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Thursday, December 11, 2014

'Tis The Season ......'

Yes, it's that time of the year - for good cheer and best wishes.  For frenzy shopping, over-indulgence, and phony self-reflection. For happy get-togethers , excessive credit purchases, and merry times all rolled into one gigantic ball of crass consumerism. It's the Christmas holiday season, enjoy!

Now, I may sound cranky and a wee bit down on the whole Holiday scene but as you will see, there is humor in my thoughts as well.

Holiday Joke: What are the four stages of life?
 - You Believe in Santa
 - You Don't Believe in Santa
 - You Are Santa
 - You Look Like Santa 

The reason I am down on the holidays is that we are neglecting many very important issues that impact us on a daily basis but go merrily along our way. One of these issues is the environment. I hate to break you the news but the world's survival does not rest on the shoulders of global warming - in fact, the way we are going we will be long gone before we have to worry about warming trends.

The first and most pressing issue is population growth. With 7.3 billion souls currently and an undeniable upward trend that forecasts 9.5 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100 - the earth cannot sustain that many people. There are simply not enough resources - man-made or nature-made - that can support that many humans. What irks me is that the major issue of over population is essentially ignored while we concentrate on minor issues some of which are not even environmentally friendly.

For example - electric cars. From Tesla or Prius, electric cars have no positive impact on the environment. Purchasers of electric cars and certainly the auto manufacturers and certain environmental groups push the notion that electric cars are good for air quality as they have a small carbon footprint vs. gas consuming cars.  Think again. The dirty little secret is that the batteries in all of these autos (and there are hundreds of pounds of batteries in each) must be disposed of into  'toxic waste dumps' at the end of their use. Not to mention the fact that the electricity these cars use is derived principally from coal burning electric power plants.  This negates any environmental 'savings' made over the course of an electric car's life - and in fact, these autos have a larger carbon footprint then gas cars of the same size.

Holiday Joke: A wife asked her car-crazed, motor-head husband what he wanted for Christmas? "Something that goes from 0-to-220 in three seconds flat" he said. On Christmas Day he unwrapped a bathroom scale.

Beef  vs. Cars: Many of us like a good steak or juicy burger every so often, but cows (cattle) on a per pound basis use up much more energy and feed then any other source of animal protein - and it's not by a little, but a lot. In fact, instead of worrying about auto pollution we should move our attention to beef.  Recently researchers in the U.S. and Israel concluded that the environmental impact from cattle farming: including animal waste, emissions, feeding, watering, transporting, and processing gave beef a score of "about one order of magnitude" - approximately 10 times worse for the environment than other meats. Per calorie, it requires 28 times the land, 11 times the water, and generates 5 times the greenhouse gas (GHG) of pork, chicken, or lamb.

Not only is beef gassier than pork, it can generate more pollution than your car! We fixate on car pollution but one pound of beef generates and spews 32 pounds of GHG into the environment! A Camry spews less than a pound of carbon per mile. So, as long as you drive less than 16 miles round trip to lunch, your half-pounder accounts for more GHG than the drive to the fast-food outlet to get it!
So, it may be advisable to eat a little less beef.

Mega Energy Wasters: The biggest wasters of energy are buildings. Commercial and industrial structures, retail outlets, and finally homes.  Progress has been made to address the issue of building energy consumption through the efforts of groups like the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED Program. LEED is a rating system which ranks buildings based upon their energy consumption - the lower the consumption, the higher the rating.  As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, in 2010 I partnered with the folks at ScreenTrade Magazine, in developing a LEED inspired energy rating system for movie theaters - called Arboreel . No cinema operators, large or small, from Regal Entertainment, to Goodrich Cinemas, to independent owners would have anything to do with Arboreel. In fact, there was some contempt for the concept in some quarters of the cinema industry.  It wasn't about the cost of becoming more energy efficient (we offered several cinema operators the option to be used as a test case for free)  it was simply the fact that they felt they were doing all things right regarding energy efficiency and consumption and there was little room for improvement - Wow!

Cinema auditoriums are large spaces that are empty or near empty most of the time. The average utilization rate for cinemas is below 20% (meaning that 80% of the time a seat is not occupied while a movie is running).  Cinemas are big wasters of energy and are representative of underutilized space in structures such as shopping malls, office buildings, schools, and most commercial buildings that do not run on a 24 hour basis but need to be cooled, heated, and lit 24/7.

Holiday Joke: Santa Claus, has the right idea: visit people once a year.

I will finalize this rant by saying that the environment, like most complex issues, fosters rampant hypocrisy.  The press would have you believe that environmental conservation is a liberal, progressive cause - but the very word conservation comes from conserve (conservative - or those that do not want change). It's is not a progressive cause but on self-preservative cause. It has nothing to do with political terms, in fact, the farther right on the political scale the more conservative (environmentally) that person becomes until they go full-circle and meet the farthest left liberal - who thinks the same way they do.

Best and Happy Holidays

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