Capitalists, Millionaires and Worldly Pleasures

A British study suggests that for every minute you walk, you live about three minutes longer. You’re not using time, you’re generating time.

June 20, 2008 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Summer 2008

Early Talk

“Just under a year ago, a meeting at the World Meteorological Organization’s headquarters in Geneva highlighted the carbon dioxide problem as a major cause for climatic concern. Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of this assessment, and some idea of the specific problems involved is now emerging. And yet, no serious effort is being made to curtail the destruction of our dwindling reserves of tropical forest, the main cause of carbon dioxide build-up in the past hundred years, or to require fossil-fuel power stations to scrub carbon from the gases they release.” From New Scientist, Jan 17/1980.

Rock Recordings

“Have we created a new epoch? A group of geologists say the impact of our time on Earth on the rock record should be officially recognized.

“In 2002, Nobel prizewinner Paul Crutzen suggested that humans are influencing the rocks being laid down today, and coined the term ‘Anthropocene.’

“Formalizing the Anthropocene may serve a greater purpose than simply stroking our egos, says Mike Stephenson of the British Geological survey. ‘It is a clever way of focusing our minds on what we are doing to the planet.’” From New Scientist, Feb 2/08.

Walk Of Life

“An economics researcher at Washington University in St. Louis suggests that raising gasoline prices by $1 a gallon would reduce American obesity by 9 per cent. Another study posits that if every American spent thirty minutes a day walking or cycling instead of driving, we would collectively cut carbon emissions by 64 million tons and shed more than three billion pounds of excess flab. All of this sounds great in theory, but most people find that their good intentions falter when faced with the extra time it takes to walk. Yet Alan Durning, an environmental researcher, … argues that walking may be the ultimate time saver. He cites a British study that suggests that for every minute you walk, you live about three minutes longer. ‘You’re not using time,’ Durning argues; ‘you’re generating time.’” Dashka Slater, The New York Times Magazine, Apr 20/08.

The Eyes Have It

“A ‘bottomless’ bowl of soup earned Brian Wansink of Cornell University in New York state the Ig Nobel nutrition prize. Wondering what makes people decide when they have eaten enough, he sat volunteers down to eat soup at a table where some bowls were normal while others secretly refilled themselves as the volunteers ate.

“Wansink found that volunteers’ eyes mattered more than their stomachs. Volunteers ate 70 per cent more soup if the bowl topped itself up to look full than if the soup level dropped normally. So if you’re trying to lose weight, he suggests … you should fool yourself by serving small portions on smaller-than-usual plates.” From New Scientist, Oct 13/07.

Perfect Cars

“Nothing at the two fall automobile shows indicates so surely that the automobile has reached the final stage of its development, as the fact that novelties of type are conspicuous by their absence. Outside of the buggy-type machine and the two-engine automobile, there is very little among the exhibits which can be called a radical departure from the prevailing type.” From Scientific American, Nov/1907.

Old Soldiers

“I begin to think our custom of war is a mistake. Why draw from our young men in the bloom and heyday of their youth the soldiers who are to fight our battles? Had I my way, no man should go to war under fifty years of age, such men having already had their national share of worldly pleasures and life’s enjoyments. And I don’t see how they could make a more creditable or more honourable exit from the world’s stage than by becoming food for powder, and gloriously dying in defence of their home and country.

“Then I would add a premium in favour of recruits of three score years and upward, as, virtually with one foot in the grave, they would not be likely to run away.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, quoted in CCPA Monitor, Sept/07.

Dissolution Pollution

“It makes sense once you think about it, but now the assertion has something to back it up: Divorce is bad for the environment. Investigators studying households in twelve countries have ascertained that families that split end up using more resources. In the United States, for example, households of divorces use about 50 per cent more resources per person than those of couples before any such dissolution. In 2005 alone, more successful marriages could have saved the United States 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water – sobering numbers to share with the next divorced environmentalist you meet.” From American Scientist, Mar-Apr/08.

Sins Of The Flesh

“A population of 6.5 billion people used the equivalent of 9.3 billion tons of oil, which released 7.6 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2005. Much of this oil, coal, and natural gas supported the consumer lifestyle – literally fuelling the nearly 900 million vehicles on the roads and the 3.7 trillion kilometres that passengers flew in planes in 2006, as well as keeping houses warm, lights on, and factories running. Modern diets also aggravated our impact: raising the livestock needed to produce the 276 million tons of meat consumed in 2006 was responsible for almost a fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions.” From Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs 2007-2008.

Winds Of Change

“T. Boone Pickens founded his Texas oil company, Mesa Petroleum, in 1956 with just $2,500 in the bank. He turned it into an independent empire that challenged the big oil companies, and today he is worth $3 billion.

“Over the next four years he intends to erect 2,700 turbines across 80,940 hectares of the Texas panhandle. The $10-billion scheme is five times bigger than the world’s current record-holding wind farm and will supply 4,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power about 1 million homes.

“Pickens, who admits his basic aim is to reduce the flood of money the US pays to Middle East oil producers, already dreams of a next stage: an enormous corridor running north to south through the great plains where he would build an army of wind farms. And he believes an equally big corridor east to west from Texas to California would be ideal for solar energy.” From The Guardian Weekly, Apr 18/08.

On Capital

“Capital as such is not evil;
it is its wrong use that is evil.
Capital in some form or other will always be needed.”
Gandhi, quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly, Spring/08.

On Wealth

“I am opposed to millionaires,
but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”
Mark Twain, quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly, Spring/08.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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