Friday, May 31, 2013

Pogo-ing

Hi. Thanks for visiting. Alice Walker tells us "we are the people we've been waiting for." Walt Kelly says (through Pogo) "we have met the enemy and he is us." Can they both be correct? Of course they can. Walt Whitman explains this when he tells us "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." Let me explain what brought on this plethora of quotations. Yesterday, while further researching bees, blueberries (or maybe cranberries now, if we can find some cultivars that will work outside of bogs), apiaries, electric fencing and related sundries, I found myself gathering information on costs, a not unreasonable activity for a new undertaking. Did you know that Minnesota has a beekeepers association? Anyhow, from there I was just a short flight from starting to calculate the potential Return On Investment (ROI) and Payback Period for bees and blueberries etc. Now, here's a critical piece of background information: for all of my adult life, I have hunted, fished, owned boats, been owned by hunting dogs, bought and driven 4 wheel drive pickup trucks and spent a bloody fortune on guns, rods, bows, supporting equipment, lodging, travel, vet's bills and other sundries. The cost per pound for all of the ducks, geese, grouse, venison, bluefish, striped bass, bluegills, walleyes, trout... must measure in the thousands of dollars. Not once in all these years have I tried to calculate the ROI on any of this. All of a sudden, what's wrong with me? Have I spent too many years looking at the payback period for energy improvements? Have I become too attuned to the mores of a increasingly cynical country that seems to know "the price of everything and the value of nothing?" Perhaps. Perhaps it is our effort to commoditize and monetize presents and futures that is leading all of us astray. Perhaps there is no escaping Whitman. We do, indeed, contain multitudes. And, many of the multitudes I contain frequently disagree. Do you have a similar "crowd source" trying to run your life? Regardless, if we can agree that, in order for a place to be sustainable, it must be lovable, hadn't we better begin to reduce our efforts to prostitute everything we say we care about? Maybe we need more of the attitude frequently attributed to J.P. Morgan regarding yachts: "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it." This doesn't suggest we should be reckless with our resources. Many of us have little to spend but time. It suggests to me that we need to be more mindful of the alignment (or lack thereof) between what we value and that on which we're willing to expend our resources, whatever they are. One of my personal heroes, Bobby Kennedy, seems to have covered this topic nicely when he said:
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
Maybe we'll end up with an apiary. Maybe the honey, if any, will replace what we've been buying. Maybe we'll have enough to sell. Maybe I'll have enough sense to remember I'm doing this because it pleases me, not just to make money. Since I don't ski, I should try to stay off of all slippery slopes. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections (sometimes mixed all together) served daily here in My Minnesota.