chapter xxi: vehicles…and other assorted addictions Many chapters ago, I mentioned a 1972 Norton motorcycle that I owned. And a few chapters before that, I mentioned a heavily discounted Hot Wheels track, which I saved up for with my 35 cent per week allowance. And in both cases, I knew, either before or soon after the purchase, that the short-term glamour was an illusion. I was a bit like the character Neo in The Matrix; I knew that some part of my brain was collaborating with the myth makers. But I loved it. The myth was beautiful. And it still is beautiful. Even as I write this, I struggle against the temptation to go out into the garage and tinker with a beautiful old BMW motorcycle. And another part of my brain knows that it can wait, and that I should have finished writing this book years ago. I'm trying to think of times in the past when I might have been as conflicted as I am now. Nothing comes to mind. When I was in my 20’s, and all of my jobs consisted of drudgery and sweat (like washing dishes and delivering flyers), I raced home at night to read Solzhenitsyn and Huxley and all the other stuff that I mentioned in chapter v. There were no conflicts between wants and needs and shoulds, because I wanted to do exactly what I should have been doing. The same occurred in university. I was idealistic, slightly stupid, and gradually learning about the most important things in life (like botany and societal sustainability). Everything was interesting. And I didn't have enough money to indulge in time-consuming and expensive hobbies anyway. But now I do. So I’ve spent endless months and years buying and selling ancient and not-so-ancient cameras on ebay, looking for the perfect camera (which does not exist). In the documentary about Noam Chomsky, called Manufacturing Consent, he mentions that if people spent half as much time learning about the political decisions affecting their lives, as they did watching sports on TV, the world would be a much different place. And during the sermon at church today, our minister mentioned precisely the same thing with regard to "reality TV", the type of television that is so full of petty squabbles and meaningless games, that it has very little to teach us about reality.1 So I’ve spent much of my time, looking down my nose at my buddies at work, as they’ve talked about their favourite sports teams. And I’ve often shook my head in disgust at some of the nonsense that Denise would watch on TV. But then it dawned on me that I wasn't much better. Sure, I could rationalize the uncountable hours spent in the garage getting my hands greasy, or spent in the basement fiddling with lenses or Photoshop. I could say that I was learning about mechanical engineering or electronics or optics. And Denise has mentioned that she would rather have me in the garage, than out at a bar or a casino. But at a certain point, I noticed the days and weeks and months flying by, and I also noticed that a certain New Year's resolution (but don’t ask me for which year) about the writing of a certain book was not being followed too closely. .......................... So I gathered information, and I traipsed back and forth to the library at the University of Victoria. It wasn't all forestry stuff, though. At one point, I found myself buying a stack of old comic books, and doing a content analysis on one of the ultimate one-percenters: Richie Rich (the other one being Scrooge McDuck). I then wrote up a short satire to prepare folks for the upcoming movie of the same name (starring Macaulay Culkin), and for the first time in my life, I got paid for stringing words together. .......................... bureaucracy An obese bureaucracy is perhaps the main cause of the anger coming from groups such as the Tea Party in the U.S. And I see it up here quite a bit, since I've had to do my share of sparing with a (former) local newspaper columnist on the subject of government (he seemed to think that everything would be just fine if all we had was cops and soldiers and lawyers sorting things out). But according to Geoff Mulgan and Helen Wilkinson,3 the reaction against Big Government is not only a right-wing concern (they wrote during the era of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan). An unresponsive bureaucracy is also capable of raising the ire of the environmental and social justice movements. The common denominator in all of these cases is the absence of a strong democratic culture that is unable to keep the lumbering giant in check. More on that later. In The Enabling (and disabling) State, an essay in Real Life Economics: Understanding Wealth Creation edited by Paul Ekins and Manfred Max-Neef. New York: Routledge, 1992. ........................... My folks and I spent Christmas back in Calgary with my two sisters. So on the 25th, I called Fiona to wish her a happy holiday. However, she took the opportunity to tell me that it was over, and that the only reason that she went to bed with me was because she felt sorry for me. I sank into a deep, dark hole, and I spent an hour or so sitting on a chilly park bench, staring at the blank snow and the leafless shrubs, and wondering if I’d ever crack a smile again. I had to go back to Victoria after Christmas, since I had left most of my 125 cubic feet of worldly possessions1 there. And I still had a chess set and a few books at Fiona's place. So I called her up and made arrangements to get them back. I was expecting to see her at the door with the chess set and the books at the ready, but she invited me in and then she sat on one side of the couch, smiling. She had on one of her short skirts. I was a bit confused, but I gave her my carefully prepared speech. I threatened to tell her brother (who she admired greatly) what a cruel person she was. Not a good idea, since she flew into a rage and threw the chess set at me. I managed to escape without injury, but on the drive home, I realized – once again – what an idiot I was. She may not have been the perfect match for me. She was probably a bit unstable. But she was a human being. And my scheme to upset her solved neither her problem nor mine. I met Gloria at the ranger station, where she was waiting to head out to a different tower. We talked. And we found that we had quite a few things in common. (That's not difficult, since most tower people are fairly similar: ie, they’re all wannabe hippies.) But the best thing was that we both worked at towers that were accessible by road, so we were able to visit each other or meet in town. We made things for each other. I duplicated a shading system for her cupola that I had already constructed for mine. She mixed a wilderness themed cassette tape for me. Life was great, and I was deliriously happy. Until one day, when we were chatting at her tower, she told me that she had fallen for one of the firefighters. I feigned a vague interest, but shortly after, I made an excuse to head back to my tower, where I found myself in another bottomless, dark hole. I went through the motions, but my soul was absent. I radioed in the daily weather reports. I looked for smoke. And I was forced to talk to her over the radio, since we overlooked some of the same territory, and thus we occasionally needed to affirm or deny various smoke-like apparitions. I had an overwhelming need to let her know how I felt. I wanted her to know how much she had hurt me, and I didn't really care if I embarrassed her in the process. So I sent her a poem. It was, of course, pathetic. And it was also, in places, overtly sexual. I didn't hear anything back, but one day, a vehicle drove up to the tower. In it was my boss and a strange woman. Apparently, Gloria had lodged a sexual harassment complaint. The strange woman was an investigator from the head office in Edmonton. The three of us sat in the cabin and had a talk. The investigator showed me the poem and asked if I wrote it. I nodded. But fortunately, I had also kept one of Gloria's letters. It showed that, in this case, it took two to tango. They left in the car, and I never heard anything back on the matter. But the following season, there was somebody else stationed at Gloria's old tower. What I did was stupid, and I escaped by the skin of my teeth (I dread to think what might have happened if I hadn't kept the letter). But did I learn anything? There was another woman at another tower. It was another year and another ranger station. We chatted for a bit, and I found out that she was interested in artwork and Europe. So after we got shipped off to our respective towers, I thought I'd send her a book featuring the artwork from the Prado Museum in Madrid (it's a common practice in the lookout community to swap any reading material that might reduce the boredom). Unfortunately, in the accompanying note, I hinted that I thought that she was attractive.1 I guess she wasn't impressed, since at the next mail drop, I received the book back without any explanation. Oh, well. No big deal. A few weeks later, I started to prepare one of my monthly care packages for the other towers. I usually kept all of my Harper's and Atlantic Monthly magazines from the winter months, so that I could send them out to the other towers in the district. Of course, the dilemma was whether or not I should send a magazine out to this woman. On the one hand, she, like most of the other tower people that I had ever known, was an avid reader. But on the other hand, another package from me – no matter how well I might have explained my intentions – could be misinterpreted. But a third thought occurred. If I sent a Harper's to her – even with the same innocuous note that I sent every other recipient – it might piss her off. So I did. And it did. A few weeks had passed, and I had forgotten all about it. But one evening, she got on the radio and started ranting about some thoughtless jerk who had offended her. I imagined that all of the rest of us sitting around our respective radios were listening in stunned silence. She was so animated that I immediately assumed that she must have been referring to some tower guy in the adjoining district (she would have had a separate radio frequency to cross off smokes in that direction). I only wondered what on earth he could have said to her to make her so mad. At the end of the season, I returned to the forestry station. My boss wasn't there, but he had left a manilla envelope for me. And in it, he left an official notice recommending that I not be re-hired the next season. To make a long story short, I raised a big enough stink that his boss's boss overturned his decision (after all, sending a Harper's magazine to someone was not something that a person could easily get fired over). So I stuck around another season after that. But not another. I figured that my boss was an idiot, and that thirteen years of seasonal work was enough. It was time to find a real job. So I registered at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) for civil engineering. And my life suddenly got much, much better. All because of a single Harper's magazine...and the fact that I could still occasionally be a jerk. “The smartest person in the whole world is that person who knows where the shoe pinches on their own foot” Paraphrase of an Irish proverb ........................... chapter i Years later, I often wondered if there was any way that my parents could have raised me differently, so that I wouldn't have turned out to be such a brainless little shit. More punishment? An occasional raised hand? Groundings? I doubt it. I saw that the bit of corporal punishment meted out to my buddies by their parents hadn't made the slightest dent in their outlook on life. If anything, they turned out to be worse than me. I thought about it again in my twenties, when I had mellowed out somewhat. And the conclusion that came to me then was that I needed somebody to remind me that life in Canada was pretty good, and that maybe I should stop and count my blessings occasionally. And that particular somebody would’ve had their photo taped to the door of our fridge. The photo, of course, would’ve shown a Third World child with a big smile and far bigger problems than I had ever had to deal with. Foster Parents Plan (now simply called Plan Canada) had been around since the 1930's. And my folks had always given a great deal to charitable organizations. So as I think back, I sometimes wonder why we didn't have one of those smiling faces with the brown skin and gleaming teeth looking out at us from the refrigerator door. I was adept at stealing. I was also adept at lying, since the latter ability often helped to cover up the occasional mistake committed when practising the former. Mom had a small, red purse that she kept on the upper shelf in the broom closet. She may as well have kept it on the coffee table in the living room for all the good that did. So I daily took out a few dimes or nickels if there were enough coins remaining to hide the theft. We had a boarder in the basement who brought in a bit of extra cash each month. But there was no lock on Mr. Greg's room. And in one of his drawers were some 1964 U.S. silver dollars with pictures of JFK on one side. And there seemed to be enough of them that the theft of just one might go unnoticed. Or maybe not. The next day at lunch, Dad held me and my sister back from school and told us that he wouldn't let us go back to class until he found out what had happened to Mr. Greg's silver dollar. But like Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong and Rob Ford, I was very good at the standard tactic: deny, deny, deny. Dad eventually let us go back to school. I never did go back down to Mr. Greg's room. But I still kept rifling through my mom's purse, and I still kept buying candy corn and jawbreakers and licorice, and I still have a mouth full of fillings to prove it. ............................ My job consisted of a little bit of everything. On some days, there was little to do except mow the vast lawn, and sharpen axes and pulaskis. But once in a while, something different came along. There was the large campaign fire, on which I helped out with the inventory. One of my tasks was to make sure that the big kitchen mess kits came back to the warehouse with all of the knives and forks intact. Actually, it was also to keep an eye on some of the bigger items, since crews in the past had been known to disassemble expensive Husqvarna chain saws and then put the individual pieces in with their personal items for smuggling out to civilization and the nearest pawn shop. When I got there, the operation was in the mopping up stage. It was a vast moonscape of ash and partially charred trees. Everything was either ash grey or charcoal black, except for the red Nomex suits on the firefighters...and even they were fairly grey by this point. I initially thought it was raining. Except that it wasn't water falling out of the sky; it was caterpillar poop. There was a local outbreak of "tent caterpillars", and millions of them were devouring whatever aspen leaves were still remaining.3 And what they couldn't fully digest, wound up falling on the firefighters. On top of that, the caterpillars on the ground had a tendency to think that we were trees. So if I stood still for a few seconds, the hairy critters started to climb up my boots. Just another inconvenience? Perhaps. But it was one that contributed to a large crew of firefighters laying down their tools and quitting. ........................... As Alexis de Tocqueville noted about 170 years ago, "While the workman concentrates his faculties more and more upon the study of a single detail, the master surveys an extensive whole, and the mind of the latter is enlarged in proportion as that of the former is narrowed."6 I know the utter drudgery of that workman. The worst job I ever had was working in a Coca Cola factory for a day. 12-packs of coke came down the conveyor belt at an ungodly speed. I had to grab each one and carefully stack it on a wooden pallet until the pile was almost as high as I was. As each pallet was finished, the fork lift driver came to take it away and the process started over (but even faster, since the hiccup between pallets had to be made up somehow). I felt like Charlie Chaplin (in the movie Modern Times) struggling to tighten bolts as the widgets rushed towards him at a faster and faster pace. And I sweated like a dog as I jealously glanced over at the inspector, who only had to watch as the individual bottles hurtled out of the bowels of the machinery. I now see that his job was also drop-dead boring. But at least his back wasn't breaking in the process. Twenty years later, I snagged a job that allowed me to see the fruits of my labour from beginning to end. There was still some drudgery involved, in that I often had to walk through mosquito infested ditches in the blazing sun. But when I got back to the office, I could download the survey points, design a new ditch grade, and calculate excavation volumes. In the following years, I became responsible for every aspect of that ditch: the initial landowner complaint, assessing the surrounding contour maps and aerial photos, making sure that we weren't draining a natural wetland, making sure that we weren't flooding out a downstream landowner, getting underground utilities located and exposed, finding a contractor to do the digging, finding a place to put the muck that got dug up, re-vegetating the ditch, and answering the phone if the original landowner still felt like complaining. It's the kind of job that enables me to embrace Mondays…most of the time. ...................... Later on, I did research in Hinton, Alberta, where Weldwood at least rarity, in that it "balanced" its haul distances. It didn't just take the cream that was close by. It made sure that even in the early years, it harvested at least some trees from the furthest limits of its lease. And it did so in such a manner that the overall harvest from year to year was small enough that it could continue indefinitely. By the time the last chunk was taken, the area around the first harvest was full of mature trees once more.8 That's a marked improvement over the sorry history of forestry in much of B.C., where Drushka spent his time, and where a lot of communities got thoroughly raped during the last half of the 20th century. ...................... But the third, which rarely gets mentioned, is small-scale, grass-roots organizations. This has actually worked well with traditional offshore fisheries. That's because local people know about the necessity for organizing; they know the local peculiarities of the resource; and they have the cultural wherewithal needed to avoid stepping on toes.15 But that likely won't work with international issues such as climate change and over-fishing beyond the 200 mile limit. So perhaps we do sometimes need a Leviathan with big stick. ....................... One of the newspaper columnists that I argued with was determined to prove that the concentration of carbon dioxide not seen in the last 800,000 years was a harmless anomaly. Although the oceans are now 30% more acidic than they were a hundred years ago (due to the extra CO2 being absorbed into them), she did her best to try and convince her readers that our only harmful habit was flushing massive amounts of plastic into them.12 To her, rising acidity, because it is associated with rising CO2 and our addiction to fossil fuels, was an inconvenient subject, fit only for denying in print. However, her problem was that it is much more difficult to assemble pretzel logic than it is to simply tell the truth.13 ...................... All information on the FSC concept was taken from Discovering Common Ground: How Future Search Conferences Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation, Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action. [phew!] Edited by Marvin R. Weisbord and 35 international coauthors, and published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers. San Francisco: 1992. ................... I originally thought that the term "conspicuous consumption" was something that had first been uttered in the last few decades. But it was Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), the University of Chicago economist/sociologist who came up with it in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). It describes the display of personal wealth over and above what is necessary for practical utility. A related term is "invidious consumption" which is the display of personal wealth that is designed to inspire envy in others. When I am driving it, I am one with it.21 It becomes an extension of my body. Precise amounts of clutch engagement, throttle adjustments and gear shifting are done without a single conscious thought bouncing through my brain (other than when I’m pondering some complex 70’s prog-rock melody, or when my peripheral vision is scanning an upcoming intersection, looking for incoming missiles from the left and right). At certain angles, I gaze upon it, and I am astounded by its rugged and weathered beauty. It can turn heads. It harkens back to that curvaceous era that existed before vehicles became angular, reptilian hunks of plastic-encrusted steel.22 And at 27 years of age, it is starting to become a rarity. Then, there is the sound of its 4:2:1 header and its relatively non-restrictive muffler: ? at 2,500 rpm, not loud enough to wake the neighbours on a lazy Saturday morning ? at 3,500 rpm, an advancing rasp, like Lauren Bacall snapping at Humphrey Bogart ? and at 4,500 rpm, pure Pavarottian thunder But I'm a painfully self-conscious introvert. So in traffic, I never take it to the 5,500+ rpm banshee wail. And when the CD is playing – which is always – I refrain from feverishly bobbing my head in time with Jethro Tull's Aqualung. In fact, I can barely manage to nonchalantly whistle along to the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange. I would prefer to be invisible and mute. I would prefer it if every other vehicle on the road looked just like mine...or better. That way, I could more easily blend into the crowd. So my love of a beautiful car has nothing to do with conspicuous consumption. Rather, it has everything to do with my own tactile, visual and auditory cravings. But it’s still consumption. I can flatter myself by saying that a 27 year old vehicle that is capable of getting 50 mpg on the highway is more environmentally friendly than a brand new Prius.21 But it's still much less efficient than a bus hauling a load of people or a person riding a bicycle. So I can't flatter myself that much. And even if I lived in New York or London, where cycling and transit are much more logical choices, I would still lust after the sight of beautiful curve on an automobile. And I would do it, knowing that it is one of the billion or so other vehicles that are choking our roads, warming our atmosphere and acidifying our oceans. My only consolation is the certain knowledge that either gasoline prices will start to go through the roof, or that electric vehicles22 powered by wind and solar will some day become the norm. ........................... Many chapters ago, I mentioned a 1972 Norton motorcycle that I owned. And a few chapters before that, I mentioned a heavily discounted Hot Wheels track, which I saved up for with my 35 cent per week allowance. And in both cases, I knew, either before or soon after the purchase, that the short-term glamour was an illusion. I was a bit like the character Neo in The Matrix; I knew that some part of my brain was collaborating with the myth makers. But I loved it. The myth was beautiful. And it still is beautiful. Even as I write this, I struggle against the temptation to go out into the garage and tinker with a very dignified old BMW motorcycle. And another part of my brain knows that it can wait, and that I should have finished writing this book years ago. I'm trying to think of times in the past when I might have been as conflicted as I am now. Nothing comes to mind. But now I do. So I’ve spent endless months and years buying and selling ancient and not-so-ancient cameras on ebay, looking for the perfect camera (which, of course, does not exist). But then it dawned on me that I wasn't any better. I could rationalize the And Denise has said that she would rather have me in the garage, than out at a bar or a casino. But I’ve also noticed how the days and weeks and months and years have flown by, and how a particular New Year's resolution (though I don’t recall for which year) about the writing of a certain book has long ago fallen by the wayside. .......................... My biggest vice (folks who are more objective than myself may disagree) harkens back to the old Hot Wheels set. I can shell out my hard-earned allowance and have fun in the short run, but I know that before too long, I'll tire of it. I love the novelty of the technology, but the novelty wears off. A decade ago, it was old film cameras and photography. Then it was the 90’s era sports car. Then it was the 70’s era motorcycle. Then it was the electric motorcycle. Now it’s back to the camera fetish. And all of it entails countless hours customizing, cleaning, calibrating, adapting, plugging leaks, and misplacing infinitesimally tiny parts in the hoarder’s paradise that I sometimes call my garage. I suppose I should count my blessings. Everything I have is paid for. I'm even able to save on a monthly basis. And when I read about the angst-ridden Florida billionaire who can't afford to keep his 90,000 square foot mansion, I can at least comfort myself with the assurance that I'm not nearly as delusional as he is. .......................... But when Walmart edges out locally owned (or even nationally owned) enterprises, profits fly to distant wallets. Of course, this is somewhat balanced by the gift of cheap plastic widgets from crowded factories in the polluted Chinese hinterlands. And sometimes, this is further balanced (by firms such as Walmart, no less) by pressure on Chinese sources to be more heedful of their employees and of the environment.21 But in general, the rush for the quick bottom line for distant shareholders has not been kind to local and national firms, nor to the communities they operate in. ..................... corporations "Do you expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?" Lord Chancellor Baron Thurlow (1731 to 1806) When Thurlow wrote this, the corporation was a relatively new phenomenon. But at least in his time, a corporate charter was something that had to pass the difficult test of whether it would be a good thing for the community and a good thing for the nation. Nowadays, incorporation has about the same amount of scrutiny applied to it as does the plastic ring at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. As long as short-term profits for distant shareholders are maximized, incorporation is seen as a good thing. Germany has a slightly different system, where corporate boards are composed partly from labour representatives. So decisions about whether to close up shop during a downturn become less about the short-term bottom line, and more about the long-term viability of the factory and the surrounding community. This has served the German economy well for many decades. Would it work in North America? There's only one way to find out. ............................. externalities I've already talked about this stuff in chapter viii. If I dump used motor oil down the storm drain, I don't have to bother taking it to the recycling depot. However, I'm externalizing the costs on to the fish in the Red Deer River and anyone who drinks tap water downstream. If I don't pay my taxes, I'm a bit richer. But then I also don't contribute to the public goods of health and education (so I might then get mugged and infected by a meth addict with AIDS and a low IQ). I do pay taxes and I do haul my used motor oil to get recycled. But in many other small ways, I'm a backslider. I'm not a saint. But then, who is? OK, forget sainthood. How about simply doing that extra little bit for the common good? Michael Jacobs, author of The Green Economy cites research that shows that our tendency to do that extra little bit depends on where and how we are asked to do so. If we're asked by a pollster about our willingness to sacrifice a bit for the environment, we are usually more generous than if we're asked to sacrifice by a clerk at the cash register. Our stated concern is real, but somehow our wallets make the final decision. Why is that? If it meant a significantly cleaner world, I would ride my bicycle to work. After all, I used to do it when I was at university...even at minus 30. But I'm having too much fun driving my zippy little sports car. So my "citizen valuation" is different than my "consumer valuation", to borrow the terminology from Jacobs.33 In a household energy use example, he notes: "33 In other words, Leviathan is sometimes the only way to deal with the “free riders” in society. ...................... "...the family is no longer an integral part of a larger moral ecology tying the individual to community, church, and nation. The family is the core of the private sphere, whose aim is not to link individuals to the public world, but to avoid it as far as possible."33  (And that was written nearly 30 years ago!) So the family is no longer the strong link to the community that it used to be. But is the individual family member even a functioning link to the family any more? The mass media, in particular, allows all of us to inhabit our own little cocoons. Some of us know more about Justin Bieber than we do about the City Hall that directs our lives. Some of us know more about Bieber than we do about the next door neighbour. And some might even know more about him than about a close relative living under the same roof. It is likely that I became interested in the wider world when I picked up my first MAD magazine. It broadened my horizons, but it also gave me a somewhat cynical edge. It loosened my ties to my family, but it also gave me some sense of what the war in Viet-Nam was about, and which U.S. President had a nose that looked like a ski jump. But that's just part of growing up. The real cutting of ties to family and community came with puberty and peer pressure and alcohol. When I see ancient members of our old church, I sometime wonder how much of the red-eyed, puke-smeared teenager they remember. It took 0.0001 grams of LSD to allow me to rediscover my family ties, and then it took another twenty years, and the stability of a full-time, year-round job for me to find that thing we call community. .................. We were recently treated to a brief moment of clarity when David Wilks, a B.C. MP,41 admitted to his constituents that the upcoming omnibus bill was filled with far too many controversial items and not enough debate. But when they urged him to vote against the bill, he lost his backbone and said " If I stand up and say ‘no,' it still passes."42 Apparently the people who voted him in are no match for Big Brother in the Prime Minister's office. ................... "A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands, even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men, no great thing can really be accomplished." John Stewart Mill (British philosopher-economist, 1806-1873) I remember reading the Guinness Book of World Records back in the 1970's, before it became an embarrassing joke.41 The entry for the smartest person to have ever lived was Mill. With an estimated IQ of 200, he easily beat Einstein, who attained a paltry 160. He's not an easy guy to pigeonhole. He was for a flat tax, against slavery, for women's rights, and for free markets (with some interventions in the economy). I suspect that today, we'd call him a Red Tory. ........................ As the roundtable noted, the job of government now becomes "...the development of a broader vision and framework, on long-term coordination, on spreading a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face, rather than on the more directive and interventionist activities of the past."38 But how would we get to this "shared understanding"? It certainly won’t come from an election in which the governing party only received 39.5% of the votes (the current Trudeau majority).39 Some of it could be achieved simply by taking TV cameras out of the chambers. Without cameras, our leaders would make more of an attempt to act like MP's, and less of an attempt to bully each other in the hopes that their rhetorical brownie-points might make the evening news. .......................... Fast forward a little bit more still, and we have Donald Trump, victorious in his attempt to inflame millions of under-employed workers in the rust belt. They used to have good paying jobs making cars; now they have crappy jobs telling shoppers at Walmart which aisle has the discounted copies of Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately, Trump forget to tell voters something vitally important: just as with loggers a few decades ago, and with buggy whip makers a half century before them, the main problems is not global trade;46 the main problem is that society doesn’t know how to effectively deal with the human cost of robots that can build cars. ......................... Currently, we tax goods and services (the GST). How rational is that? Taxing goods? Why don't we tax bads instead? Another example: the payroll tax. We tax companies more when they do something good (ie, hire more people). Total nonsense, but we do it anyway. However, some bads do get taxed. Cigarettes and liquor get taxed more than they otherwise would, since they sometimes lead to not nice things happening. That makes sense. So what else is there that sometimes leads to not nice things happening? Fossil fuels are big on the list. And the associated not nice things? Well, there's climate change (and you just have to watch a few extreme weather events these days to see why the insurance industry is pressuring governments to do something). There's traffic congestion. There's mercury emitted by coal fired power plants. There's the cost of going to war in the Middle East, where we say that we care about the people, but where the dollar signs in our eyes betray our real interest. So how best to tax fossil fuels? Currently, we tax gasoline at various rates.50 The revenues then go towards filling potholes and fixing up bridges. Some jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, direct the revenues from such a tax into infrastructure that makes higher prices at the pump easier to swallow (such as better public transit). A previous B.C. Government used the revenues solely to lower income taxes. That sounds ridiculous (increasing a gasoline tax so that an income tax can be reduced), but this is similar to the "fee and dividend" system, where a tax is imposed at the moment when oil or natural gas or coal comes out of the ground. The money then goes straight to the citizenry in the form of a dividend cheque, which they can spend any way they want. They can use it to buy more gasoline, or they can use it to save money (like putting more insulation in the attic). The choice is theirs. And it's hard to characterize it as a socialist plot, since one of the more well known fee and dividend systems originated in Alaska, and still functioned well when Sarah Palin was the governor. The big advantage of a fee and dividend system (or a carbon tax at the pump) is that it's relatively transparent and relatively simple. However, some politicians seem to prefer a "cap and trade" system, which sets some upper limit on the amount of pollution that industry can emit, and then allows the different companies to trade "pollution permits". It worked quite well for tackling the problem of acid rain in the 1990’s, but one of its biggest problems is that it takes an army of auditors to ensure that companies are emitting the amount of pollution that they say they are emitting. Nevertheless, politicians adore it, because it hides the cost to the consumer. Whereas a gas tax is prominently displayed on the pump, a cap and trade system is invisible. The price of everything still rises, but the words “cap and trade” aren’t written on any of the sales receipts. ................... So, with the cloistering effect of the internet, the traditional media no longer has any ability to give the two solitudes a chance to dialogue. There are online forums, but the language and visceral hatred can get nasty. Our local newspaper got tired of this, and finally decided that no one could hide behind pseudonyms; from now on, the debate was to be mediated via facebook. The logic was that if you had to sign your comments with your real name, then you would be less hasty to use four-letter words. Unfortunately, some people don't seem to have any shame. When I wrote a column about the lack of civil debate on the climate change issue,52 the response from one facebook member was "You are a greenie piece of CRAP!" .................... And society should not merely be guided by a herd of corporate lobbyists haunting the corridors of power; society should instead be guided by institutions that are both representative and highly transparent. Citizen Assemblies come to mind. ................... But poverty is real, and aside from the visceral punch of hunger and grimy surroundings, there is a moral issue, which has been debated throughout history. The Hebrew prophets railed against it. So did Jesus Christ. And Thomas Jefferson. He saw the vast inequities in France at the time, and was suitably confident that his new country would not follow down the same road. Their citizens were smarter and healthier, and less likely to wind up in jail. Less likely to break into houses. Less likely to murder someone. Richard Wilkinson has studied and written about this relationship for the past 40 years.75 I picked up his 1996 book, Unhealthy Societies, and was particularly struck by the graph showing the inverse relationship between the homicide rate in all 50 U.S. States and the share of total household income received by the poorer folks in society. Louisiana was right at the top: lots of very poor folks, lots of very rich folks, and lots of violence as a result ........................... But it’s such a vitally important concept that I feel compelled to beat you over the head again and again with it. The term gets thrown around quite a bit, but I doubt if one person in a thousand could give a textbook definition of what a public good is. So here goes. A public good has an output that is (1) free and that (2) doesn't get used up. Hmm. Sounds like pixie dust, right? But think of a radio broadcast that sends out vital information. The radio signal is free. In other words, the broadcaster can't send an invoice to your house. That's because the broadcaster has no way to tell if you listened to the broadcast or not. And secondly, if your neighbour happened to listen to that vital information, she didn't spoil the party for you. You were still able to listen. And every other neighbour within broadcast range was able to listen without depleting the signal. The signal didn't get used up...even if a billion people listened to it. That was an easy example. What happens when we go past the technology and look at the output of the technology. That educational radio broadcast has the potential to create smarter citizens. Smarter citizens are a public good. Why are they a public good? Because their output is generally free. If you randomly ask someone for advice, they usually don't charge a fee. They usually tell the truth, and smarter people usually give better advice than morons. That's education. What about health? What about things like vaccines and clean water? Sure, the vaccines cost money, and sure, cleaning up dirty water costs money. But it's the output from those services that is free. And that output is an environment which isn't full of deadly bacteria and viruses. Everyone benefits…even those folks who are too young or too old or too broke or too greedy to pay taxes. And the disease-free environment doesn't get used up. If your brother didn't contract the ebola virus, it doesn't mean that you're more likely to. ..................... Likewise, another former Conservative, Mark Parent (MLA from Nova Scotia) also expressed puzzlement at the decision: "I am pretty sure conserve is in the name conservative and I always thought that conservatives thought to conserve the best of the past and the wisdom and insight, but also – and maybe foundationally – to conserve the environment."97 I think it goes back to the fact that Harper has a Master's degree in economics. Now, as the existence of Herman Daly makes clear, that doesn't automatically make you a moron, but it often facilitates a worldview which sees the economy as something which is capableof making something out of nothing.97 However, what is forgotten is that what is hiding under that big pile of nothing is a big pile of something. Economists in the know call it "natural capital".98 Google it, Steve! ......................... According to David Korten, citizen groups are the main tool to keep the excesses of both Big Business and Big Government in line.99 The Tea Party movement comes to mind. So do the myriad small organizations that I see on the website of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations. Ostensibly, they're all the same. They're all trying to make a better society. They're all mostly run by volunteers. But there the similarity ends. For one thing, the Tea Party is heavily influenced by Big Money (eg, the billionaire Koch brothers). For another, it is a political movement. These factors tend to contribute to a fair amount of groupthink. As Rosell's roundtable notes, even though grassroots social cohesion is the foremost prerequisite in any economically successful society, "...too high a degree of social uniformity (groupthink) can constitute a learning disability, depriving society of the different perspectives and unconventional viewpoints on which learning so much depends.”100 Is there groupthink in the Tea Party? Take the issue of climate change. An October, 2010 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 86% of Tea Party supporters dismissed the issue.101 The same article from the Times quoted Lisa Deaton (founding member of a Tea Party affiliate group) as saying "I cannot help but believe the Lord placed a lot of minerals in our country and it's not there to destroy us." One can't help but wonder if perhaps the 2012 drought or Hurricane Sandy or the Houston floods have caused Ms. Deaton to have further thoughts about destruction, the Lord, and cognitive dissonance. But I doubt it. Cognitive dissonance is that little voice which tells us that perhaps we’re doing something wrong; groupthink is the thunderous chorus which tells us that the little voice is the enemy. ............................. For a few years after that, however, one of Joe's buddies would often notice me on the way home from school and give me a slight jostle in front of my friends. "Hey, here's the tough guy! How's it going, tough guy!?" I pretended not to know who he was or why he was taunting me. But a few years later, I bumped into him again...figuratively, this time. He was at my friend Sam’s9 place, in the backyard, checking out our motorcycles. Sam had a 1969 Honda 90 motorcycle, and I had a mid-sixties Ducati 100, and even though Ducati is generally acknowledged to be a much more coveted trademark, at the time I got teased about it, since it looked so different, compared to the average Japanese import. Joe's buddy pretended not to notice that I was the idiot who long ago picked a fight with Joe. And he seemed genuinely interested in the Italian bike. He knew about craftsmanship and aesthetics, and he encouraged me to appreciate the weird European contraption. "It's a classic. You could get good money for that some day." But not only was I an idiot; I was also a tinkerer. So one day, I tore apart the carburetor to see what was inside. There was an adjustable circlip on the air/fuel metering needle that looked ripe for adjustment. So I adjusted it. And on the next trip down the highway, the piston seized and I came to a sudden halt. Soon after, the whole bike found its way into the Calgary dump, which in those days seemed to be just a big mess of unwanted appliances by the side of a gravel road. I suspect that the old Ducati is now many meters below the Deerfoot Trail freeway. And I suspect that if Joe's buddy owned the bike, it might be sitting proudly in a museum somewhere. ................................ Decades later, I wrote a newspaper column on our collective ability to destroy vehicles in the name of novelty and "progress". It is now far too easy to send a vehicle to the junkyard, instead of fixing it up. Do-gooders would have us junk a twenty year old Civic and get an expensive new Prius, due to the erroneous notion that we'd be doing the planet a favour. However, the calculations never include the energy (and resulting pollution) that goes into making every new vehicle. This energy (known as "embodied energy") is equal to as much as 30% of the lifetime total of the car's fuel usage...fuel that eventually contributes to CO2, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (ie, stuff that either heats up the planet or contributes to regional pollution). ......................... It was still usable in my late teens, so I used it to pedal out to Dan’s place (the same Dan who hauled me home after that 26’er of gin). Dan was weird, in that he saved money. So weird, in fact, that the real estate agent had never seen anyone that young fork over a down payment on a house. But it was an older, conventional house in a conventional neighbourhood, so Dan sold it and bought a small acreage out in Golden, B.C. There, he built a shack (with his own hands) out of railway ties (probably not creosoted, since I don't remember keeling over when I entered the place). But I'm getting ahead of myself, since I still had to cycle out there. Golden was about three hours away by car, so traveling with a ratty old bicycle laden down by a sleeping bag, bivy sack7, water, granola, and a tattered copy of On The Road, the traveling time was considerably more. And I didn't exactly have lightweight cycling gear. Certainly no cycling shoes, and not even plain old running shoes. All I had were heavy hiking boots, since the concrete floor of the auto parts warehouse wasn't at all forgiving with any type of footwear that didn't have a pound or two of cushioning underneath it. By the end of the first day, I had made it more than half way. I didn't look for a campground, but simply dragged my bike and gear up into the forest. I briefly thought about bears, but reasoned that since I wasn't traveling with bacon or salami or cartons of milk, I was probably safe. By mid-afternoon of the second day, I was coasting down into Golden, having just finished the series of tight curves situated high above the Kicking Horse River (the best road this side of Italy for hairpin turns). It took me a while to find Dan's place, but when I finally did, I was astonished at how small and simple the shack was. It was on a bare concrete pad, and the whole thing wasn’t much bigger than a typical middle class kitchen. And although the exterior was neat and tidy, the acreage itself seemed to be missing the standard babbling brook with the fragrant fir trees shading its banks. Instead, there was just the gravel road out front, a bunch of poplars out back, and a generous coating of dust on the weeds in between. Luckily, Dan was getting a bit bored with life out there, so the next day, we packed my bike into his old Valiant and headed back to Calgary the quick way. ............................ Quite a luxury, since at most of the other towers, I had to be content with either Canada Post or a complicated system with the Forest Service radio. If someone back home wanted to talk to me, or if I wanted to talk to someone back home, I had to cajole someone from the office staff to be the go-between with a microphone, a telephone, and the forestry radio. My caller and I would each have to say "over" after we had finished a sentence or two. That way, the office staff would know when to hold the mike up to the phone and when to hold the phone up to the speaker on the two-way radio. And, of course, the resulting conversation would then be heard by all of the other towers and firefighting crews. During one particular episode, the process became quite heart wrenching, when we overheard a fellow tower-person learning from a friend back home that his mother had died. In keeping with the alphabetic theme, there was Carmen. She initially hunted me down after I had written some glowing remarks in the university newspaper about the left-wing philosopher, Noam Chomsky. "Is there a club or anything that meets to discuss his ideas?" No, but Carmen and I wound up having a few meetings over a few beers in the student's union pub. It was amazing, being able to talk to a beautiful, intelligent woman about left-wing politics and the vast smorgasbord of bohemian culture. She was married, but her husband didn't seem to mind our platonic dates. Maybe his mind was elsewhere, since a few years down the road, they separated, and then divorced (supposedly due to his infidelity). We kept in touch over the years and became more and more comfortable with each other's company. Once, she even came out to one of my towers for a few days. It was a helicopter flight in and out, but since the fire hazard was moderate, and crews were moving around, it wasn't a big deal to make space for an extra passenger. After one particular fire season, I returned in the fall, and I found her feeding a small child in a high chair. The tyke beamed at me and squealed "Mommy!" (apparently, any adult with a friendly smile was “Mommy”). So now I had another friend (who went by the name of Bronwyn), and a regular baby-sitting gig. At least once or twice a week, I'd pull on a bunch of layers (including the old army greatcoat) and hop on my bicycle with the studded front tire for a half-hour trip in biting cold over icy sidewalks. Months later, she asked me if I would be Bronwyn's godfather. I was flattered. But also a bit leery, since I was just a professional student who had never earned more than pittance. So I hummed and hawed until the matter was forgotten. April came around and I headed back to the tower. It was the same old routine. Unlike most of the other towers I had been at, however, it had the luxury of a land-line phone.4 So a few weeks in, I called Carmen to see how things were going. But five minutes into the call, Bronwyn started acting up, and Carmen said she'd phone back. So I waited. And waited. Hours passed. Then days and weeks and months. When she finally called, she apologized, saying that the divorce proceedings had been keeping her preoccupied. But I felt like I was being shunned. My feelings were hurt (cue the violins). Now I had to make her feel bad. So I shunned her. I was silent to the point of being rude over the phone. And I made myself scarce when I got back to Edmonton. Once again, I was boosting my ego at the expense of someone else’s. I doubt if I crushed hers, since she was strong. But I wanted to think that the few perceived slights that she had given me over the years were being paid back. Nowadays, if I find myself giving in to those same feelings with anyone, I just have to remember Carmen and Bronwyn. And I tell myself, "Grow up, ass-hole!" .............................. I met Gloria at the ranger station, where she was waiting to head out to a different tower. We chatted, and we found that we had quite a few things in common. (That's not difficult, since most tower people are fairly similar: ie, they’re all wannabe hippies.) But the best thing was that we both worked at towers that were accessible by road, so we were able to visit each other or meet in town. We made things for each other. I duplicated a shading system for her cupola that I had already constructed for mine. She mixed a wilderness themed cassette tape for me. Life was good. Until one day, when we were chatting at her tower, she told me that she had fallen for one of the firefighters. I feigned a vague interest, but shortly after, I made an excuse to head back to my tower. I went through the motions, but my soul wasn’t in it. I radioed in the daily weather reports. I looked for smoke. And I was forced to talk to her over the radio, since we overlooked some of the same territory, and thus we occasionally needed to affirm or deny various smoke-like apparitions. I had an overwhelming desire to let her know how much she had hurt me, and I didn't really care if I embarrassed her in the process. So I sent her a poem. It was, of course, pathetic drivel. And it was also, in places, overtly sexual. I didn't hear anything back, but one day, a vehicle drove up to the tower. In it was my boss and a strange woman. Apparently, Gloria had lodged a sexual harassment complaint. The strange woman was an investigator from the head office in Edmonton. The three of us sat in the cabin and had a talk. The investigator showed me the poem and asked if I wrote it. I nodded. But fortunately, I had also kept one of Gloria's letters. It showed that, in this case, it took two to tango. They left in the car, and I never heard anything back on the matter. But the following season, there was somebody else stationed at Gloria's old tower. What I did was stupid, and I escaped by the skin of my teeth. But did I learn anything? ...................... An innocent glance from her prompted me to add two and two and come up with five. A recent entry in Harper’s “Findings” page (scientific findings, each summarized in a single, sometimes enigmatic, sentence) that noted that males are far more likely than females to misconstrue meaningless gestures from the opposite sex. That was certainly true in far too many of my dealings with women…as well as with Homer Simpson’s dealings with women. In Episode 16 of Season 5, he makes a comment about his neighbour’s wife, Maude: “…[she] has a thing for me, but she hides it behind a mask of low-key hostility.” There was another woman at another tower. Another year. Another ranger station. We chatted for a bit, and I found out that she was interested in artwork and Europe. So after we got shipped off to our respective towers, I thought I'd send her a book featuring the artwork from the Prado Museum in Madrid (it's a common practice in the lookout community to swap any reading material that might reduce the boredom). Unfortunately, in the accompanying note, I hinted that I thought that she was attractive.7 I guess she wasn't impressed, since at the next mail drop, I received the book back without any explanation. Oh, well. No big deal. A few weeks later, I started to prepare one of my monthly care packages for the other towers. I usually kept all of my Harper's and Atlantic Monthly magazines from the winter months, so that I could send them out to the other towers in the district. Of course, the dilemma was whether or not I should send a magazine out to this woman. On the one hand, she, like most of the other tower people that I had ever known, was an avid reader. But on the other hand, another package from me – no matter how well I might have explained my intentions – could be misinterpreted. But a third thought occurred. If I sent a Harper's to her – even with the same innocuous note that I sent every other recipient – it might piss her off. So I did. And it did. At the end of the season, I returned to the forestry station. My boss wasn't there, but he had left a manilla envelope for me. And in it, he left an official notice recommending that I not be re-hired the next season. To make a long story short, I raised a big enough stink that his boss's boss overturned his decision (after all, sending a Harper's magazine to someone was not something that a person could easily get fired over). So I stuck around another season after that. But not another. My boss was an idiot, and thirteen years of seasonal work was enough. It was time to find a real job. So I registered at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) for civil engineering. And my life suddenly got much, much better. And all because of a single Harper's magazine...and the fact that I could still occasionally be a jerk. .............. altruism The main text for the course being the book The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar and other Innocent Heroes do to our Minds by Ariel Dorfman (Duke University Press, Durham, N.C., 1983). Hmm. What would Dorfman say about the heroes in popular video games like the Grand Theft Auto series, where players are encouraged to torture prisoners (with knee-cappings and dental extractions), kill cops, and do away with prostitutes (in order to get some of their money back). p. 191. William F. May in Adversarialism in America and the Professions (in Community in America edited by Charles H. Reynolds and Ralph V. Norman. 1988, University of California Press. Berkeley). Universities may be able to show us how to get from here to there, but they're often not able to tell us "whether the 'there' is worth getting to".4 This shouldn't be the case, since universities usually have programs in the humanities and the social sciences, which help us figure out this thing we call civilization. For example, one of the most useful courses that I took, taught me to see through some of the subtle, underlying messages in popular culture. It mentioned such classics as Donald Duck (the Scrooge McDuck message being that “greed is good”), Babar the Elephant (colonialism is good), The Lone Ranger (community is just a word in the dictionary), and Reader’s Digest (“the infantilization of the adult reader”).5 But whether the average economist or engineer or lawyer is ever exposed to anything as useful as this is doubtful. .................. business From Stumped: The Forest Industry in Transition. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre Ltd. p. 81 Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, by Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. New York: Harper and Row, 1985. P.290. Most of my entries in this category were focused on forestry, often borrowing from the author Ken Drushka. I saw him lecture in Victoria once. I was expecting someone who looked like a writer (maybe a bit owlish and skinny and nervous). But he looked like a logger (disheveled, relaxed, and with a bit of a gut). Maybe that's because he spent 16 years in the logging industry, in addition to his prior journalism work. He talked about "exodus theory", where the big corporations come to town, take the cream off of the top, and then leave.6 The cream, in this case, would be the nearby old-growth forest, which is within easy hauling distance to the mill. That speaks to the need for society to reassert the original reason that corporations came into existence. As Robert Bellah et al noted, we need to remind our politicians that "...incorporation is a concession of public authority to a private group in return for service to the public good."6 Raping the planet should not be an implicit part of any corporate mission statement. ......................... See the Forest Among the Trees: the Case for Wholistic Forestry Use Vancouver: Polestar Press. 1991. p. 172 Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the muck-raking novel The Jungle, which exposed the horrific conditions in the U.S. Meat packing industry in the early 20th century. Freudenburg, William R.; Lisa J. Wilson, Daniel O'Leary (1998). "Forty Years of Spotted Owls? A Longitudinal Analysis of Logging-Industry Job Losses" . Sociological Perspectives 41 (#1): pp. 1--26. Retrieved 2008-11-12 labour From Herb Hammond's book on sustainable forestry: "…loggers threatened by layoffs are the ripest target for media campaigns against the environment."39 Remember the Spotted Owl controversy from the late 1980's? This little guy’s natural habitat was in old growth forests, and since old growth forests represented easy money to a forest industry intent on clear-cutting, the owl's days seemed to be numbered. And when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it wanted to list the owl as a threatened species, many loggers saw their own days as being numbered. Bumper stickers sprouted up from British Columbia to northern California stating I Like Spotted Owls – Fried and Kill A Spotted Owl – Save A Logger. Lost in the uproar was the simple fact that mechanization was the main job killer: from 1947 to 1964, logging jobs had declined by 90%.39 Fast forward a few decades, and move over one province to the east, and the labour versus Spotted Owls controversy has morphed into labour versus climate science. Bumper stickers that used to condemn owls now condemn carbon taxes. However, the underlying mechanism is the same. As the writer Upton Sinclair40 noted, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." ................... Stephan Schmidheiny and the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 1992. p.32. From For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989. p138 oikonomia ...which is the ancient Greek word that “economy” is derived from. However, in the modern world, it is a useful term meaning economics that take into account both the environment and the well-being of future generations. Herman Daly and John Cobb distinguish it from the equally ancient word chrematistics: "Aristotle made a very important distinction between ‘oikonomia' and ‘chrematistics '... [Chrematistics] can be defined as a branch of political economy relating to the manipulation of property and wealth so as to maximize short-term monetary exchange value to the owner. Oikonomia, by contrast, is the management of the household so as to increase its use value to all members of the household over the long run."47  "The long run." That's a very inconvenient concept, when it comes to the corporate ideal of short-term profits for shareholders. And when we factor the environment into the equation, things get even more inconvenient. There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg battle going on, where some folks maintain that the economy must take precedence over the environment. Other folks have two eyes and see that agriculture and forestry and fisheries are somehow related to both the environment and the economy. Responsible economists recognize that the capitalist martket-place is still the most effective and efficient method to reach our goals. However, the citizenry must determine what those goals are.48 .................... From a speech at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on September 27th, 2001. Yes, America had a chance to do some soul searching. But what was George Bush's response? "Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America's great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed."53 In other words, continue on with your profligate lifestyle. And while you're at it, support me in a quick little war in Iraq. Gotta deal with those weapons of mass destruction that are buried under the sand (trust me). The possibility that there’s also 100,000,000,000 barrels of oil under that same sand?54 Just a coincidence (trust me). ........................ …from a MacLean & MacLean song (a politically incorrect duo from Nova Scotia who made it big in the 70’s and 80’s). That isn't the case with the average person from China or India or Africa. They are already at the limits of their capacity to increase food production. Neither can they dramatically decrease their already minimal intake of animal protein. Therefore, population overshoot will hit them much sooner and harder than it will us. At this point, I keep hearing my cynical friend, Harry (from the exhaust parts warehouse) singing “Keep it over there, Lord. Keep it over there.”63  ........................ Tannis MacBeth Williams in The Impact of Television: A Natural Experiment in Three Communities. Toronto: Academic Press, 1986. p.395 At an even more fundamental level, reality TV, violent video games and moronic movies serve to distract us. They take us away from our communities an awareness of global problems. In academic-speak, they have "displacement effects".88 Kids growing up glued to various screens often show less creativity and reading fluency. Fortunately for them, there's "grade inflation" to take up the slack. It doesn't matter if Johnny is as dumb as a brick; he'll still get a decent grade. ................. And lest we forget, there's the Hollywood crapthat often gives doses of cranial clap! ....................... There was also a young girl there, but I soon learned that she was a servant (labor laws there either being lax or non-existent). ...................... The feelies were mentioned in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Instead of movie theatres that only had visual imagery and sound, audience members were also able to feel the physical sensations that the characters were feeling. and somehow (the biblical equivalent of a hologram or a feely6 perhaps?) appear to converse with them after his death .......................... Judge Judy also uses it to great effect. I'm sure that the objects of her scorn detest her all the more for it. But the rest of the audience has a chuckle, and perhaps the popularity of her show is due, in part, to her sarcasm. Would she have such an audience without the sarcasm? And without the show, would a significant number of people be deprived of knowledge about the legal system?