That Your Flight Not Be in Winter

December 14, 2013

Snow Storm in the Mountains

Snow Storm in the Mountains (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First thing this morning, even before turning on the light, I peered through the slats on the venetian blind to check for snowfall during the night. Up here in north Springfield, we’ve had about seven inches over the week. Some of that melted over the next two days as the sun came out and the temperatures rose above freezing during the day. Another storm was supposed to move through last night, adding up to two more inches of sleet and snow. I was relieved to see that, at least up here in the north end of town, we’d gotten less than a half inch.

I don’t like snow and ice. It’s difficult for me to get around in. Honestly, though, I really don’t have to. I have a roof over my head – comfortably warmed – and enough food in the freezer and pantry to last me through the entire winter if need be.

Even if we were hit with a storm that took out the electric, I could set up my little clay pot heaters in the kitchen and bath to keep the pipes – and me – from freezing or retreat to the upstairs apartment which is heated with gas if I need to. I have no reason to complain.

Reading the news, this morning, I was reminded once again of how lucky I, and most Americans, really am. The Middle East had its worst snow storm in sixty years yesterday. Cairo saw snow for the first time in over 100 years. Reading about the plight of the Syrian refugees, crowded into camps in Lebanon, a million people in 250 camps, that verse from Matthew’s gospel came to mind. “Pray you that your flight not be in the winter.”

Take a look at this chart on consumption and world resources, from Hungry Planet. The US, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, uses 20% of the resources while producing only 10% of those resources. Only China, which has a billion more people than the US, uses more (24%).

Of course, this can’t go on. No matter how many lop-sided trading agreements we sign, no matter how many resource-gobbling resource wars we fight, it is mathematically impossible. No matter how many resource-intensive technologies we devise, it is going away – soon rather than later.

We have come to the place where the global economy demands that we consume ever more to maintain even the modest growth that we see, literally to run in place. It won’t be long before we cannot maintain even modest growth.

Here in the US, we are reduced to sucking “tight” oil out of shale (the average well will produce 500,000 barrels of oil in its lifetime compared to the Prudhoe Bay wells that produced ten million barrels over a lifetime back in the late seventies); we are ripping off the tops of mountains in Appalachia to retrieve the coal beneath; in the largest gold mines around the world, it now takes about 30 tons of rock – crushed and drizzled with cyanide – to produce one ounce of gold (the amount in a gold ring) as the amount of gold left to be mined diminishes.

As we do all this, we are destroying environments, adding to climate change and setting up the world economy for another, harder crash as the returns on our investments dwindle. We are stripping our arable soils, fouling our air and water, pushing species to extinction and setting ourselves up for our own possible extinction. Like foolish King Midas, we seem bent on turning everything we touch into gold until, in the end, we starve to death.

We still have choices, but they all involve pulling back and doing with less. If we can’t make these choices for ourselves, nature will make them for us at a cost none of us want to pay.

If wealth is based on real resources, we are kidding ourselves that the world is becoming wealthier, that poor nations can “catch up” to the rich nations and that we are on an endless climb of progress.

We are running out of time. Pray you that your flight not be in winter.

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