Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Water and Oil


Last night the rain finally broke after a few long weeks of hot, dry weather. I slept well, listening to the water in the trees and gurgling down the gutter. When I look at the radar map on the weather site, it's like watching magic, the way the green clouds pop up along the ridge of the Green mountains, or in the Tennessee valley, and drift, turn yellow and thunderous, and then disappear, only to reappear again a hundred miles away. You have to wonder at the awesomely random logic that drives the system. We were up in the Whites hiking on our 20th wedding anniversary this week, and to see the power of the water as it comes out of the Franconia Notch at the height of the dry spell, the white, glacially cold water swirling deep into the carved basins or pounding in the cascades off the mountains, made me wonder at the brilliance and generosity of the planet's basic functionality. That's what water does in the summer, it softens any pessimism, renews our sense that life goes on.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil continues to gush, a reminder of the insanity of this post-industrial, consumer-driven, resource ravaging way we conduct ourselves. Blame goes all around of course. Anger is gushing as well, and there seems no way Obama can get on top of it, or ahead of any curves on the polls. It's like dealing with children, a family that lets important decisions get made on the basis of the wishes of the youngest, most irresponsible, whimsical of its members, having our political future hang in the balance of polls where the questions asked test our tolerance of stupidity, like "do you think Obama's economic policies are helping you personally?"

So while our politics continue to be mired in the sometimes infantile and counter-productive habits of our messy democratic institutions, in the technological realm our scientists are trying to mimic the habits of nature in order to move into a post-carbon future. Renewable energy, intelligent grids will rely on smart technology to tie consumers and producers together into a decentralized, amorphous system that will look very much like the radar screen image of the rain, popping up and disappearing in some random, higher logic that ultimately benefits everyone.
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