Friday, September 30, 2005

I've Got Gas

Well at least I do for now, but who knows what will happen in the future.

I drive a gas guzzling full-sized Ford 1991 Ford Bronco. Before you chastise me for sucking all of your natural resources, and polluting the air, you should know a few things. I live where half the year we battle snow and ice, so the four-wheel drive aspect is used often. The large cargo space is occupied 24x7 by all of my whitewater and scuba gear since I am on a water rescue team. Finally, I have three kids, so we use the seating capacity as well.

Believe me, when my trusty Bronco is in need of being replaced, I will be looking for a more economical and environmentally friendly vehicle. If they do not yet make one by the time I need to change what I drive, I'll do the best I can with what is available.

I heard the other day that Ford has announced that their customers are suddenly clamoring for better fuel efficiency due to the recent rise in fuel prices. Imagine that.

One of the main things that have been holding us back for so long in the alternate fuel or more economical fueled vehicles is the consumer market. Like it or not, if the demand is not there, manufacturers will not make the products. It's the way our system works.

I'm hoping that when these new cars of tomorrow hit the streets they will be scooped up quickly, with the fastest selling of them being the most fuel efficient or even alternate fuel powered ones. This will show the manufacturers what people truly want.

I think the desire for these vehicles has been around a long time, it's just the cost and capacity have been disproportionate to the advantages and the power. The manufacturers can make these fuel efficient rides a reality, as long as they can bring them to the market at a decent price point. After all, the cost-conscious person is also looking for a vehicle within the realm of reality when it comes to the price.

Wouldn't it be something to see car manufacturers suddenly in a “vehicle war” trying to beat the other guys ability to decrease gas consumption while at the same time undercutting their competitors prices? You might have thought they were doing this already, but I think they are purposely moving at a slow pace because it is more advantageous to move slowly and provide the next new model with a tad better performance, then to lay all of your secrets out and not be able to show improvement for the new model year.

The companies are only in the business of making money, not in saving the environment or our fuel reserves. We show them the direction to go by buying their products based on what we want. If we keep lining their pockets by purchasing vehicles like a Hummer to joy-ride up and down suburban neighborhoods, then we're to blame not them.

On the other hand, if we refuse to by huge Earth-rovers, and instead lean toward alternate fuel or more fuel efficient modes of transportation, then this will speak volumes to those very same manufacturers.

As a consumer we get things accomplished by handing over our hard-earned money, not by whining about pollution on some silly website. Don't drive a Hummer and complain that we need alternative fuel vehicles, go buy a Toyota Prius or a Ford Escape Hybrid when it is time for you to move on to a newer vehicle.

With any luck we are witnessing the beginning of the end for gasoline powered vehicles. Of course, they may have asked this very same question in the gasoline shortages <*cough*> of the 1970's. We get many of our products from the petroleum industry, let's stop using fossil fuels to run our cars, and save what we have left for all the other things we use fossil fuels for.

I'll be curious to see if this article is a prediction of things to come, or just one more person pretending to know what the future holds in store for us all. It's true I do own a crystal ball, but I have yet to see the future in the thing.

In the future, when someone asks if you have gas I hope they are just showing concern for your noisy bowels.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Down, Not Out

I’ve written before about the awesome power of the natural world around us. I have challenged a raging river, and was humbled. Witnessed huge fires destroying hundreds of acres of land. Watched on television as volcanoes erupted spewing their lava over peoples homes, mudslides destroy neighborhoods, a tsunami wipe out village after village, winds uproot huge majestic trees, rivers flood cities, hurricanes destroy thousands of homes, tornadoes leveling trailer parks, and yes, even rode out an earthquake while clinging to a toilet.

It seems the news reports each event as if they are astonished that these things happen. Are humans so naïve that they truly think that we can control the natural elements on this planet? I especially enjoy watching the world point fingers at people, or entire nations, as if they were personally responsible for the weather.

There is no mistake that these events are scary at times, unpredictable, and sometimes just plain horrific. Each cataclysmic event leaves in its wake tragic tales that will be told for years to come. The loss people feel is genuine, and the lives that are affected, numerous.

To the educated observer we truly have no control over when Mother Nature decides to take a turn for the worse. With our limited abilities we can merely try and get out of her way until the temper has subsided, and the Earth allows us the time to pick up the pieces and rebuild as best we can.

When we colonize other planets, we will then be facing the wrath of new worlds, and their strange natural occurrences. It will never end; we have to just accept it as the price we pay as residents on an ever-evolving natural body.

Luckily, the same natural world that hits us with a variety of interesting disasters has also created us. We have survived this long and progressed because we have the strength to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again. So says a song.

This does not lessen the pain of loss, it may not even make us feel any better, but it is what drives us to carry on.

Beyond our internal drive, we also have the support of those around us. As I have discussed in the past, the human race seems to thrive best on a gang mentality. In nature we call this strength in numbers. Whether your particular “gang” is the local church, your family, or another organization that you belong to, the people you associate with will help carry you through difficult times.

Our country rises up to not only help other countries around the world, but regardless of some negative news stories, we have shown that we also come to the assistance of our fellow citizens when they are down.

During this past disaster, I was also heartened to see numerous countries stand up and provide assistance to the United States. I don’t recall this happening in a large way in my lifetime. To be fair, we have mostly been able to care for ourselves through most disasters, but this time we seem to have been kicked while we were already down and still reeling from liberating a country of a madman and assisting tsunami victims.

As I see countries pulling together to help everyone who live on the planet, I know there is hope for our future. It seems more and more we are coming together as world, rather then petty squabbling nations. There are a few countries it seems who still think they live in the days where they must conquer the planet like some poorly written James Bond villain, but those are getting fewer as time passes.

Unfortunately for all the good a natural disaster brings out in people, it also seeks out the idiots of the world. People trying to prevent evacuees from entering their town, looters who are not stealing for survival, but stealing because they are thugs, politicians who use Mother Nature as an excuse to further their agendas, and disgruntled individuals that appear to be mentally deranged on their world view.

I’m pleased that the humanity, care, and love for our countrymen has overshadowed the people who are trying so hard to drag hatred into this most recent event. Cheers to those of you giving money, blood, time and supplies to the people in need.

My most exalted praise goes to those companies who immediately jumped in and provided whatever they possibly could to help the victims of Katrina. That sort of assistance blows me away, and makes me proud to be a part of this country.

As for the government, shame on you. The attempted reaction was quick, but it was too little too late. After 911 we have been assured that we were ready for another major incident, we have been led astray. If this had been a terrorist attack that affected a large city, we would look just as inept as we did for this natural emergency.

I would like to see several large warehouses of supplies in strategic parts of the country, and several teams spread out throughout the country as well. These people can be military volunteers, just like a team of volunteer fireman, who at a moments notice can be in place within hours, not days. I know our military is capable of doing this; we just need to get it done! The Red Cross already does this, but they could use a large military group of folks as well to fill in the manpower gaps.

President Bush has accepted this failure like a true leader, and I’m positive that only good will be the result. Like Rudolph Juliani said, 911 was a learning experience, and so too was this natural disaster. We got caught with our proverbial pants down, and let’s hope we don’t get caught a second time.

There are times when humans can get a little down, but as we all know, we are never out of this game called life. My heart goes out to all who have been caught up in this latest disaster. I hope you all find that this country is behind you. It won’t ever be easy, but you’re not alone.

Good luck to you all!