Friday, May 21, 2010

Consider the cost

Sabbath eve, May 21, 2010. Leah has friends coming over later today to camp for the night. They plan to spend the day tomorrow riding horses on our ranch. So I’m writing a bit earlier than usual.

The weather hasn’t been all that hot according to thermometers, but the air is so thick with humidity. I feel like I’m cutting paths through it when I walk. Sweat erupts almost immediately with any kind of outdoor activity, breathing becomes difficult in short order.

The garden has erupted with produce. Bugs are bad this spring, weeds and fungus also. Leave produce in a bucket for a couple of days and it’ll be covered with white mold. We have grass, but we’ve had trouble getting hay cut and baled with frequent showers in the area. We’ve continued cutting and baling shitty hay nonetheless.

I’ve spent entirely too much time following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While it is probably the largest spill into the ocean ever, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. For that matter there’s not much any of us can do, except to be honest in our assessment of the situation. I haven’t seen much in the way of honesty from any side of the issue in the public debate. Everyone seems inclined to make political hay or to dump fault on their enemies. It had to be the fucking queers, I’m telling you. Republicans. British Petroleum. Obama. The leak isn’t that bad. It’s the end of the fucking world….

Mike Ruppert recently compared our quest for oil to picking fruit from an apple tree. We picked all the low-hanging fruit first, then we climbed the tree and got the apples near the trunk and above sturdy branches. Now, most of the fruit that remains is on the end of limbs or at the very top of the tree, near the limits of our ability to reach. This blowout is like the branch that breaks as we overextend trying to get at a juicy cluster.

The only truly profitable fields in our hemisphere lie in environmentally sensitive areas, areas that stretch technological abilities to the breaking point. Depletion rates of existing fields are staggering, somewhere in the range of 9% worldwide. Imports are set to decline; geopolitical circumstances are almost certain to further erode our ability to acquire foreign oil.

Does anyone honestly believe British Petroleum would be drilling wells in 5,000 feet of water, and then another 18,000 feet under the ocean floor if there were easier oil to be had elsewhere?

Here’s the dilemma: Our present economy cannot and will not grow without additional oil production. There is no comparable source of energy. The oil that’s left comes at a high price. If we don’t drill deep water wells, there will be serious economic consequences.

But when I look at the damage done by this blow-out, I can’t help but wonder how to measure the damage. How much is an ocean and all the living creatures in it worth? How much are clean beaches worth? At what point do we weigh the cost of maintaining our current way of life and say enough is enough?

And, if we decide to pull the plug on further exploration and exploitation, are you willing to park your car, because that is how you’re going to pay if we stop drilling. Are you willing not to fly? Ever again? When I say you, I mean you. And I mean me.

Are you willing to pay substantially more for food? To do without some items seasonally, to eat food grown closer to home with more hours of hard manual labor invested instead of eating meats, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products grown halfway around the world? Are you willing to sweat for your groceries?

I have noticed that we live in a time when it’s often more profitable to fail or to destroy things than it is to win or actually produce goods and services. We have big banks borrowing money from the Fed at near zero interest and then loaning it to governments for profit. These same banks loan money to people and then bet they’ll fail, earning money off of both ends of the bet. Now these same banks are betting that our governments will fail after transferring bad debt to various government balance sheets.

War produces profits. Kills people, but it produces jobs and money. So apparently does blowing out wells into the ocean. For some select few, anyway.

It’s more profitable to subjugate third world citizens and steal their labor than it is to produce something here, so that’s what we do. And it is we, for every time we buy that cheap shit we support this unfair global system.

I’ve been keeping a herd of broodmares alive for a couple of years without any possibility of making money on the deal. I’ve been told time and again that I should sell them. The pressure to sell grows. Sell them to whom? What happens when conventional wisdom says it’s no longer profitable for anyone to own a horse? Do we kill all of them so we have goddamned money in our pockets? Contrary to public opinion, we cannot create a horse out of a dollar. It takes a stallion and a mare to produce another horse. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

It’s beyond time for us to curtail our excesses, but I am not convinced it will happen.

I wish I had answers to all these haunting questions, solutions to these dilemmas, but I don’t.

About the best I can manage is to figure out how to get by when the questions don’t get asked, much less answered. At times, I am not sure I can manage that.

Maybe Leah and her friends have it figured out after all. Fuck a bunch of money. I’m convinced selling my horses in this economic climate is killing them. And I am not killing my horses.