Self-sufficiency = poverty

toaster

Image by healthserviceglasses via Flickr

In a recent letter to our local paper, a fellow wrote in that we should buy American products: “Americans all want to make top dollar for their labor but insist on buying the cheapest goods that they can find often made by countries with very low wages and lax environmental protections…We should always try to buy American made products and services as our first choice.” Be American. Buy American.

Now, I’m sympathetic to the argument that products from outside the U.S. have an advantage because of laxer environmental standards. Here in California, homegrown wood is more expensive due to the proscriptive regulations of the Forest Practice Act coupled with water quality and wildlife regs. A Timber Harvesting Plan adds $10,000-$50,000 to the cost of harvest.

Still, why should we stop at buying American products? Why not buy only products from companies in the western U.S.? Why not only California produced products? Heck, let’s keep our money in our county; after all our unemployment is running at twice California’s already high rate of unemployment. Keeping the money in the county will help put people to work; so let’s only buy Lake County products! Better yet, let’s just buy products produced in our own home! That way the money stays at home! Why didn’t anybody else think of that? Problem solved.

We can produce all that we need in our own homes. We can follow Thomas Thwaites’ example of making his own toaster (smelting iron into steel using his microwave is worth the viewing alone):

Radley Balko commented on Thwaites’s (unfinished at the time) project in June, 2009 with “I, Toaster.”
Matt Ridley also has a great post on this topic: “Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.”

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Driving Missed Daily: London to Edinburgh by electric car

According to the BBC, it “took 4 days, some serious thermal underwear, and copious amounts of waiting” to make the journey from London to Edinburgh (405 miles) by electric car (Mini adventure: how far can electric car go?). Such a trip should take seven to eight hours when driving a car powered by gas.

Christoper Booker asks, why not reinstate stage coaches? “[I]n the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving.” If the idea is to lower our carbon footprint and become more pastoral, why not indeed?

When I was a kid, gas (petrol) stations were not plentiful in some places, so it was common to see one or two five-gallon Jerry Cans filled with gas strapped onto the rear bumper of a car. Given the lengthy recharge times for electric (versus 3-5 minutes for refilling a gas tank), batteries should be interchangeable. You could strap seven or eight of them to your bumper, pull the spent one out, pop a fully-charged one in and you’re good to go. Larger cars and SUVs would take more batteries. A trailer might haul the spare batteries for long cross-country trips in the United States.

What do you think? Will stagecoaches or electric cars replace gas/diesel powered cars and trucks?

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Undercover cop goes native

Mick Hume over at Spiked-online has a thoughtful post on the “shocking” revelations that a British undercover cop, Police Constable (PC) Mark Kennedy has gone native and offered to give evidence for the defense.

Which aspect are we supposed to be most shocked by? The fact that the
police are so paranoid they have spent a fortune infiltrating a
conservative little group of eco-activists whose idea of radical protest
was normally to climb some trees, cranes and chimneys? Or that a group
of allegedly ‘hardcore’ eco-activists could be so easily taken in by a
cop poseur who apparently held no strong political views, but did just
happen to have a van and plenty of money he was keen to devote to
protests? Or that the state is now so lacking in institutional coherence
and loyalty that it cannot stop its top trained agents deserting the
Crown for a ramshackle green outfit?

Why should PC Kennedy have seen siding with the greens as a betrayal at all, given that so much of respectable and mainstream opinion in the UK sympathises with the aims of the eco-activists today, if not always with their tactics? Little wonder perhaps, as other activists have noted, that he seemed so enthusiastic about the protests and later so upset at having helped get them arrested.

Despite their self-image as radical harbingers of change, these
environmentalist protestors espouse essentially conservative and
conformist views about the need to curtail economic growth and impose
austerity…

PC Kennedy and his tribe yearn for a day where change doesn’t move so fast and they will live in harmony with their world. Good luck with that. In the name of a predicted threat one hundred years off, they want to make coal more expensive and raise the price of electricity, hurting the least able to afford higher bills.

Every day seven billion of us get about the business of living. Simple survival is priority one for our bottom billion. In the name of a predicted threat one hundred years off, PC Kennedy and his tribe fret over humankind’s 2% contribution in the total carbon cycle and hurt those most in need by promoting the idea of growing our fuel instead of growing food.

If this affair has highlighted the basic conservatism of the radical green groups’ politics, it has also pointed to the problems created by the incoherence and elitism of their organisation.

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