Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Too Much Efficiency

Being efficient is a good thing, but there can be such a thing as too much efficiency. As we observe some of the changes in our world, going for too much efficiency can backfire on us.

One example is the latest development relative to farming. After years of using their marketing muscle to sell farmers on the idea of using Roundup Ready seeds so that they can saturate their fields with greater quantities of Roundup, their patented weed killer without killing the corn, cotton and soybean crops, mother nature did her usual thing and responded by developing bigger, tougher weeds that are immune to Roundup. So now new poisons are needed.

One of the reasons for such a strategy is so that ever fewer people can farm ever larger tracts of land.

So the observant person will be even more encouraged to support local farmers and organic farmers who grows their crops in healthier ways, and these will probably be relatively smaller farms. Now that the farmers market season is about to begin again, there will be plenty of opportunities to choose healthier foods and support small farmers and ranchers.

The oil spill on the gulf coast is another example. Those people who argue that we should stick with depending on fossil fuels rather than renewable energy sources do not include in their calculations that the dirty byproducts of fossil fuels. Not just the oil spill and how it is spoiling the fisheries and the beaches. Mining coal causes miners to get black lung. And in places where lots of coal is burned to fuel development, more people have emphysema and other diseases of the lung. The amount of oil we burn produces clouds of smog over all our cities. Perhaps it is true that one big oil well or one big coal mine can produce more energy than a bunch of solar panels or windmills. My answer would simply be to build more solar panels and windmills.

Solar, wind and other renewable sources have no such deleterious effects. People don't get sick just from building windmills and solar panels. Nor do they make our air and water dirty. Nor does the building of them ever cause catastrophic accidents.

Another negative aspect of being too efficient is the multitasking that many employers insist on. Creating situations where people are making phone calls and trying to do emails while driving, while eating their meals, while they are vacationing or spending personal time with family and friends is all about trying to get one person to do more than one person's job. Workloads of this type diminish the quality of life in many respects. Keeping a person on an electronic tether just burns them out faster, decreases their ability to focus, intrudes on and interferes with personal relationships.

Our quality of life is often better when we are operating a smaller scale, rather than a bigger one.

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