Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another Lesson from the Earth

Do you ever get the feeling, Bush, that after all these years of our mistreatment of her, our Earth has retreated into a mood so terminally sullen and resentful that we'll never be able to drag her out of it again? That she'll go on punishing us until our whole species simply disappears?

I had that feeling yesterday, Bush. It was a hot and muggy day even at the beach, and Ellie and I decided to postpone our return to Los Angeles for the business week until after the evening news, in the hope of arriving there after the worst of the heat. It's an hour's drive, door to door. We started out at seven, and the temperature in the canyon, on the way inland to the freeway, was ninety degrees. By the time we turned north on I-5, it was ninety-three. Passing through Santa Ana, Anaheim, Fullerton, ninety-five. It was still in the nineties when we pulled off the freeway in the gathering dusk, at eight o'clock.

We arrived back home to find a DWP truck parked in the narrow street outside our house and a small bunch of neighbors gathered to watch the hard-hat at work at the top of the power pole. The transformer had burned out in the heat. Our immediate area had been without power for twenty-four hours already, and the neighbors were hoping that finally the power company would be able to fix the problem.

No such luck. The transformer, the hard-hat supervisor old us, was a relic from the sixties, when the demand for power was susbtantially less. That explains the power outages we've been having. It was a 15 (megawatt?) unit and they would need to replace with a 37. That was the good news. The bad news was that we'd be shunted to the back of the line, with outages all over the city and the DWP already working 16-hour shifts. The supervisor had no idea when we could expect our new 37 (megawatt?) transformer. Besides, there could be problems installing it, because of its greater size.

Having been closed up all weekend, the house was a furnace. The garage door opener, of course, did not work. (Alas, we learned a lot about the luxuries we take for granted!) No lights. No fan, no air-conditioning. No television, Bush, if you can imagine! The food in the refrigerator was beginning to spoil. The plants in the garden were alternately burned or wilting.

We watered. We fed the fish in their pond, where the water had ceased circulating, we closed up the house again and fled back down to the beach. We arrived back down here in the dark at ten o'clock, and the temperature was still eighty degrees. This morning early I checked online: it had retreated overnight to seventy-eight.

Poor us, eh, Bush? I have to remind myself, on such occasions, how privileged we are to have all the amenities that make life, usually, very easy for us--and how much we take them for granted as our God-given right. I watch myself with dismay as I grow indignant over my small inconveniences, and try to get back to a somewhat worthier sense of gratitude for my extreme good fortune among those billions of human beings who are called upon to suffer horribly each day--from hunger, from disease, from the ravages of warfare...

We Americans, Bush, tend to forget these things, with all the energy-consuming luxuries we have come to expect--along with the cheap energy to run them. We are given these lessons, generously, by the planet that we share with those less fortunate than ourselves. We should learn to listen, and better still, to act on them, for the common good of our human race.


denn said...

nice to have one by the sea. Your transformer reminds me:
I am often amazed by this. Remember when writers wrote odes to the common man? To his ingenuity, to his labor. Our fathers and grand fathers built it all. the Howard Roark's of Ann Ryan's Fountainhead. My stepmother's great-grandfather was the first to adapt an electric motor in a car, actually an carriage. It's in a museum. The first all electric car! in 1905 in Cleveland, Ohio. And the earliest car designs used corn oil or somesuch, not gasoline. They did it all. They built the infrastructure which is rotting, the damns, all but a few bridges, the rockets, the towers, computers. But more than build those things, they had the basic creativity for the ideas.

But my generation.....is shit. They build shopping malls, endlessly. They strapped us to the limits of a computer and now we can't extricate ourselves. They build names with nothing behind it. They won't listen to Bucky Fuller or Lyod Wright, or any of the last of the hard work generation. They repeat, repeat, and repeat what our fathers did better. And our fathers did what nobody did before.
Same thing in art. endless repetition of old ideas.

I could on and on with this essay. but I won't. except to say, it's a bad sign.

Good film on this idea: The World's Fastest Indian

PK said...

In reading this, I think of our brothers and sisters in Darfur. No home, no food, no cloths, no jobs, siting under a small tent baking in the hot sun, in the dirt. I think of those all over the world that are displaced, homes, food, cloths, everything, gone. I wonder what I would do in their place?

Dave said...

Hey, Peter,
Just imagine taking camping trips to the desert to enjoy the lack of amenities, Nadine Gordimer has a good novel, July's People, of a middle-class South African family that flees to their servant's homeland huts to escape a civil war. Things become very different when their former camping trips to the veldt turn into a long, indefinite stay.

Maybe we should have periodic enforced power shutdowns and gass rationing (as in the 70's) as reminders of our exploiting of the planet.

GringoWithoutBorders said...

I have always been amazed with solar energy. I dont know, something about maybe having a portable energy supply or living off the grid.

However, from what I understand every energy source has its own source of pollution. One CANNOT get away from polluting if one uses any energy source. Solar is batteries and toxic chemicals that make the solar panels, Nuclear is radioactive waste and an accidental meltdown, fossil fuels is air pollution.

Always good to keep in mind that all forms of energy have their unique repercussions, many of which will not become clear until you have a few billion humans using/abusing ANY given source.

In the end, we seem to want more and more energy to run more and more materialistic gadgets. Will humans ever be satisfied, or should we always strive for 3.5% GDP Growth. When is enough enough? For me, watching a family with 4,5,6 kids is pure insanity when I think of population growth and the required energy usage.

GringoWithoutBorders said...

By the way, I do not like Bush but let me give him Kudos for his old Pig Farm in Texas. Did anyone know that his home has a roof cistern system that collects all rain water and the heating/cooling system is a geo-thermal device.

Granted he got a few million $$ from Daddy and was able to build a custom home but not sure how many others can say their homes even address these minor points.

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