The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘the environment’ Category

SUPERFLUOUS

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CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

There is a concept that underlies all the theories that the left promulgates.  It is that the individual is impotent, meaningless and essentially an expendable statistic.  We can see that clearly in the movement behind unionization – but it runs throughout all the currents of the polluted waters that they flush through their philosophy.

There is some truth to the general principle that there is “safety in numbers.”  There are also exceptions to that rule.  Lemmings offer a good example.  As do the six million Jews who live in Israel, surrounded by three hundred million Muslims.  That isn’t working out so well for the mullahs – their best efforts to annihilate the Jewish state notwithstanding.

Recently I commented on a piece regarding “global warming/climate change” that appeared in The Huffington Post.  My response was very simple.  I offered the opinion that I didn’t know whether “climate change” was a reality or a fabrication, but I agreed that mankind does make an impact on our environment – the most obvious being in the form of litter and pollution.  I went on to explain that if one accepted that and disliked either litter on our streets or in our air, he or she should take whatever steps possible to reduce or eliminate taking actions which would result in those conditions.  Personally, I think that is a pretty non-controversial statement.  I went on to offer a simple list of ten things which each of us could do now to work to reduce both litter and pollution – until we wait for science to discover the “ultimate solution.”

Although several people checked the “Like” button, the only written response I received was from someone who apparently had a different world view.  He excoriated my naiveté, thinking that “one person could make a difference.”  Of course, he failed to recognize that I do realize that if only one person out of six billion does something positive, that will indeed be meaningless.  His statement was, of course, an expression of his belief that only through the power of government “enlightenment” would we be able to ameliorate “climate change.”  But he overlooked something far more fundamental which I pointed out in my response.

I answered his comment, “Thank you for your thoughtful response.  In fact I do appreciate that one person alone cannot change the world.  However, I also believe that one person may inspire another and those two might inspire several more.  But irrespective of whether or not that good example causes others to do the same is irrelevant.  Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.”

I received no response to my reply.

Part and parcel of this man’s mindset (and many who think as he does) is an avoidance of taking personal responsibility.  It is part of the “victim mentality” syndrome.  People who hold this philosophy believe that only through the imposition of government rules and regulations can we achieve an orderly society.  And in their absence, they inadvertently feel justified in avoiding taking personal action which, if we all followed a good example, might obviate the need for those government rules and regulations in the first place.

It does seem as though one ordinary person acting alone cannot do much to set the world on a better course.  But if there is no one willing to try, then we must give ourselves up to the hope that somehow fate will benignly accommodate our inherent deficiencies.  And if that is the case, history would suggest that she has been singularly absent from the world stage and the course of human events.

AGENDAS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

He is well spoken, succinct and presents his commentary with authority.  Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist gave testimony this week before a U. S. Senate committee regarding global warming.  Although the honor goes to many who claim to be in on the founding of the organization known as Greenpeace, Moore’s credentials are are strong as any of the others.

In his testimony he asserted that there is absolutely no evidence that the warming of the earth is other than a natural and regular phenomenon and is not caused by man’s activities.  Needless to say, Moore has earned himself the status of  a “persona non grata” among the most ardent of those in the environmental movement.

Moore went on to explain that the movement had lost its way and instead of trying to save the earth had focused on the far more lucrative potential of raking in the dough both through individual contributions and through government payouts.  There isn’t an “environmentalist” in a university who holds a position that does not start with the underlying premise that man is the contributor to global warming because there is no grant money in holding the opposite position.  Could it really all be about the money?

It’s always hard for me to accept statements that purport to have found global truth and certainty.  There are some exceptions to that statement.  I do believe that the earth is round, the sun rises in the east and that water is wet.  I also believe that litter is both ugly and unnecessary.  We might refer to pollution as aerial litter and therefore I support efforts to reduce or eliminate it.  But not everyone is on that same page.

Take, for example, the Chinese general who recently characterized the question of China’s pollution, the worst on the globe, as a good thing.  If you’ve ever seen a photo of any of China’s cities where the residents are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the foul air, you might question the general’s logic if not his sanity.

The general had a simple explanation for his position.  “The pollution in our cities helps protect us from the laser equipment on U. S. drone planes because it makes it impossible for them to focus accurately on their targets.”  Whether the general really believes that or he is making an excuse for China’s failure to address their  pollution problems is anyone’s guess.  We all have our agendas.

Whether it was in business or in my personal life I have always found that in order to achieve a goal it was important for me first to define what the goal was.  And then rather than leap to the end, I needed to define specific small steps which would lead me to accomplish what I intended.  Perhaps that is my biggest gripe with those who identify themselves as “environmentalists.”  I do not see many of them taking the small steps which would help improve our environment – which is something I  believe in doing.  We cannot tell other nations to meet high standards if we ourselves do not first set an example.

In the United States we produce and consume 50 Billion plastic bottles a year containing water.  Only twenty percent of those are recycled – leaving 40 Billion bottles a year to get consigned to landfills.  In order to produce those bottles we consume 17 Million barrels of oil.  If you were to add in other beverage containers for juices, sports drinks and sodas you can probably double those numbers.  By almost anyone’s definition that’s a lot of waste and a lot of oil.

To my knowledge, there are only three states which require a deposit when the consumer purchases a plastic bottle containing water, those being California, Hawaii and Maine.  The deposit is small at a nickel – although California has a variable schedule based on the size of the container.  Simply put, that deposit amount is probably insufficient for the consumer to take the environmental impact of disposing of plastic bottles seriously.

But what if there were a twenty-five cent deposit on each bottle of water?  Most consumers purchase bottled water in packages containing two dozen or thirty bottles.  Suddenly, seeing an additional charge on the grocery bill of six dollars or seven-fifty might encourage the shopper to make sure that those bottles were returned so they could receive their deposit back.  There might well be additional benefits to implementing this deposit strategy.

1)  In order to process the higher number of bottles which would be returned for recycling we would undoubtedly develop automated equipment which would handle the process and dispense a voucher for the deposit money.  That means a new industry would begin at a time when our economy is only slowly staggering toward recovery and new jobs that would be created in order to make this equipment.

2)  Consumers, faced with a charge – even a refundable deposit – might investigate alternatives to buying water in plastic bottles such as home filtering equipment which would reduce the number of plastic bottles used and the amount of oil consumed to produce them.

3)  The evidence is increasing, though far from conclusive, that plastic beverage containers leech PCB’s into the liquid they contain.  There is some concern that PCB’s are contributing factors to the development of various forms of cancer.  Thus, reducing our consumption of plastic bottled beverages might act as a way to minimize our risk of getting that disease.

There may be some downside to this deposit suggestion but I haven’t been able to think of one – other than the immediate out of pocket cost of making the deposit and the need to return the bottles for its return.  I would welcome any of my readers to offer any opposing views or any positive suggestions which they have.

My agenda for the environment is that, to the best of my ability, I want to do as little as I can to harm it and try to do as much as I can to benefit it.  To that end I produce only one small bag of garbage every two weeks – in large measure because I compost a lot of trash.  I don’t make unnecessary car trips and try to organize my travel so I can accomplish my errands in one organized run rather than multiple trips.  I watch the thermostat and put on extra clothes in the winter rather than turn up the heat and rely more on ceiling fans in the summer than air conditioning.  In the summer I let my clothes sun dry rather than using the electric dryer.  (In addition to saving electricity, the smell is infinitely nicer).

That plan might seem insufficient to some of the more radical environmentalists but it’s my agenda and I’m sticking with it.  And now it’s time to go.  Gracie needs her morning walk and I have bigger tofu to fry.

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A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

The estimates of the number who were killed due to Typhoon Haiyan are mounting daily.  The fear is that 10,000 or more may have died as a result of this storm.  The Philippines has a population of nearly 87 million people – so as a percentage that is about two thousandths of one percent of the populace.  So that’s no big deal.  At least, that is the thinking that comes from our Washington bureaucracy and the administration.

There are now well over four million health insurance policies that have been cancelled as a result of Obamacare.  That number would be far greater had Obama not delayed the employer mandate for a year to get the full devestation this law will cause only unveiled after the mid-term elections.  As the numbers mount, the administration minimizes what has already happened – citing that these cancellations will affect less than five per cent of those with insurance.

For those of us who have always had difficulty with decimal points and percentages, that’s more than four hundred times the number of people who will be killed by Typhoon Haiyan.  While I don’t have any direct evidence to back up this claim, I suspect that out of that large a pool of people there are at least 10,000 individuals who have a life-threatening condition and are now being forced to find a new doctor or hospital to treat them – thanks to Obamacare.

Let’s take a leap of faith – a huge leap of faith – and say that the advertised underpinning for Obamacare was to give the 30 million or so uninsured Americans the security of having the comfort of knowing that they would be able to obtain insurance.  Those who opposed Obamacare were categorized as “heartless,” “mean-spirited,” “uncaring.”  They were cast as unfeeling people who could care a whit about the poor and un-empowered.  And their name was the GOP.

Let’s further set aside the fact that these heartless GOP lawmakers and partisans warned over three years ago that this law was flawed; that the mass cancellations that have been happening would ensue; that prices for insurance contracts would not fall by the purported $2,500 per year that Obama claimed but would rise; and that when all was said and done, there would still be tens of millions who would remain without health insurance – all of which predictions are coming to pass.

As events have begun to unfold, highlighted by the incompetent rollout of the government’s website, those warm and fuzzy Democrats, the self-anointed champions of the “folks” have had to scramble to diffuse criticism which has now come even from one of Obama’s biggest boosters, “The New York Times” – which should really change it’s motto to “All the news that we think you should know.”

Finally, after what is one of the most botched unveilings in history, Obama finally decided to make an “apology.”  If you heard this week’s statement from his Greatness, he was upset by the rollout because “I was burned by it – uh, I mean the American people were burned by it.”  And those “care bear” Democrat legislators are spewing forth their indifference with statements like, “I’m so upset that this [disaster] is providing fodder for our opponents.”

Where’s the love, Washington?

Obama and company have consistently down-played the impact of a mere five percent of the population who have so far been adversely affected by the law.  They continue to ignore the fact that despite repeatedly promising this would not happen, the President knew that it would – as long as three years ago – and despite that continued to lie to the public in order to sell this disastrous program.  Their vision is that “the general good” always trumps the bodies of the individual who are mere pawns to achieve their goals.  Any tactic to achieve their ends is acceptable in their view.

So let’s turn to those who were uninsured before the law and see how enthusiastic they have been in welcoming this new benefit.  Sadly, not so much.  According to the latest information, only about one out of five of those uninsured since the law’s passage have even bothered to attempt to get information from the website.  In fairness, that’s probably partly due to the fact that the website hasn’t worked well.  Or it just may be that they simply don’t place having health insurance as a high priority on their to-do lists.  Only time will tell.

But what we do know is that millions of Americans are now having to deal with the stress of finding new insurance and new medical providers.  The “remorse” that comes from our politicos seems to stem more from politics than it does from policy.  So that begs a question.

If Filipino President Benigno Aquino III were to respond to the devestation of Typhoon Haiyan in the same inefficient, unfeeling and indifferent manner as the Obama administration has handled the Obamacare law and rollout, it wouldn’t surprise me that we might read a story about how he had been hanged by the people in front of the Presidential Palace.

That might provide the wake up call that should have been heard a long time ago by an administration that has been driving while asleep at the wheel and drunk with power.

The pictures of the devestation in the Philippines are overwhelming and the United States has quickly responded with humanitarian aid – as well we should.  These are real people and real lives which have been lost.

Do not our own citizens whose health is at stake deserve the same compassion from our government?

THESE FOOLISH THINGS

Let me be the first to admit (before you take the time to point it out) that I am not the smartest person on planet Earth.  But I still think that in a fairly administered IQ test, I could hold my own against your above average hedgehog.  Let me further admit that there are certain warning labels whose meaning or intent I simply do not comprehend.

Let me offer you an example.

I had decided that the walls of my office were looking a little dingy and so I decided to wash them down.  This was a few days ago.  Because I try to act in an environmentally friendly way, I was using a product manufactured by The Clorox Company called “Green Works” whose contents are supposed to be completely bio-degradable.

I hadn’t started with a full bottle of the stuff (it comes in one of those spray top containers) and mid-way through the project I ran out.  As I was tired, I decided that I would finish the next day after going to the store and buying a new supply.

So the  following morning I went to my supermarket and there was a nice supply of Green Works on the shelf.  But it was all in those spray bottles and I didn’t see a refill size available.  I asked customer service if they carried a refill quantity of this product.  They looked it up in their computer and said that was the only size in which they carried the product.

So I thought, “Surely Clorox must offer this product in a larger quantity.  After all, it is supposed to be an environmentally-friendly product – and offering a larger size would reduce the amount of plastic waste.”

I went home and called the 800 number on my original bottle and spoke with a friendly young lady at Clorox.  I explained my quest for their product and wondered if she could tell me if there were a larger, refill size available.

She put me on hold for a few minutes and said, “I’ve checked.  We do make a gallon-size in Green Works.”

I asked if she would be able to direct me to a store that carried it.

She responded, “Well, Lowe’s and Home Depot carry it from time to time (she also mentioned several other retailers which were unfamiliar to me), but I couldn’t tell you if they currently have it in stock.  You’ll have to check with the stores.”

Well, I had accomplished something.  I at least knew the product existed.  So I thanked her and ended the call.

I went both to the Lowe’s and Home Depot web sites and typed Green Works in the query box.  Neither store carried the specific Clorox product (in any size) but they both offered a similar product called “Simple Green” which had like attributes and was also environmentally-friendly.  And it was available in a gallon-sized quantity for $9.99 as opposed to my original spray bottle which contained a quart and was priced at $4.69.  This was a terrific savings if you know that there are four quarts to a gallon.  (Well, actually it’s a terrific savings even if you don’t).

It did occur to me briefly that pouring Simple Green into a bottle which once contained Green Works might, in certain parts of the country, be construed as miscegenation.  But other than sharing this with my readers I am not going to tell anyone and I have total confidence that you will keep this between us.

So this morning after the dog park, Gracie and I headed over to Lowe’s to track down the Simple Green gallon jug.  I didn’t anticipate any problems because the web site said this particular store had 18 of them in stock.  I put on Gracie’s lead and she leaped from the station wagon in anticipation of going on a new adventure.

When it comes to grocery shopping, I am very efficient.  I don’t overly enjoy the experience and I try to make it as brief as possible.  I know the layout of all the different stores at which I purchase groceries and I organize my list in such a way as to take the shortest path to complete my shopping based on the store’s configuration.  Not so with Lowe’s – at which I shop only infrequently.

I have learned from past experience that rather than wander around the store trying to find a particular item, it is more efficient to stop at customer service on the way in and ask where I might find something.  This is especially true if I have Gracie with me because she likes to browse and explore.  And while she is well-behaved, I sometimes give in to her impulses to shop ‘till she drops (or I do).

So customer service directed me to Aisle 12 where they said I would find my Simple Green refill.  Gracie and I started in that direction but en route, several Lowe’s employees stopped to admire and pet her (which she appreciates) and ask the usual question, “What kind of dog is she?”

I used to respond to that question with the one word answer, “Big.”  But I thought that was a tad impolite.  So now, I simply say, “You know I’m not completely sure.  I found her as a puppy in front of a Lane Bryant store.  I think she had gone there to buy a new ensemble.”

For some reason people seem to think that answers the question.

Gracie and I arrived at Aisle 12.  It was indeed the aisle where cleaning products of all sorts and descriptions were sitting on the shelves.  I thought, “Oh, good.  This will be easy.”  But it wasn’t.  We walked up and down the aisle but nowhere did I see a one gallon-sized Simple Green refill jug.

After three tours of Aisle 12 I threw in the towel.  I wanted to be absolutely certain that the product wasn’t there before I went back to customer service and inquired whether they had it in the store or had run out of stock.

So there we were, back at customer service.  I had brought a one quart spray bottle of Simple Green with me to show them the product I was seeking.  Meanwhile, I could tell that Gracie was getting a little bored as she had already seen what there was to see on the main store aisle all the way to Aisle 12.

The helpful young lady came from behind the desk and walked us back to Aisle 12.  Much to my relief, she also had trouble finding the product.  But then she spied it.  The container itself wasn’t visible but in the very back of a seemingly empty space on the bottom shelf there was one gallon jug left.  She got down on her hands and knees to retrieve it for me, for which I thanked her.  And the best news was that it was on sale for only $8.99.  Such a deal.

She left us to return to her post and I was preparing to pay for the Simple Green and leave – but Gracie had other ideas.  Rather than allowing me to return to the front of the store she must have realized that there was a lot of unexplored territory in this Lowe’s and she wanted to do a bit of browsing.  And as I will often humor her, I allowed her to take me on a little jaunt.

I’m not quite sure why but we ended up in the aisle that sells stepladders.  She seemed to feel that these were exceptionally interesting.  I don’t know the reason that she was fascinated with them as I have two at home and she’s never seemed overly interested in socializing with either.

But as I was standing watching her gaze at these metal contraptions I couldn’t help see the warning label which had been attached on their sides.  It said, “Danger.  Do not stand on the top step of this ladder.”  As I recall, the two ladders that I have at home also contained that warning, but I removed them.

So here’s where my confusion comes in and if any of my readers can help me out, I would truly appreciate it.

If it’s dangerous to stand on the top step of a step ladder, then why do they build a top step on the darn things in the first place?  I think we can fix this problem simply by removing the top step – and then we don’t have to worry about putting those little stickers on the ladders.

But wait – I missed something.  If we remove the top step, the second highest step would become the top step.  So we’d have to remove that as well.  And then the next and the next until there would be no steps at all – just a metal frame.

True, the step ladder would no longer have any usefulness – but at least we’d be safe.

I think it’s a plan.  The only people who I think might object work for  OSHA.  But I hear they’re working on a new sticker for screwdrivers which says, “Danger.  Ramming the pointed end of this screwdriver into your eye might result in blindness or death.”

LIGHTS OUT

As we have survived the purported Mayan Apocalypse, seen yet another seasonal “Holiday” on December 25th and wandered our way into a New Year, I am sure that many of us hope for a better 2013 than what we saw in its predecessor.  I certainly find it difficult to imagine how it might be worse.  And then the light bulb in my head went on.  But, actually, the CFL light bulb in one of the lamps in the family room went out.

Although I began replacing the old incandescent bulbs in my home a few years ago with CFL’s, my cost analysis of their economic efficiency versus those old bulbs with which we all grew up, left me wondering if the reduction in energy consumption and the bulbs’ purported seven year life would ever overcome the original cost of the bulbs.  It was a close call if I factored in about a ten percent yearly increase in the cost my electric company charged for letting light shine in my home.

But, of course, there was also the worthwhile goal, on which I couldn’t place a dollar figure, of reducing my “environmental imprint” on planet Earth.  The bulbs are reputed to draw less electrical consumption thus reducing our demand for fossil fuel.

Now when I made my original purchase of these bulbs a few years back, I remember standing in Lowe’s and saying to myself, “How do they know these things are going to last for seven years when they’ve only been on the market for three years?”  I got the answer two years later.  They don’t.  Of course, this threw my total economic analysis on the “value” of these bulbs right out the window.

I also remember thinking, as I pondered my original purchase, “How is using something that contains mercury something that is good for the environment?”  We know that mercury is one of the most toxic substances to which animal and plant life can be exposed.  That’s why the old mercury thermometers with which we were diagnosed as children now exist only as an exhibit at The Smithsonian.  And that’s why The Mad Hatter was “mad” as in his occupation he was constantly exposed to mercury.

Notwithstanding these reservations, I did purchase a supply of CFL’s and as my incandescent bulbs went to bulb heaven I began replacing them.  Yesterday, one of these valiant soldiers of the advance army of technology lost it’s life and I started to replace it.

Fortunately, I had recently read a post on the wonderful blog Two Heads Are Better Than One which can be accessed at http://thabto.wordpress.com/  in which Mark Steyn explained the process of clearing up one of these contraptions in the event that it broke in the process of removal and disposal.   I present that here in case you are in need of similar guidance in this area.

Armed with the knowledge provided in the video, I prepared the area near the CFL containing lamp by stripping two beds of their pillows and placing them underneath the lamp.  I washed my hands thoroughly with lava containing soap to make sure than any slippery substance which might have adhered was now history.  I dried my hands thoroughly and shooed Gracie out the back door into the yard just to be certain that, despite my precautions, should a mishap occur in this process, she would not be exposed to mercury poisoning.  And with the deft hands of a skilled surgeon, I unscrewed the now deceased warrior of a better way of life and removed it from the fixture.  The operation went well and was concluded without incident.

I am jubilant to report that I also made my own contribution to advancing the cause of mankind.  I happened to find in my light bulb “stash” one of those old, warm incandescent bulbs which had snuggled its way into a corner and which I had overlooked.  I replaced the CFL with it, returning to the older, simpler way of doing things.  I think the reason the CFL’s draw less electricity is obvious.  They throw less light than their ancient counterparts.

When I drive over to Lowe’s the next time so that I can properly recycle my mercury-containing CFL bulb, I think I’m going to load up on a supply of the oldies but goodies before they become illegal later this year.  Who knows, a black market for these bulbs might develop and I may stand to make a small fortune.  Or at the least, I should check out whether I can find an incandescent light bulb manufacturer in China – which may indeed become the provider of light in this Brave New World.

LET’S GET DOPEY

This is normally a “G” or on occasion a “PG” rated blog (I gave it those ratings – not a government agency) so parents need not worry about exposing their children to this post.  This is not about killing one of the Seven Dwarfs.  Rather, it’s about how technology is facilitating our getting dumber and dumber.

Once upon a time there was an expression which went, “He had to live by his wits.”  That time is past and that is a fortunate thing for most of us.  If we lived by our wits or perished, the funeral home industry would be working round the clock, seven days a week and there would still be a backlog of bodies to process.

I was inspired to write this post because of an event that happened yesterday.  I used one of the greatest technological inventions of all time, the car horn and saved a life from being extinguished because of another, more modern technological advance, the “smart” cell phone.  I’ll get to the details of the incident in just a moment.

When I blew the horn on my car I wasn’t even sure if it still worked.  I think it’s been about three years since I heard it – and that only because I was getting out of my car with a large bag of groceries in my hands and I accidentally bumped into it.  That naturally startled the dogs who were milling around waiting for me to open the door of the house so I, of course, apologized to them and they forgave me.

If there’s anything that really irks me it is the idiot who is one centimeter from your rear bumper as you are waiting for a stop light to change and when it does, one nano-second after the green light is displayed, lays on his horn to advise you of the fact.  I am very attentive to changes in stop light coloration so this is unnecessary.  Because I do not enjoy being “honked at” I don’t do it to other people.  So for me to employ my horn means that something really critical is in progress.

Returning to the incident … I was driving to the dog park with Gracie when a young man walked into the street almost directly in front of our car with his eyes firmly affixed to the screen of his cell phone.  I would have guessed him to be in his early twenties and unlikely to reach his early thirties.

Fortunately, at the early hour I could see there was no traffic coming the other way so I swerved into the opposite lane and gave a quick toot on the horn to see if I could rouse him from his fixation on the cell phone screen.  In the process of swerving to avoid hitting him, Gracie got jammed up against one side of the wagon and banged her right side on the car frame.  I am pleased to say that she, the young man and I all survived relatively unscathed.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and my first reaction was to be angry with this cell phone-fixated fellow.  Then I remembered that I have promised myself to try to be nice and kind and gentler to the people I meet.  But I did think that it was important that he understood that his actions might have involved all of us in a life-changing event.

I got out of the car to speak with him.  He had lowered the cell phone and was apparently beginning to grasp what had happened on his own.  Nevertheless, I thought it was appropriate that I let him know my thoughts on the subject and I presented them in the nicest and kindest and most gentle way I could muster considering that my knees were shaking moderately because of all of this.

Well, I found out the source of his fixation.  It was his girl friend.  He had spent the night at her house and was walking back to his apartment when she sent him a text message saying that she didn’t want to see him anymore.  He was naturally surprised,shocked and “distracted” by this announcement, coming only twenty minutes or so after he had left her.

I didn’t see the text message so I don’t know if this was an excuse for his lack of paying attention.  If it was the truth, what does it say about our ability to communicate?  We now can use technology to trivialize our relations with others, shielding ourselves behind its cold flat panel screens.  Other than in a philosophical way, it didn’t really matter to me whether he was telling the truth or making up an excuse.  So we took our leave and went on about our business.

You are probably thinking that proves nothing about how using technology is “dumbing us down” and you would be right on the money.  Anything has a potential to be used or misused and it is up to us to make the choice.

There is nothing inherently right or wrong in sending or receiving an email or text message.  Of course, if the email contains a death threat or pornographic images of children, we believe that is wrong.  Although not in a legal sense, I would argue that there is something inherently wrong if staying in touch is so pressing that it jeopardizes our life.

To many of us, being able to access information almost instantaneously is very important.  If it weren’t, various network providers would not have run extensive advertising campaigns about how their service provides the greatest geographical coverage and quickest download times.

In the case of this young man, let’s agree that his need to access his communication while paying attention to it and not the fact that public streets often contain moving vehicles was a poor choice on his part and not the fault of the technology which enabled him to do that.  That many people engage in that exact form of behavior should be clear from all the furor over drivers who “text” while they operate their vehicles.

I am moderately surprised that the FCC, as an extension of our paternalistic government, hasn’t advocated for the abolition of all cell phones based on the danger that they pose to those of us who misuse them in this way.  My only explanation for why that hasn’t been proposed is that acting thus in the “public interest” might put them out of a job.  That, and the fact that our cell phone dependent populace might lynch them.

When I was learning to type, Mom who was my instructress, emphasized that “accuracy matters.”  I remember all the exercises, how I placed my hands on the typewriter’s keyboard, learning where all the letters were and finally, without having to look, being able to create words and sentences – and to do it quickly.  At my peak I typed over 140 wpm with 100% accuracy.

In those days of carbon paper and manual typewriters, accuracy was important.  If you messed up you might have to correct one or more copies by manually erasing the error and re-striking the correct letter in its place.  This created a product that looked sloppy.  So we invented “corrassable” paper which left far fewer smudges.  And we invented “White Out” to cover our mistakes – but this still left evidence on the printed page.

We moved from manual typewriters to electric ones and IBM invented the “Selectric” typewriter which could remove an error on the original document by re-striking the mistake while hitting the “X” key and magically it would disappear.  Of course these early technological advances in written communication were primitive by comparison to what is available to us today.

We can move whole paragraphs around and if we find a mistake we made earlier, we no longer have to crank a carriage to return to the scene of the crime.  We merely cursor up and over it, delete the error and correct it.

If our spelling isn’t that great we have the magic of spell check to guide us and suggest for us what it is that we meant to say.  So why make the effort to learn to spell when technology can make up for our learning disabilities?  The answer is that we don’t.

I used to pride myself on being able to type a document quickly and accurately.  Let me be honest and tell you that in typing this post I’ve probably made at least 100 errors and corrections – so far.  I’ve deleted whole paragraphs and replaced them with others.  I’ve typed incorrect characters and backspaced to eradicate them.  I’ve substituted words and phrases which I felt added a better nuance to the piece.

I do proofread my work because I take pride in it and want to present a professionally written post for you to read.  But I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times, after I’ve published a post, I’ve caught an error or decided to add to or delete something that I had previously written and simply changed the piece after publication.

It’s as though I were an author whose works were available in hardbound book form and after publication, an erratum on page 47 line 6 was discovered.  So magically, at the press of a button, it was corrected on all the copies that were already in circulation.  That master of illusion, David Copperfield has nothing on technology.

What I hope I am conveying to you is that my once accurate approach to typing has been dying a slow death.  I still probably accurately type faster and better than most – but that is only because I had many years of practice where it wasn’t the better choice but the only choice.  And if you think that this wasn’t important, I made a lot of money in high school and college typing up other students’ term papers at fifty cents a page.

Today, however, by relying on technology I will be the first to admit that I’ve gotten sloppy.  It bothers me and I still strive for accuracy.  It is, in the end, far more efficient to do it right the first time than to have to re-do something – even if re-doing it is now far simpler.

I suspect that those who have grown up in and only know our present environment have little or no understanding of this concept – which is not their fault.  That they are technologically dependent rather than self-reliant speaks directly to the root cause of at least some of our problems as a society.

A few days ago I was speaking with the mother of a three month old baby boy.  She was telling me that the new brand of disposable diapers she just purchased, (another technological advance that is one of the greatest contributors to the pollution in our landfills), has a strip which changes color when the diaper is wet.  I don’t know what extra amount the manufacturer is charging for this feature but I know she is paying for the convenience of it.  Mom used to know when my cloth diapers were wet either through a visual or touch test.  I mean, how hard is this?

Later that day one of the guys at the park asked if anyone knew where the least expensive place was to buy razor blades.  The men standing around made several suggestions.  This fellow said that his last razor blade cartridge had “just gone white.”  I didn’t understand what the meant so I asked him to explain and he did.

Apparently there is a little strip at the top of each of these which starts out green and as the blades dull becomes lighter in color until it finally turns white which means that it is time to replace it.  I asked innocently, “Wouldn’t you know that because the cartridge is producing less smooth shaves or pulling at your beard?”  I thought that was a reasonable question.

He and the other men looked at me as though I were from the planet Uranus (as it was formerly pronounced).  I wish my dad were still here so I could ask him how he learned when it was time for him to change the double edge blade he used in his “safety razor.”

Now please don’t get me wrong.  We have made technological advances which I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Today’s air conditioning beats the pants off our version of a bowl of ice and an oscillating fan that was the best we could do to cool ourselves when I was growing up.  This is just one of hundreds of improvements to which I could point.

But when we allow technology (or for that matter another person) to do our thinking for us, we give up, if Descartes was correct, our right to call ourselves human.  And I have often wondered, if all the satellites and the batteries suddenly disappeared, how many of us would be able to find our way home?

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