The problem, as I see it, is that you gave America a pony when it was little, and that sets up America’s expectations for the rest of its life. You can’t blame America for wanting a pony. Everyone wants a pony. But in a mature household the kid isn’t supposed to be in charge or get whatever they want just because they want it. There are other considerations that kids may be forgiven for not being aware of, but adults should have a broader perspective.
You’ve got the original cost of the pony. You’ve got the upkeep of the pony, and the massive acreage devoted to oats and hay, and the maintenance of the trails. Did you make America promise to pick up the pony poop? Of course you did. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the pony just drops a load every which where, and everyone else’s pony is doing the same thing, so after a while nobody is picking up the poop.
Now America is all grown up and hasn’t learned to account for all the costs because she was massively indulged as a child and we’re chest deep in pony poop, but we’ve gotten used to it, and everyone thinks we’ve still got a little time before we actually suffocate.
It’s an odd thing. Most people might agree that the government should not have to ensure we can rebuild a house in a flood zone ten times over. Sure, there was an effort made to drain swamps and pave over wetlands and otherwise God-proof our habitat so we can build wherever we want to, but water is water, and at some point it’s going to jump the Army Corps of Engineers’ banks, and it really doesn’t make sense to pretend otherwise. We get that, especially if it’s someone else’s house that keeps getting flooded.
But we still think it makes sense to live where it’s 115 degrees and climbing, and we still think the president owes us three-dollar gasoline. And we’ve always had that pony.
We even think three dollars is what the pony’s worth. What we pay at the pump is the extent of our view. We don’t reckon what we also pay through our taxes for exploration, drilling, pipelines, subsidies to oil companies, profits, and a massive military largely dedicated to assuring our access to oil. We certainly don’t account for the poop accumulation: the cost of wildfire, hurricane, flood, drought, inundation of shorelines, the disintegration of the food chain, the inevitable wars of conquest for shrinking territory, the ability to sustain life itself. That should be on that pump price too.
And now we’re stuck needing it cheap. Everything for the last hundred years was built to ensure we needed it. We don’t have cheap reliable mass transit. We’re living far away from the market. The Walmart is clear on the edge of town. You put the railroad tracks down, you determine where the towns spring up. Our car infrastructure ensures we require cars.
We didn’t use to have air conditioning and we didn’t use to need air conditioning. Because we didn’t live where it was too hot. Those who did basically shut down their economies in the summertime. But the last fifty years have seen a mass migration to the Sun Belt because of air conditioning, and now we require it. We can’t live without it. We can’t sustain it. We’re screwed.
All we know is we still want the pony. Daddy promised. We’re gonna ride it right off the cliff.
I understand where you are coming from and agree with much of what you’ve written – just not all.
When we used to not have air conditioning, it was not necessarily because we didn’t live where it was “needed”. In 1960, while I suffered from heat (at times having to lie on the floor to prevent blacking out since I could not sweat) I was in my early 20s. Sixty-some years later, I am even more prone to passing out when overheated.
The average age of our population has increased along with me.
I remember spending entire days lying on the linoleum in front of a black oscillating fan and an ice cube wrapped in a paper towel. I would never say that some individuals didn’t require air conditioning (although what did they do prior to about 1950?). But it is a fact that the adoption of central air conditioning sparked a large population migration to the South.
they used swamp coolers- wet sheets in front of windows and doors, and swamp chillers…
Swamp coolers are neat but they don’t work in humidity like we had in Northern Virginia.
If I have to be old (which I FUCKING hate. Paul says it beats the alternative, but I really don’t know about that anymore), I’m glad it’s now. If I were young, I’d be “Where’s MY fucking pony?” I use the AC when the temp goes into the 90s, because we live in the humidity that is Delaware. Don’t have the energy or the money to move, and, frankly, don’t want to. It’s my childhood home. It’s paid for. And really, is there anyplace anymore that has a good climate? We’re all fucked, and, yeah, we did it to ourselves. I have to use my car, as our mass transit system is laughable, and we live in a “food dessert.” I DO plan my routes and group errands together to make the most of my gas milage and my time. But I’m unapologetic about doing this. We’re doomed, and i think scientists and those in power KNOW this, but they don’t want to panic everyone. So they’ve turned to theater: scrap the plastic bags, recycle (most of which goes to the landfill anyway), and get an electric car (sorry, way above my pay grade.) But I’m not into theater, especially drama. We get enough of that on the news. Comedy is what gets me through this shitstorm. And like a modern day Nero, I will watch standup while sipping cocktails until the whole ball of wax melts.
But that’s just my take on this.
“…and a massive military largely dedicated to assuring our access to oil.”
A great editorial Murr, it immediately brought a couple things to mind. First, a couple months ago I watched a documentary about the demise of the trolleys in our cities. There was a time when 9 out of 10 people rode them regularly. (In fact, Pittsburgh is famous for having one of the most comprehensive electric rail systems–no one had to walk more than a few steps for one, or wait longer than 5 minutes.) But they went bankrupt as people protested any kind of rate increases above the nickel fare. Even when said fare had stayed the same 20 years. Second, the other afternoon I was downstairs in my apartment building’s gym on the treadmill (something I’m grateful for everyday, we just got that gym a year ago) and a prospective tenant was being shown the facilities. Later I asked Nicole (who was showing the young woman the building) if she was moving in, she said no. When I asked why, she said “She really liked it, she loved the bus stop out front and the remodel of the unit. But all we have is two studios, and they don’t come with dishwashers.” Anyway, I’m guilty of entitlement as well. I was cursing Microsoft Outlook’s new interface yesterday and I pay nothing for it. Now write me more fine pieces like this one Murr, for free!
I will, Doug, and they’re worth what you pay for them!
Mass transit? I once wrote a paper (college, high school?) about trolleys. I learned that before WW2, you could travel from Portland Maine to Chicago by trolley. Now, nope.
Wouldn’t you love to see a seriously good public transit system? Even buses, if they come every ten minutes and go everywhere. And high-speed rail. We’ve become so backward.
I’m glad I’m really old.
It has its advantages, but then again…
I don’t own a car and never have so I’m saving something somewhere I guess. I started my own food chain too, just this morning I planted seeds of beans and carrots and a potato too. I hope it grows and I get a bucketful. Tomorrow I’ll be planting tomatoes, three different kinds, but the seeds are saved from supermarket tomatoes, so there’s no guarantee they’ll grow. I’d like to buy a dwarf peach tree, but the possums here would call their relatives to move in with them and I don’t plan on feeding them!
I tried a peach here once but they take so much anti-fungal spraying to get any fruit out of them that I abandoned it after one year.
Before 1950? People actually died a lot – some of them from the heat. In fact, my first memory of passing out from overheating was in 1950. I came to with people praying over me – enough to piss off any devout atheist!
I remember a time when I was little, and the temp reached 100 degrees. (That hasn’t happened here in a LONG time, thank goodness!) I got on my little stool, went up to the kitchen sink, and stuck my head under the cold water faucet. Aaaaahhhh!
We lost a hundred people here last year during the heat dome event.
I lost my interest in ponies when the one I was riding took off sprinting up the grassy hill to nuzzle with it’s love interest, me dangling upside down, head in the tall grass, helpless and scared. Thank god for bikes but curse god for cars as they occasionally mow down us who are afraid of ponies.
When I was little, there was a woman who did a kids’ show out of Philly, named Sally Starr. She wore a cowgirl outfit, and I loved her! She came to a local school close by, with a pony for the kids to ride on. I was SO excited! Until I got on the actual pony and cried my eyes out because I was afraid of being “up so high.” (In actuality, it was probably a VERY small pony, as these were small children who were fans.) In fact, I was afraid to get on merry-go-rounds because of the horses. Ferris wheels didn’t faze me, so it wasn’t the height, it was the horse.
I loved “Your gal, Sal,” too! Remember Sawdust Sam? He lived a couple of blocks down the street.
My sister and I got to go horseback riding one time and she got the dull one that chewed grass ten feet away from the barn, and everyone was happy for me because I got a “spirited” one. Off I went and I guess I wasn’t screaming or anything but after a bit a nice lady on another horse came up to me and asked if I was okay, and I wasn’t, and she got me off the horse and led it back to the barn. I can only imagine what my face looked like.
Swamp coolers! that’s what people did (my uncle and aunt in blazing hot AZ) . And then the heat island effect of all the roads and concrete and sprawl…….
Saw my first swamp cooler at my sister’s house in Utah. It MUST BE DRY for them to work. No place I’ve ever lived could have them.
When we a young couple in Phoenix, 1.5 M years ago, we lived in a *real* adobe house – 100 years old in the late 60s – cooled by a swamp cooler. The walls were two feet thick. The mud floors had planks laid directly on them. Weeds taller than I am grew up in the banged-on-later-as-an-afterthought shower. Spiders crawled up to find out WTF was going on when the water started. It was like Psycho re-enacted every time I took a shower. But my folks lived in a tin hot box (i.e. “mobile home”) all through the 50s and 60s all over the Southwest because Dad’s job kept him on the move. They/we never had AC and it was damned uncomfortable at times but people lived w/o it all over the world until the 1950s.
Here in *Canada*, energy was cheap so the building code was “Eh – minimal insulation is fine, just pour the coal/gas/electricity to her”. Until 1973 all the insulation builders had to put in an outside wall R-12, which hardly slows heat from escaping. In ’73, during the energy crisis, they upped the requirement to R-19! This is one of my pet ponies, one I’ve ridden the legs off of. Poor pony now scoots on its belly like a snake. Now that energy costs are stratospheric some builders are taking notice and installing adequate insulation, triple-pane windows with Low-E glass. In fact one builder here is building zero-energy homes, homes that produce as much energy as they consume. Now if we could just retrofit the entire 1st entitled world.
Seems to me there should be big job opportunities in retrofitting existing houses. I hope that’s in the climate bill. We would not be in this fix today if our fossil fuel prices reflected what it’s really costing us. Murrmurrs Guarantee: you will not read a whine about gas prices herein.
I read this for an opening reading for my Humanist group last Sunday. It was very well received.