Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Paralysis by Analysis

I nearly forgot a dinner appointment with a friend this evening. I am off to it now. Thank god (non-denominational "god") he called before our meeting to ask where we were planning to meet, otherwise I would have been persona non grata. For all my blather about "sustainable this" and "locally produced that", we are meeting at a local chain called Not Your Average Joe's. Guess what? It's average.

I am glad we were able to get together and "rage to each other". I would not say rage in anger, but rage defined as passion. The conversation went as expected. We talked about resource scarcity, energy dependence, third world squalor, and inefficient land use patterns. Upon solving those world problems, we branched off into discussion about people's perception of energy costs, and how his business, Solar-Works, has received a fourfold increase in phone calls inquiring about alternative energy. Granted, the people calling would probably not install photovoltaics on their home, but the fact that they were calling is interesting. We rambled over to biking, and the outdoor industry employees sometimes blissful commitment to the outdoors through the use of equipment and transportation that is in and of itself less than stellar for the planet. I commute on a carbon fiber least I commute by bike. Ah, the hypocrisy of it all. There was some brief discussion about "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", and the search for Quality, The Good, Virtue, you know, all those concepts that have no absolute answer, though we wish they did. Not much time was spent here as the spiral could have easily deepened into insanity.

Paralysis by analysis anyone?

I found myself a bit emotional as he arrived. I was finishing up a phone call with my grandmother. It was her birthday. As I spoke with her, I began appreciating the value family brings to our lives. I grew up with my grandmother nearby, and once I moved away to the Boston area in 1995, I was further away from family than I had ever been. I am only two hours away by car, but for some people two hours is an insurmountable distance. My wife is in a similar situation, with some family in the mid-west and some here in the northeast. One of my concerns is that as fuel prices increase, the mobility we have enjoyed and taken so easily for granted, will slowly disappear. Families that spread themselves around the country, and in some cases around the world, will struggle to maintain the contact they need. Perhaps there will be a movement back to close knit families, where generations live within walking distance. We shall see.

Transportation costs lead to the inability for families to see each other as they have spread throughout the latter half of the 20th century. I had a conversation with a small business owner in Watertown about the rise in food costs. He was concerned that the rise in petroleum prices would have a serious effect on the way we live in general, not just to his business. If people pay more for energy, they have less to spend on other things. The woman working behind the counter chimed in with her concerns about global warming and environmental degradation. I have to admit, I was quite surprised at their thoughts.

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