I had a good old-fashioned whinge today.
Bizarrely it was about templates or more strictly the lack of them.
A document I had prepared got scrunched when transferred from Google Docs to Word because the system I was using wouldn’t let me use the obvious PDF route. All the tidy layout, fonts, headers and footers went haywire. What I needed was a neat template with a standardised look and feel that despite bucket loads of resources the organisation had not provided.
After decades of trying to make things look good on the smell of an oily rag, this imposed dagginess just pushed my buttons. I got loud and went a little red in the face as my complaints bounced wildly around the room.
I mean it doesn’t take much to get a consistent internal look and feel.
These days you can get an Airtasker to do it in a jiffy. Large organisations with their own Comms units just have no excuse.
Not a happy camper.
Calmer now, my curiosity asks why?
What is it about tidiness and a neat layout that is so important?
Well, the obvious answer is that I like documents to be very different to the inside of my car. I want them to be neat, professional, elegant even. Achieving this is much easier with a template.
A good template makes for consistency of message and that makes perfect sense.
I certainly don’t like the optics of viewers seeing a scrappy document and assuming the author can’t even find their way around a simple Word layout.
But this whinge is a sign of deeper trauma.
Ever since I was out of diapers I have strived to high standards in order to fit in, to be liked and accepted.
This need stems from a weird upbringing where I felt like an alien among the local inhabitants. It can happen when you are raised in the church, the Salvation Army in my case.
Achieving accepted practice in the real world was a way of making sure that I wasn’t tainted by all the religious weirdness. A template and a consistent look and feel suggest professionalism.
I like the skill, good judgment, and polite behaviour that is expected of a professional. I knew that if I had these things then it would be much harder for the real world to reject me.
I did say it was deep.
And I was right. I learnt how to be skilled in fitting into real-world situations by learning quickly what it took to do well. It didn’t matter if it was cricket, soccer, or undergrad assignments, I went for it with passion after first finding out what the standards and code of conduct looked like.
This was handy of course. The qualities of professionalism bode well in modern society no matter your background or motivation. What was different for me was that its absence became a trigger.
Somehow I assumed that everyone would be just as motivated as I was to do the job well.
When they are not or just display an amateurish approach I get annoyed. No suffering of fools.
My early career was in the academic world where accepted practice dominates the discourse, sets the hoops, and decides if you have jumped through them. Silly things like 30 refereed publications by the age of 30 was an unwritten standard that was worth achieving as it made careers. I came up just shy with 28 papers. Peer review, learned argument and being well-read in your discipline were similar codes and qualities that mattered to academics.
I thought this would be true everywhere.
Sadly it isn’t.
It is not about the absence of a simple Word template, although there is no excuse for such sloppiness, it is the lack of passion to do the job well.
To have even half a chance of fixing the many challenges that humanity faces in the coming decades we all have to find the template and become professional.
If you have five minutes, why not read another Alloporus post
The bright side of the moon
It is early in the morning, crisp spring air cools the cheeks and sends earlobes numb. On the canvas of a beautiful blue sky is painted the moon, still risen and large enough to see it’s sculptured surface with the naked eye.
Against its pale blue background, the dark craters on the surface blend with their grey colour and invite thoughts of what it would be like to visit, a nice place to go, colourful, pleasant, calm.
And then comes the reality of what it is actually like out there. A massive rock orbiting in the blackness of space where no human could survive for more than a minute without the aid of technology.
An orange satellite sitting in a black galaxy.
There’s something about the human condition that means we always see an image rather than reality. I guarantee that most people who look at that moon in its picturesque blue backdrop see an invite to go there. They feel like they’ve been given a ticket on the first rocket ship to carry tourists to such an extraordinary place.
Not in our grandchildren’s lifetime, will we be able to do anything serious in space. We will generate a lot of space junk flying around in orbit above us. And various companies and countries will try to snaffle some resources or make money on the back of the curious. But the reality is the physics and the simple scale of the universe make even visiting our solar system a task beyond our current technologies and the laws of physics as we understand them.
Unless someone can crack moving faster than the speed of light, then we are destined to stay here on our own in this tiny corner of the universe, in our own blip in time.
This should be sobering. Then it should be a delight to recognize our uniqueness.
Sure, there are other life forms out there. Enjoying or not their own blip of existence. But the physics of it all means that we won’t see them and they won’t see us.
And yet the reality is that we are no more suited to be in outer space than we are to dominate planet earth. I know it says in the bible that we should have dominion but that is just some self-assurance. The truth may be closer to our survival chances on the moon.
On earth, we change everything to our own devices for our own purposes and needs. And have done for centuries. We’ve been so good at it that the planet is barely recognizable. The moon has seen the changes on the blue planet and wonders what’s going on down there?
At the moment it seems that what is going on is aggrandisement through a focus on self.
And, as written many times on this blog, there are very sensible and logical evolutionary reasons why that is a default position. Our biology is to make more and we are extremely good at it.
What we fail to realize is how hard it would be to change that biology. So that our blip in time in this tiny corner of the universe would be anything more than a path to our own mutual destruction. We would have to go against our nature in order to persist. Resources must be shared beyond our kin. We would have to restore and rehabilitate land that we had previously pilfered for its benefits.
Most of all, we would need tolerance. Recognize that other people part of the story too. Not because they are likeable or even because they are like us but because they’re here, that’s all.
And without other people onboard, the system breaks down into all the old patterns. It’s an ‘in this together’ kind of game. We either all come and collectively understand the consequences of failure to acknowledge each other and work together or we go extinct.
And I know what you will say. Many people have said this many times before. But we are still here, still creating technologies to keep our supply chains and systems moving — ever bigger, ever better.
We probably have a few decades, maybe even a century or two left to keep doing that to keep on that track. Malthus, Ehrlich and others who prophesied doom from overpopulation are not yet prophets. But they will be. There will be a crash. It will be ugly and whether or not we come out the other side in any sort of shape at all is determined by what we do now.
If we do nothing the crash will be deep and very painful. And what comes out of the other end will be a handful of unfortunate folks scrambling for what’s left. If we behave ourselves and begin to cooperate and talk and identify the things that really matter then there is a chance that the crash can be managed. A softer landing if you like. And what’s left behind could be in better shape.
I’ve thought about this a lot in recent weeks. Given the development of a new project around food, ecology and diet — sustainably FED — and fictional writing of climbing to the meet and the conversations of Paul Sorol. Reflecting on what our chances of getting through really are.
Locally the chances are good.
In a crisis, people do help each other. We’ve talked about that on this blog many times before.
But once the crisis is over and the local situation calms that helping hand does tend to fade away.
Keeping that crisis momentum going is also not what you want to do. Nobody wants to live with heightened alertness the whole time unless that happens to be your psychology.
Moving towards something that is worth keeping is the key. That involves our awareness and is the challenging part. It’s not that we don’t have empathy. Not that we don’t have the ability to go operate clearly we do. But just not enough for long enough to see us through to a soft landing.
I do not have an answer. It would be good to find one but I simply don’t have one at this point. As to how we would do that.
And my apologies for another pessimistic post. But hopefully, you can see the kernels of optimism.
There’s still a chance even at this late hour for humanity to not just turn things around but to make the future much brighter than it seems that present.
Right now we’re heading for some dark times. Unpleasant politics, leadership that is either inept or not leadership at all, but authoritarianism by any other name.
A pandemic continues to cause havoc with everything around the world, changing what we thought was our normal lives.
But it’s this time of apparent darkness that it is possible to see the moon at its brightest against that blue background and to think of it as a place worth visiting.
Please share to help us all reach for the stars and find the moon.
I was always told that it is a good thing to understand values. My Aunty Eva always said identify them, get to know them, and then live by them. Not in as many words for she was was a spinster brought up in the 1930’s but she had the look that got the message across loud and clear. She wasn’t my relative, just a wonderful woman who looked after me a lot when I was growing up. I loved her to bits.
The question recently came up as to how far a values approach to life should go.
As everybody now knows the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted across the entire planet. Millions of people are infected and hundreds of thousands of people have died. The search for vaccines and treatments is fast-tracked with over 150 different laboratories trying their hardest to be the first.
Given that we could develop technologies that could prevent deaths and reduce the suffering of people who contract the virus, vaccines and treatments seem like a no brainer. No matter there is a commercial imperative, this search for some herd immunity and treatment feels like a moral obligation.
Recently. I was astonished to learn that various religious leaders in Australia had written to the prime minister saying that, according to their values, development of vaccines using stem cells from aborted fetuses was immoral and should not be allowed. The government should step in and put a stop to this type of search for a vaccine.
This sets up an extraordinary situation where a particular moral value goes counter to another moral value held by exactly the same person.
Let’s test this one a bit.
Presumably, the forthright religious individual would attempt to stop a man with a gun shooting another man or if there was a brawl attempt to separate the pugilists. And yet they would also stand in front of a woman who had been raped and prevent her from entering an abortion clinic.
The same moral dilemma faced them with vaccines that use stem cells and they went with the death of many over the past death of one unborn child.
It seemed not to matter that the stem cells in use for vaccine development comes from a stable cell line harvested from a single foetus in 1973.
My first instinct was outrage at the hypocrisy. And as one of the scientists working on vaccines said, “the Archbishop is entitled to his opinion and we are entitled to ignore it”. And so I guess that was an option too, everyone has the right to express their values and I have the right to accept them or ignore them.
But then I thought what is my value on this?
Does the death of one person, even though that person was never born. Does the death of that person justify the saving of other people’s lives? This is a classic philosophical conundrum debated many times over in first-year philosophy class. And the reason it’s debated is that there is no single answer only one that works for each person presented with the dilemma.
In this instance, for me at least, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a foetus that did not make it to term and so was never born.
These days I am often forced into reflections over the many such hypocrisies and conundrums that exist in modern society. In most of them, the values are obscured or obfuscated by the context or the hysteria of the message.
The first task is to find what the core values are before any decision is reached on what I think about them.
What was the value that the religious leaders were asking the PM to promote? The right to life?
Presumably, the relatives of the 6,037 people who died from the COVID-19 virus on 18th September 2020 would want them to promote that value with all their fervour. My Christian friends certainly did, they were incensed by the hypocrisy.
Making value judgements
The only defence the church has is that we are constantly being asked to make value judgments. When there is never a clear value proposition that would suit everybody we are asked to side; to choose a value that we support.
Somehow we have to get over this problem and allow other people’s values to be held as strongly as our own. And reach a compromise in all areas.
Recently the gunman responsible for the massacre of Muslims in New Zealand in 2019 was sentenced to the harshest punishment under New Zealand law.
The responses of the people who had lost loved ones in that massacre were remarkable. They expressed a full range of emotions from anger and indignation, to empathy and forgiveness. The important thing was that responses were not delivered by one person but by many different people each expressing their feelings with the unfiltered truth. It was powerful.
There were many values abused by that heinous act.
In the courtroom, all the responses were heard because there was at least one common value breached, the right to life. Nobody questioned the responses because everyone knew that this was a value held close by all.
There was no need to question, there was only room for empathy.
From the point of view of healthy thinking, it helps to know how hard we hold our values to our principles and how often we are hypocrisy personified ourselves. There’s no value in holding on to a principle if you disengage with it yourself at the earliest opportunity.
So let’s take a lesson from those grieving families and have a little bit of balance in these things. Let’s try and see the bigger picture and the broader benefit even as we give in to our own emotional response.
That’s very hard to do but it’s essential in a world of eight billion souls.
If you like these ideas for healthy thinking please share, you never know what it might do.
Scepticism | a sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something
doubt, doubtfulness, dubiousness, a pinch of salt, lack of conviction; disbelief, cynicism, distrust, mistrust, suspicion, misbelief, incredulity; pessimism, defeatism; raredubiety, Pyrrhonism, scepsis, minimifidianism
Integrity | the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, honourableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
Recently I have been asking myself a lot of questions, some of them pointy.
What is going on in the world? Why are we blind to the impending right-wing takeovers? Why is history repeating? Why do we believe lies? How did I get here?
This is partly a time of life thing and partly a WTF triggered by the state of the world, the country I live in, and my profession. Meantime some workplace nastiness has stalked in from the field and to hit me on the blindside.
In short, I am stressed out.
I have turned to my favourite supports. The butt skyward frame of the downward dog has provided solace, likewise, the gifted Mary Maddux from Meditation Oasis has been a huge help.
Meanwhile, my friends and loved ones have blessed me again and again.
I am starting to feel better.
This time around though my malaise was deep. The forces of the dark side gently yet steadily messing with my balance. I felt like I would fall over at the slightest push.
In this situation, there is only so much the supports can do. They can lift me up each time I fall but they cannot always be there for protection when the winds blow even as they show me how I can be more robust to the gusts and bend more easily. So this time I also sought out and benefited from some professional help.
Therapy is still a little shameful.
It suggests weakness because at the time you are. The point of talking through your inner emotions with a trustworthy stranger is because you need to build or rebuild mental strength. So, yes, I am weak right now. I need help and time to regain my fortitude.
The first couple of sessions went deep. This surprised me a bit. Maybe my subconscious was ready for it, more like ‘screaming to get out’ I think, and one word kept cropping up both during the sessions and as I processed and the therapist listened.
I became fixated with integrity.
My initial conclusion — initial because I suspect that this exploration has only just begun — is that honour and honesty mean a great deal to me, chased closely by character and morals. Integrity is a word to catch deep feelings in a jar and close the lid.
Then I realised that my profession of applied scientist embraces the qualities of integrity, of course, but it demands something else. My work also requires scepticism — the seeking of truth by applying doubt, then displacing it with evidence.
Scepticism is good, at least it should be. Scepticism is the foundation of science and is what separates science from opinion and lies.
As a seeker of truth, you have to question what you hear, see and smell. Even what you touch can deceive and so you apply logic to these things. This is the best way we know to convert information into evidence. My hand smells of lavender because I grasped the seed head of a lavender plant in the garden. The hand wash has the same smell but not necessarily because it had anything to do with a lavender plant.
Integrity and scepticism.
A huge ah-ha arrived when I put these two words together.
Scepticism is a huge threat to integrity.
Integrity functions as a given. You cannot test for it or prove it. Integrity appears through your words and your actions. It is hard to earn and maintain and is lost in a split second. Question a person’s integrity and you wound him. It matters not if there is no foundation, just to ask the question is wielding a weapon.
Yet sceptics cannot help but ask a question for this is what scepticism is, the asking of questions.
It appears I am trained to wound myself.
This is my interpretation and my current landing. My therapist did not suggest this and bears no responsibility other than what can be attributed to gentle prodding and a listening ear. I have decided that I have created a contradiction in myself.
I am latched onto integrity as a core value, if not the core value in my life. And yet all the time I go around questioning almost everything. In the simple act of scepticism, I am wielding a powerful emotional weapon, and just like anyone who would wield a real lightsaber, I am at constant risk of injury.
So far this realisation of self-harm is raw.
It is not really helping me given that I can’t relinquish integrity any more than I can give up scepticism. Both are integral to who I am.
A conundrum must exist. At least I know that now.
Needless to say, I immediately applied my black and white mind to this conundrum in search of a solution. I could give up integrity or scepticism or perhaps both. This would be difficult as a new persona is never easy to build and I would need a new career. Suggestions are most welcome.
Alternatively, I can figure out a better way for them to coexist.
I guess the real problem is that even Master Yoda must have singed a hair or the end of an ear in his fight with Dooku.
Take yourself to a glacier in the Alps.
It is a fine spring day and you are descending toward the green pastures in the valley below. The ice is slippery as the sun beats down on it but all is well as your experienced guide has filled everyone on your trek with confidence and humour.
As the smell of the fields reaches your nostrils the guide stops and raises her hand.
In front of you the glacier has inched forward and cracked right across the chosen path. It has opened a bottomless hole toward the earth two meters wide. In the few hours since your party passed this way the glacier just reminded everyone that they are standing on a frozen river.
What happens if you try to cross this chasm?
There are no ropes or ladders or material for a bridge. You will have to jump.
Realistically, only one of two things can happen.
Success or failure, the latter bringing certain pain and likely death.
What to do then? Take the risky leap or walk an unknown distance around the obstacle? Perhaps decide that either option is too scary and staying where you are is the safest choice.
There is something similar hidden in the minds of consumers.
They stand on one side of a mental chasm where the milk and meat come from the fridge in aisle 3. On the other side is what it takes to breed, feed and slaughter the livestock to actually produce the milk and the mince.
The same applies to aisle 1 where the bread is stacked. How it gets there is on the other side of a mental chasm. Most of us eating the smashed avocado on sourdough toast know very little about where the deliciousness came from beyond the Blue Moon cafe on the high street.
Only the glacier analogy is a poor one.
Consumers are not on a trek. They don’t perceive the awareness gap at all and whilst there are supermarkets with produce and checkouts there is no need to even think about it. So long as a proportion of household income allocated to food, usually somewhere around 10 to 15%, is available in their current account, it is easy to tap away and load the SUV with the weekly shop. No questions asked.
Now we should say that these generalisations apply to the billion or so people who are at level 4 in Hans Rosling’s development scale, the people that live on more than $64 per day. The 6.5 billion humans on levels 1, 2 and 3 who must survive on less than this are far more aware. Those on level 1 with less than $1 per day of income, acutely so.
However, most of the money flows via those in level 4 and so the supply chain is designed for them. It is long and complex. It makes it possible for seasonal fruits to be on the shelves in all seasons with only modest price fluctuations.
Supply chains mean the shelves and fridges are well stocked and it means that there is no need to even think that a chasm exists let alone be in a position to have to cross it unaided.
There is a chasm of scale though between the individual consumer and the system of production. Most people on level 4 don’t know it exists but they should.
Why they don’t is both practical and psychological. Most city dwellers have never even been on a farm, let alone understand what it takes to run one. They are consumers not producers and fair dues. It is enough to know how to select the cut of meat, roast it with sliced fennel and serve with a red wine jus.
It is also important to the psyche to know that there is food in the supermarket at all times. No need to worry or hoard produce. Just rock up and tap your card. Sustenance is a base need that seems surprisingly easy to cheat. We are too easily fooled that supply chain to the supermarket will always work. We don’t see a psychological chasm of food insecurity at all any more, even though this was a primal driver for our ancestors and for over half the global population still.
It may be that this psychological chasm of food security has to open up before we realise it is there.
Instead we have an awareness chasm. Only there is no reason for us to cross. It’s just a precipitous gap in the ice that looks dangerous.
Everything we need is on our side so meh, why worry?
Are we actually busier than in the past
I’m constantly told that everyone is busy. We have so much to do that there is no time to do anything more. Everyone is busy, busy, busy, full, chockers, not a moment to spare.
Every time somebody asks you to do something, the request will begin “I know you’re busy but…”
Only, is this actually true? Are we actually busier today than we were in the past?
Certainly, we have more distractions these days. Barely a minute goes by without a ping to notify us of a crucial message and it is now compulsory to have at least two internet-compatible devices at your disposal whilst watching Netflix on the big-screen TV.
So yes, there is a lot going on.
But let’s go back a while to our ancestors, maybe 20,000 years before there was any serious agriculture. In these times people were very busy indeed.
Failure to be busy meant starvation for they had to be out looking for food all the time. And they couldn’t be lax, for failure to be vigilant at all times meant that either the predator with large teeth or the tribe with sharp spears threatened your life. There was barely a moment when it was safe to switch off and simply gaze at the stars. Our hunter-gatherer forebears were very busy, they had to be.
Now let’s come forward in time to 100 years before the Industrial Revolution, say around 1650 when Oliver Cromwell was fighting a civil war and Istanbul was the largest city in the world. There was no electricity, no running water, only basic sanitation, and almost all the amenities of life required active business. Agriculture was organised and provided people with food but it also sucked in their labour and, as with the times of hunting and gathering, failure to be busy meant you starved. Folk in the Middle Ages were very busy indeed.
Just 100 years ago during the first World War when vehicles, industry, bullets, and bombs had arrived in the west, people still had a lot to do just to maintain themselves. They had jobs but the low wages meant they had to work all hours just to get enough money to buy food and clothing they needed. They sent their kids to work as soon as they could stand upright and never knew if there would be enough. Even these early beneficiaries of the industrial revolution had things to do.
You could argue that electricity and the myriad of technology that goes with it made many of the time sucking chores of the past fly off into the distance. Today, the average westerner no longer has to spend time scrubbing his clothes by hand, tilling the fields, chopping wood for the fire or raising and slaughtering the goat. But instead, we are busy, busy, busy with…
Well, nothing really.
We are busy working just like all those who went before us and then we are busy entertaining ourselves.
It seems as though we have no time and we are constantly on the go but the reality is that this is a choice. We actually choose to be busy for today we don’t have to be that busy at all.
We could work enough just to live simply.
We could put the devices away and chat or gaze at the stars.
We could spend time doing nothing.
We could… and this is the difference. In the past, people could not.
I am currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer, a tome that chronicles the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945, some 1,200+ pages of sobering reality.
A chronicler that lived through the historical events he recounts has a unique perspective that is close but not necessarily intimate with them. He can be criticised on fact, sequence and detail. There will also be problems when opinion and, in this chronicle, horror at the events inevitably creep in. However, it is a history and one that we should all read for its own sake and because it is highly relevant to our present times.
Halfway through the book, the point at which Hitler has ordered the invasion of Poland, the fateful decision that forced the British and the French to declare war on Germany, there is a matter of fact note of the panzer divisions and the Luftwaffe securing a swift victory over the Polish defences.
There is much to be remembered about that fateful period in September 1939 but there is a footnote in Shirer’s account that resonated deeply when I read it.
He notes that the official records of German casualties were 10,572 killed, 30,322 wounded and 3,400 missing.
Pause for a moment to take in those numbers.
Then recall that this is the army that won in a highly successful and soon to be repeated blitzkrieg. Yet still, tens of thousands of German mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers were devastated with grief, over 50,000 families irrevocably scarred, and this was just the first skirmish.
Unimaginable horrors were inflicted on the Polish people in those first few days of the war and many ever more evil acts followed. It is unimaginable what life became when there were bombs whistling down from the sky and tanks rumbling past your front door.
Do not kid yourself that such fear will never be felt again.
Do not think that we are safe from tyranny and evil.
We are not safe.
We must be vigilant for those German families did not see it coming and neither do we.
Steadily the safeguards that humanity put in place are being eroded. We have politicians that are both gutless and a law unto themselves.
We have media that operate as powerful influencers with lies and deceit.
We face resource shortfalls that will test food and water security for billions of people and we have little idea of how to resolve them.
So we need to wake up.
Recall of vegan foods because they might contain dairy is, seriously, the least of our worries.
TED talks have been around for a long time now, since 1984 as it turns out. There are over 2,000 of them, most in that punchy, smart format that makes even challenging ideas accessible.
Here is a collection of eight of them that Kara Cutruzzula selected on how to be more hopeful
They have these messages…
- Shift your expectations
- Recognize that you can change your life at any point
- Look for meaning in the most challenging moments
- Listen to another person’s story
- Return to your home base
- Add some wow to your world
- Remember the essential goodness of humanity
- Think about your death (yes, really).
A good list, a little gem, and well worth a look.
In Monty Python’s infamous movie Life of Brian the masses lament their lot and decry “What have the Romans ever done for us?” only slowly realizing it was just about everything that made life livable.
This was, of course, a satirical stab at the economic system, the one everyone moans about all the time for its addiction to growth, our slavery to it, and the fact that it is so sacred that no one can touch it.
This post from 2011 begins with a similar lament but ends up somewhere else…
In our world of doing it all easy, the latest labour saving option in the kitchen is pre-peeled potatoes.
What an outstanding idea. No need to whip out the peeler and waste time or get mud on your fingers. No more peels to get rid of and litres of water are saved from not having to clean off the grubby bits.
What, you are kidding!
How lazy can we get? It takes no effort at all to peel a potato or two. This has to be consumerism gone mad. ABC radio host Richard Glover thought so and created a funny skit to point out the craziness.
Only there are a couple of things.
First thing. An inevitable consequence of a market mechanism is that new products will emerge. Whatever people will buy, whether they really need it or not, the market will provide. The market will also provide things that they hope people will buy, often well before customers recognize that they might have a need for it. In the end, if a product works for even a few of us then it may be worth manufacturing. Witness, ‘peeled spuds in nitrogen’.
Second thing. There is always an opportunity for more efficiency in they system. If the supplier of the potatoes also recycled the peels into compost, this would be useful second product from the potatoes. Very few of the customers would do this and even if they did there would be no scale benefit.
We are at the stage where every nutrient and kilo of organic material that goes back into our agricultural soils is worth the effort given that fossil fuel based fertilizers are rapidly becoming another of our limited resources.
Our system of resource use is so bloated that there are efficiencies that will help our sustainability just about everywhere. All we have to do is look. One of these efficiencies, conversion of organic waste into fertilizer, will become commonplace. As will novel ways of doing it.
The idea that the recycling happens before the product reaches the kitchen might just be one of the better ones.
In short, the market is bad unless it is efficient.
What the Romans did was create efficiency through commerce that made lives easier and more livable in the time before sanitation, antibiotics, and mass transport. And for better or worse, the market has done the same for the majority of westerners since the industrial revolution.
But for the system to deliver livability for the majority, over time, it has to be efficient and resilient, especially in the use of resources. Resource wise, peeled potatoes might work efficiently if the peelings are actually composted and returned to the farms that produced the potatoes. Market players can clip their margins along the supply chain so long as consumers are prepared to pay a premium for pre-prepared convenience. If they are, and the peelings feed worms, all is well.
Then we find out that 40% of Australia’s banana crop never leaves the farm because the fruit is misshaped. Not even in a parallel universe is this efficient. I can see Minions crying at the piles of rotting yellow.
We also know that wealth is increasingly concentrated because this is also how the market works. Money and resources churn but the clip ends up in the hands of a few. This is also a criticism of the Romans and any number of subsequent empire builders that followed their example — wealth is concentrated as the masses are exploited.
Except that the Romans did a whole heap of things that kept people alive and moderately well. And, arguably, in much better shape than they were before.
Our dilemma is the same.