Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Then of course, there is green gold


Picture yourself as a guy or a gal living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the mid 1800s. As you do so, think about the fact that in the thoughts and conversations you are having with yourself and others in your community, doing something other than what has become hopelessly boring and routine compels you to search for greater meaning in both your personal and professional life. As a result of sharing your thoughts through conversations with others, your perspective of how you and others choose to respond to the world that is obviously changing around you is also changing. Deciding either separately or together to go with the forces that are shaping that change and realizing that life in Philadelphia is not necessarily responding to that change at a pace similar to your own, your sense of being unfulfilled comes to match your desire do something altogether different and altogether far from the normal life Philadelphia appears to represent.

Being an avid reader of the local paper, which back in the 1850s was just beginning to expose the people of Philadelphia to the greater horizons of an emerging America, one particular event consistently catches your eye. As the California Gold Rush of 1848 is heralded as the happening thing in America, your attention and your imagination are wholly captured as you make a quite powerful personal connection with that particular happening. Thinking that if you were to uproot and move from Philly to San Francisco, your vision of change would be fulfilled, you do so. In doing so, you find yourself quite able to disassociate yourself from the normal and indeed banal existence of Pennsylvania and turn yourself instead into a genuine California Gold Digger.

As you journey from Pennsylvania to California, you find yourself being exposed to a variety of regional American cultures and of course a variety of regional social nuances. In your obsessive pursuit of independent wealth however, it seems that no matter where you stop along the path to gold, these social nuances appear to be quite imperfect and quite annoying to you. None the less, because you made the decision to move, these nuances in one manner or another, exposed you to an American way of life that was indeed quite diverse and was indeed filling some part of your subconscious creative mind with what at the time was a whole bunch of consciously unrecognizable new age golden ideas. Being obsessed with the pursuit of your own personal gold standards, these unrecognizable ideas were left unregistered and became trademarks of your dormant and unfortunately unfulfilled industrial imagination.

Arriving in San Francisco after your journey across America you stake your claim, set up your isolated tented homestead, peruse the geography of your domain and begin to unpack your stuff. As part of your stuff was the stuff you departed Philly with, in your unpacking, a greater part of your stuff was stuff that you had acquired in your move across America. The newly acquired movement stuff was of course the stuff you had attained through having conversations with people across America who also had stuff and who also had dreams of California Gold. Much like yourself, these people were also avid readers and they too had read about the rush. As they read and you read, the conversations you had centered around the equipment you would need in order to be prepared for the eventual new life you would be leading as a California Gold Digger.

While the conversations didn’t amount to much and the equipment you purchased from those you had the conversations with was admittedly sparse, now that you were unpacking your gold stuff along with your old Philly stuff, you felt quite confident that all of the stuff you were unpacking was indeed all of the stuff you would need to become independently wealthy and of course totally free of the social constraints of those who unlike yourself had simply decided not to pursue such wealth.

As luck would have it however, so to would fate and within the constraints of both luck and fate, the tent you erected upon your staked California claim began to fall apart just a little bit faster than your ability to find the gold that would eventually help build your dream of owning a castle in a land devoid of social constraints. Realizing that perhaps your dream was slightly askew while also realizing that your tented fortress was but a temporary stay in an environmentally and economically unstable American roadside camp, you began to inventory your belongings in much the same manner as you did when you left Philly and arrived in San Francisco.

In the process of doing so, your imaginative subconscious began to awaken. As it did, the conversations with the many socially constrained Americans you had met upon your path to gold and initially thought to be so meaningless and boring took on a new life. Soon it became apparent to you that while those that did read about the gold rush but decided not to take the path that supposedly led to that instant gold were within their social monotony, diligently building the industrial mechanism that brought wealth to America in the 1800s in an entirely different and much more tangible form.

Ohio River Valley communities were building farms carved from land perfectly suited for doing so. They were as well building factories that produced steel which in turn was used to produce steel rails and the locomotives that traversed those rails and eventually linked one end of our nation to the other with the driving of the proverbial golden spike. Michiganders used that steel to give birth to an infant automobile industry whereas Chicagoans used that same steel to produce the structural elements of our nations burgeoning architectural and building trade empires. Corn huskers from Nebraska thrived as did livestock raised on the corn that was shipped by rail and locomotive eastward to the stockyards of Chicago and further eastward to Pennsylvania and beyond. Omaha, Nebraska became the national agricultural health college of western journeying big country cattleman and Midwestern farmer’s as Denver, Colorado became the gateway of the Rockies. Within that gateway and from Texas to Montana, big country cattlemen merged with big country loggers and big country steel men to produce a symphony of industrial commerce that had virtually no bearing whatsoever on the quest for California gold.

As the California Gold Rush quickly became a useless essay on an equally useless population of those who sought fast profits from lazy dreams of fast wealth, it did as well symbolize the end of an era for those inclined to make money on superficial, socially disconnected and dysfunctional dreams as opposed to those who earned money by hammering tools, growing crops and feeding American families not from the gold of nitwits but from the wit of environmentally brilliant industrialists who saw within their collective industrial mindset, the brilliance of an ordinary day to day earthly harvest.

America’s industrial 1800s passed and in doing so the industrial era represented by both instant gold seekers and disciplined gold harvesters also passed. As the real gold of the 1800s was never really measured by the accomplishments of a few self centered mineral speculators, it was in retrospect, most certainly measured by the accomplishments of hundreds of thousands of Americans that had successfully spread out across the ever expanding wilderness of our nation at the time. As America grew in physical size, it also grew in industrial capacity and in turn grew economically due solely to its industrial inventiveness and of course as this generation of gold seekers and harvesters waned, a new generation of gold seekers and harvesters were born.

Within the same mindset that enabled the industrial growth of the 1800s to emerge, a new industrial mindset for a new industrial century emerged in the 1900s. In the process, Gold Diggers once again surfaced. This time however the search for precious minerals that had historically been considered the standard of supreme wealth for centuries of civilizations was entirely redefined. In that redefinition, the quest for gold, silver and copper was set aside and replaced by the search for black gold. Within no time at all, oil, oil, oil, oil and more oil became the standard from which all aspects of America’s industrial wealth in the 1900s would ultimately come to be measured by.

As the evolution of America’s 1900’s industrial process had indeed brought us to the realization that oil had tremendous value, the scope of that value was the understanding that unlike the gold that few would ever need or be able to afford in the 1800s, oil in the 1900s had a universal need and of course offered universal wealth to all of America. With virtually every segment of America’s industrial economy thriving as a result of our successfully managed use of oil, we quickly became the largest and most powerful industrial nation in the world and all of course was going quite well for us for quite some time.

Never really understanding the negative side effects of our consumption of oil however, those effects began to emerge and slowly but surely, the positive independent industrial and economic strength we had amassed as a result of oil came to reflect our negative dependence on what ultimately would come to be defined as a limited natural resource. Unlike the quest for gold in the 1800s whose discovery or lack of had very little negative financial bearing on most of America, the realization that oil was in fact a limited national commodity underscored just how financially dependent we had become on this limited resource in the industrial 1900s.

Whereas gold, despite its limited attainability, represented a common theme of national wealth to the masses in the 1800s, whether or not the masses actually possessed or used or indeed had any use for the mineral had very little bearing on the overall growth of our nation’s industrial economy at the time. As there was simply so much industrial development occurring, harvesting a host of natural resources was driving that growth. In the 1900s everything changed. In the 1900s, not only had gold become even less of a sought after commodity, black oil was the driving force behind the rapid harvesting of a host of limited natural resources. As the effects of such harvesting are clearly present today in 2009, the fact that we have allowed oil to become our new national gold standard belies the fact that oil today just as gold yesterday has virtually no bearing on the growth of the industries we in America today have the potential to create nor the potential we have in America today to redefine the use of the same natural resources that have existed since the beginning of mankind.

As the Gold Rush of the 1800s was short lived and the Oil Rush of the 1900s is clearly proving to be just as short lived, the underlying industrial and organic elements of both the Gold Rush and the Oil Rush still very much remain in their historical place and have little or no bearing on the value or use of either gold or oil. Due to our overwhelmingly collective addiction on oil in the 1900s however, those elements have been set aside by a fundamental loss of both industrial and organic common sense. Still seeking to maintain control of the financial and political riches as well as the industrial power associated with oil, the technologies we have today that will wholly enable us to re manage those natural elements sit for all practical purposes along the same dreamy route the 1800s expatriated Philadelphian ignored on his original quest for California Gold.

Today in 2009, the Gold Digger of the 1800s evolved to the Black Gold Digger of the 1900s has evolved to the Carbon Gold Digger of the 2000s. Whereas nothing has changed in the two hundred year history of global industrialization, the Carbon Gold Digger of 2000 is obsessed with the fact that indeed something has. Given the fact that carbon, just as oil and just as gold are simple minerals of the earth beneath us, for some reason today, the fact that carbon can be found in the sky comes as a complete mystery to those who for centuries have found mineral and financial wealth from the elements retrieved from the earth that lies beneath the sky.

Not forgetting for a moment that one of the most severe side effects of developing an industrial economy based upon the use of oil has created severe health, environmental and economic issues, the fact remains the same, the solutions for the health problems of the 1800s was in fact the development of oil in the 1900s and of course the solutions for the health problems of the 1900s will in fact be the development of a broad spectrum of industries that literally redirect airborne carbon back down to the gardens of the same nose blowing American farmers who chatted with the wandering ex patriot Philadelphian two hundred years ago.

As within the great mystery of constant change there remains the greater mystery of constant common sense, trading carbon credits is today as ludicrous as determining the price of a barrel of oil yesterday as was defining the value of gold the day before yesterday. Industrialization is a uniquely human process. Within the evolution of that process comes the universally patented ability of the inventor with the universal inventive mind to patent a universal industrial process that benefits everyone. As America’s industrial cycles have constantly coincided with America’s economic cycles, they have as well constantly coincided with the general perception that change effects not only the gold diggers but the gold harvesters of America in precisely the same manner. As there are innumerable industrial processes that have within the past thirty years of our nation’s history been patented, due to the fact that we still as a nation think that we must define a Gold Standard or a Black Gold Standard or a Carbon Gold Standard, the actual gold standard of national industrial progress hopelessly trapped in the abyss of overly grandiose terms remains hopelessly undefined and of course hopelessly unattainable.

To put these thoughts into perspective, consider that before we as a nation can ever even possibly expect to see any future economic growth, our singular industrial focus must be that of assuring every home in America is heated, cooled, ventilated and electrified by an array of applied passive and active solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas and biofuel technologies. Consider also that the manufacturing of alternative energy technologies as well as the manufacturing of all American made products must be framed within the economic constraints of harnessing factory emissions to produce additional sources of both heat and electrical generation. Consider as well, that until these higher levels of industrial management are realized in our factories and homes, we will have virtually no ability to realize the economic potential of virtually every other industry in America. As gold was the symbolic economic standard of the 1800s and oil was the economic standard of the 1900s, the dissection and re-management of multiple layers of naturally occurring atmospheric conditions interfaced with the advanced re-management of all natural resources directly related to those conditions won’t evolve to become the benchmark from which America can justify the mature growth of a 21st century carbon standard.

Unfortunately now and today, as virtually all of the technologies and industrial mechanisms needed to support a truly sustainable carbon standard are actually ready to be put in place, the argument over the establishment of the carbon standard has been relegated to the global theatre of the absurd. As carbon emissions are being characterized as the singular source of both ozone depletion and global warming, such characterization is but intellectual discourse between those who have become entirely too comfortable with living in the economic safety zone of oil consumption as opposed to oil management. Like idiots who assume that winning the lottery will allow themselves some sort of escape from reality, those that have the responsibility and expertise to apply green technologies and industrial mechanisms to our national economy have altogether failed to see the overwhelming economic growth potential of simply focusing on the remodeling and retrofitting of every single home in America.

As the wandering gold digger of the 1800s passed along his path to gold all sorts of Americans who were utilizing the technology of the day to improve their home, community, agricultural, industrial and economic livelihood and as the oil barons of the 1900s passed along their path to gold all sorts of Americans who were doing the same, it is the average American that ultimately paved the golden path. As the management of our nation’s economy has quite unfortunately been shaped by the absurd notions coming from the minds of those who can only be considered as rambling economists that pal around with rambling environmentalists, industrialists by the millions own the homes in America that must be now and immediately today in our America be retrofitted.

As the failure of our nation’s leadership to recognize this basic fact has produced a nation of disjointed citizenry, along with the application of green technologies must be the application of a universal industrial dialogue that corrects this terribly disjointed and dysfunctional socio-economic dialogue. Towards this goal, this author who has arrived at his larger industrial, environmental and economic assumptions by holding a framing hammer in his hand for most of his professional life, asks a simple question – should America’s industrial future be managed by those who have developed overly complex theories based upon the singular obsession of basic research or should that future be managed by those who have mastered the much larger and much more dynamic industrial art of applying that research?

Should America’s industrial potential be managed by economically dysfunctional architectural gold diggers or would that future be better managed by the master carpenters who build the tools that harvest the gold?

The Blue Collar Industrialist

M. Patrick Dahlke

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