Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Convenient World.

I don't drive, so I have a small carbon footprint. Depending on what online calculator I use, it is somewhere between petite (50% of the average American) and a delicate flower (15% of the national average).

Obviously, not driving is my great virtue when using these yardsticks. I also get big points for almost never taking a commercial flight.

I'm a broke-ass mofo. Yay, me!

My great sins are that I still eat meat (chicken, usually), I rarely buy organic foods and I happily buy Mexican hot sauce, Italian olive oil, Belgian chocolates and some beers and wines from Australia.

I have not done the numbers, but I have this gnawing feeling that major corporations making sure certain items are always close at hand is sucking up a serious amount of energy, what I call The Convenient World. Consider, for example, my favorite thing from The Convenient World, Diet Pepsi. It's my caffeine delivery system and I am not giving it up, thanks very much for asking.

How many places are there within a mile radius of my home where I can buy a Diet Pepsi? I honestly couldn't tell you, because I would bet I have barely visited half of them. A mile radius is way too big a scale in The Convenient World in a city like Oakland. For example, if I'm on the Laney College campus, there are three hot dog vendors, one on the north side, one on the south, one on the west, all of whom sell Diet Pepsi and there's a machine in the cafeteria. I don't know every inch of the campus, so there may be other choices. If I am one block away from Laney at the Lake Merritt BART, there's a donut shop and a place for lunch inside one of the office buildings where I can get my fix.

Great big trucks driven by great big guys are driving all over hell and gone to make sure I, the humble blogger Matty Boy, am never too far away from a refreshing Diet Pepsi. Of course, The Convenient World doesn't actually know me by name, and Diet Pepsi just one of at least hundreds of products that are always close at hand for the nameless army of people who have decided they cannot do without some subset of the vast array.


In contrast, my favorite Mexican hot sauce El Yucateco is not particularly convenient for me. It's not the most popular Mexican hot sauce brand. That would be Tapatio, I think. If I was keen on Tapatio, I could pick it up at any supermarket and even some convenience stores. It would be in The Somewhat Convenient World. El Yucateco can be found in supermarkets if there is a large enough Hispanic population nearby, but my neighborhood on the lake has more Asian immigrants than Latin Americans, so the Lucky and the Safeway don't carry it. I can tell you exactly how many places in a mile radius of my place carry El Yucateco, and that is zero. It is slightly more than a mile bike ride away from my place to get to the first Mexican market that carries it.

Likewise with my favorite Belgian chocolates, which sell at Trader Joe's. In the East Bay, TJ's is convenient, but I'd only put it in the Somewhat Convenient World. The amount of big trucks stocking the TJs locations pales in comparison to the fleet that supplies vast array of items that are available at every other supermarket chain and at many convenience stores.


A lot of people want to lay the blame for the big oil spill on someone, usually someone else. People with a lick of sense blame BP. Some want to find other villains, like Obama or Halliburton or whoever else they don't much like politically.

Do you want to know who is to blame for the oil spill? How about the war in Iraq? Oppression in Saudi Arabia and Iran, corruption in Nigeria and Mexico? Truckers dying on slushy ice roads in Alaska that lead to nowhere except an oil field? Environmental damage in countless places in a myriad different ways?

You are to blame. So am I, even with my teeny tiny carbon footprint. Everyone who lives in The Convenient World bares some blame for our addiction to energy, especially energy created by petroleum and the nasty collateral damage caused by our suppliers giving us what we want and will not live without.

I know I am doing wrong. I don't want to stop doing wrong completely, but I am trying to do better. My actions are sometimes called "good intentions" and I've heard there's a road somewhere paved with them.

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