  I know you don’t hear this perspective, and the reasons should be obvious.  The mainstream media takes advertising from people who want to sell you things.  They don’t want to publish articles teaching us to use less or not want those things in the first place.

Take a look at this article from The Conversation “Affluence is Killing the Planet.”

Can you imagine the mainstream media preaching against affluence?  Enough for now.  You have a lot of watching to do.  We will continue this conversation over the next few weeks.


The Right Answer?

It may be going out of style, but I have lived my whole life being graded against a standard: getting the right answer.  Yes, there have been many times when you need to ask more questions before answering a seemingly obvious question, but at the end of the day you are either right or wrong.

I was always taught to “show my work” meaning that as I wrote out the problem, I was to state assumptions, show logic, and be especially careful not to skip steps.  It was not at all unusual for points to be deducted if you did skip steps, even if you got the right answer.

We engineers do skip steps, especially when we communicate to other engineers.  We use many forms of intellectual shorthand often described as ellipsis for those with large vocabularies.  We can sit with each other and muse about very complex systems and ideas … intellectually jousting one might say.  By the way, that … I just used is defined as ellipsis.

To those sitting around us, they probably think we are speaking another language.  To some, we sound like we are showing off.  No, we are not.  We are honoring each other’s time.  We know what is “intuitively obvious to the casual observer” as we were trained to consider.

But what if there is no right answer?  What if the questions are mysteries of the universe?  What if we are on the edge of the known and are seeking something entirely new?  Are we so arrogant that we think what we don’t know now can be known by just studying it?

Think about what we now call cancer.  There is no one cancer.  Some we think we know.  Others baffle us completely.  Yet, we create the appearance that we do know through scientific sounding labels.

Take for instance multiple sclerosis or what we commonly call MS.  It is defined as a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue.  It is often fatal.

Is that a definition of what it is?  Not at all!  It is a description of what it seems to do to us.  If you talk to medical professionals, they will admit they still do not know what it is. They only have some ideas how to help us cope with it.

As I hear the polarization of today’s advocates for this or that, I wonder if we could step back for a moment and consider first what problems we are really trying to solve.  Anyone who has been trained in this area knows that defining the problem is the first and most critical step.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds.  You keep asking “why” or “what” we define as this or that.  Let’s take a very simple example like energy sustainability on the planet.

Today’s pundits claim the answer is solar and wind.  But, following my logic, we should first ask why we say we need the energy in the first place?  Is there a better solution by considering the definitions of housing, mobility, and productive workplaces?  Should we redefine nutrition rather than just proclaim we want to solve world hunger?

We seem all to prone to want easy answers to questions that are, quite frankly, poorly defined.