On Being “Green” and “Global Warming”

I grew-up in Binghamton, New York – actually a “suburb” of Binghamton, New Yorkcalled West Corners.
West Corners was a nice little community and, as a child, seemed more akin to “Green Acres” and “The Waltons” than the nearby birthplace of such industrial stalwarts as Endicott-Johnson Shoes (remember “Father and Son Shoes”?), Link Simulation (the founding father of modern simulation) and that industrial giant, International Business Machines (IBM).

I remember the summers with great fondness.  I used to wake-up early in the morning and head to “the crick” – also known as Nanticoke Creek – with fishing rod in hand and old shoes (or at least soon-to-be old shoes).  We used to fish all day long, catching minnows and crawdads by hand for bait.  When we got bored, we swam.  And when we got hungry, we started a campfire and cooked-up the fish and crawdads we had caught.  Sometimes, and when in season, we would pick ears of corn and throw them on the fire – husk and all.  There is no better way to eat corn then roasted in their husks on an open fire.

In all, not a bad way to spend one’s summers…

With such an abundance of nature to enjoy, it was only natural that I would join theBoy Scouts of America.  I never made it very far in the ranks, but I did go on many of the campouts and went to summer camp at Camp Tuscarora, which is located nearDeposit, New York.  The Boy Scouts taught me to respect the land and the Earth’s resources, not to litter or otherwise pollute, and to “leave no trace” when camping. These are values that I carry to this day.

Back in the late 1960’s (I can’t remember the early 1960’s) and 1970’s, there were dozens of clubs and organizations dedicated to saving some aspect of the planet. There was The Sierra ClubGreenpeaceTrout UnlimitedNational Audubon Society,World Wildlife Fund, and National Geographic –  to name but a very few.

Some even had mascots.  The United States Forest Service had “Smokey Bear” who told us that “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”, and “Woodsy Owl” who reminded us to “Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute”.

And of course, who could forget the organization Keep America Beautiful and the iconic 1971 advertisement featuring “Iron Eyes Cody” as “the Crying Indian”.  I don’t believe there is a person who exists that saw this advertisement and didn’t feel remorse for their own transgressions against the environment.  I know it affected me.

Being “Green”

So there has been an awareness of being “Green” for some time.

I agree that this is, and should be, a continuous process.

When we look at the video, we are reminded of how bad things really were.  This was real.  I remember the trash strewn on the sides of the roads and the cigarette butts on the sidewalks (very much more so than today).  I remember seeing the smokestacks spewing dark clouds of pungent nasty stuff and how the Adirondackswere being destroyed by acid-rain – the result of coal-fired power-plants in the mid-west.  I remember the unchecked discharge from industry that poisoned the water and the land – witness “Love Canal”.

I recall my more recent travels to places which have been slow to heed the lessons learned decades ago.

I remember my first trip to Poland in the early 1990’s – trash was strewn about and soot belched forth from the smokestacks.  I remember my first trip to South Africa in the late 1990’s with plastic grocery-bags hanging like ornaments from the fences and trees and the garbage strewn about.  I remember my more recent trips to Mexicowhere litter and mishandled industrial waste was commonplace.

As these countries modernize and become integrated with the other countries of the world, they have made vast improvements in respecting their surroundings.  I have seen it myself as “time-lapse photography” – incremental improvements over time which, all together, are dramatic.  I believe it comes down to individual “pride of ownership”.  Nobody really wants to be the source of contamination of their own property and belongings.

Perhaps being “Green” should be considered a form of “Continuous Improvement” – for our surroundings and for ourselves.  It is a process that has no final destination and never ends.  As such, one can never be “Green”, but can only pursue its achievement.

Global Warming

I guess I should start this by saying – flat-out – that I am no believer in mankind being the cause of “Global Warming”, perhaps not even a facilitator.

It is a scientific fact that the Earth has undergone multiple ice-ages – each of which was followed by a period where the temperature of the Earth increased (or warmed) over time.  Since this cycle repeats in fairly regular intervals (see graphs below) and industrial mankind was not around for any of these cycles except for the most recent, it can be concluded that the present warming cycle of the Earth is just part of a routine phenomenon.

And sure – there appears to be a correlation between increases in CO2 content in the atmosphere coinciding with an increase in atmospheric temperature.  But is that because an increase in atmospheric temperature supports more CO2 in the atmosphere?  Or is it that an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere causes an increase in atmospheric temperature?

During past warming periods, there is evidence that the Earth was “ice free”, even at high altitude.  There have even been fossils of tropical plants found in the Arctic – suggesting that even the most northern and frigid regions of the world today were, at one time, quite warm.  How else might oil (a by-product of decaying organic matter from regions once dense with vegetation) be discovered in such frozen and desolate places as Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta,Canada.

Even until as recently as 8,000-BC to 6,000-BC, the Sahara Desert was a much different place than it is today – with monsoons and moisture being brought to the region – enough to enable civilizations in ancient Egypt, first coalescing in 3150-BC, to thrive.  As the monsoons retreated south, a steady process of “desertification” commenced – ultimately resulting in what we see today.  Where there was once water near the Pyramids, the Sahara has now consumed.

And of course there are animal species that are in danger due to the climate changing (among a variety of other reasons).  This has happened since animals inhabited the earth and is part of a natural process.  Some species evolve into new and thrive – others perish.  Charles Darwin first wrote about it in his book, “The Origin of Species”, published in 1859.

It is the way it is – the way it always has been – and the way it always will be.

It is, of course, tragic that some animals, such as the Polar Bear, appear to be threatened as a result of climate change and may face extinction.  After all, they are cute and are appealing to people – who can resist Knut.

What about a dragonfly with a wingspan of thirty (30) inches?  Or a spider as big as a cat?  Or a cockroach the size of a cell-phone?

You would never find any of these creatures as “poster children” for stopping climate change – it’s just not good marketing.

I am not suggesting that we accelerate their being dispatched.  However, I am suggesting that we are arrogant in thinking we can change an Earth-cycle that has repeated since apparently the dawn of time.

And there is concern about a rise in the level of the oceans – so what.  This is not news.  The oceans have been rising (and falling) since antiquity.  How many underwater archeological digs and discoveries from around the world are there that demonstrate there were, at one time, great civilizations that now exist beneath the waves.  How can we reasonably expect that this process is reversible by human action (or inaction) today?  If you don’t want your property to slip beneath the waves, don’t build near the waves; likewise, with earthquakes and other forces of nature.

Even the data is subject to critique.

If my data collection was restricted to only the last six (6) months, then I would argue that we are going through a period of global cooling.  There are feet of snow in Washington, DC and as far south as Texas – breaking the records since records were kept.  Central Europe and Poland are experiencing one of the coldest winters on record – and everyone is thankful that the Russian pipelines have not experienced any “failures” this year.  And since George Washington, have there been no ice-flows on the Delaware River.

If I only analyze data collected over the last few hundred years, I might see a warming trend.  If I analyze data taken over hundreds of thousands of years, I will see a warming trend, followed by a cooling trend – over and over.

The American author, Mark Twain (among others), once said, “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

With so much data, we can lose focus on what’s important – and what can have the most immediate and significant impact.  For instance, should we really be concerned about the amount of flatulence a cow produces and what the impact on the environment might be?  Does anyone really think this is significant or important source of global warming?  Yet we are urged by some to reduce our intake of meat to reduce global warming.  What a humbug.

So it’s my habit whenever I believe the data (or dung) is getting too deep, I think ofWalt Whitman and his poem, “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”.

“When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured
with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

To me, this poem illustrates how one can almost drown in the facts – wonderfully presented as they may be – and lose focus of their significance and the story that they are really trying to tell and in context.

Global Poisoning

So if we think back to the beginning of this article – perhaps we should concentrate our efforts more on the messaging of Keep America Beautiful’s “Iron Eyes Cody” and the Boy Scouts “leave no trace”.

Let’s work at reducing our injection of toxins into the environment by mitigating their introduction by human activity.  Let’s look to cleaning our energy consumption (both in the extraction and their use) from all sources at our disposal – oil & gas, solar, wind, coal, nuclear, geo-thermal, batteries, etc…  Let’s look to leveraging clean and renewable resources in agriculture and forestry.  Let’s develop and use the land in a responsible and sustainable fashion.

Let’s attempt to “leave no trace” with regards to our everyday lives.  Let’s look to managing our food supplies (both on land and in the sea) and water resources so that we can establish their consistent and perpetual use without unnecessary harm.  Let’s look to replacing petroleum-based polymers with organic and bio-degradable polymers. When we are done leveraging a resource, leave it so that there is no evidence of our having ever been there.

Let’s place less emphasis and arrogance on influencing and effecting a cycle that has been here far longer than humankind, and more emphasis on protecting the world’s ecosystem by eliminating the poisons we inject into it and harm every living thing.

It’s amazing what humankind can do if we have the desire.

But let us not succumb to our arrogance and hubris – and by all means eat that burger if you have the desire.

Remember, it’s a continuous journey – not a destination.

Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence. 

He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.

For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at: http://de.linkedin.com/in/josephparis

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