,A buddy of mine out in Hawaii – a genuine TV engineer – sent me a really good email. It’s a translation guide for Californians, who may consider moving to Texas, because of the drought, or just to get out of the Republic of Brown.
A couple of examples to girt this framed right:
Where a Californian may speak of an “ARSENAL of weapons” here in Texas that’d be a GUN COLLECTION.
Similarly, “DELICATE WETLANDS” of Brownifornia would be called a “SWAMP” around here.
You know how the mind plays tricks, right?
It was right smack-dab here that my brain locked up and couldn’t go any further because a question came up. “I wonder if the Panama Canal had been subjected to the same kind of vigorous environmental review today if it would ever have been built?”
And “Did the Chinese bother with an environmental impact statement for Three Gorges?” Or, did they just say “We building dam. You move.”
And it was while noodling this (and sipping the first cup of beans) that the next question came up: Has anyone built an interlocking sustainability model for the planet, yet?
(Pour another cup)
A long time ago (think 1983) I wrote a financial model of an airline. It was in Excel and it was relatively sophisticated. You had to put in all kind of inputs to the model, but in the end it would tell you the answer to the only question that mattered: Will we make money this month?
It’s not a simple question, but it is solvable (for any business or household, too) because I started the development process in the accounting department. Every single bill that came in as an expense was included in the model.
Some of the obvious were no brainers: What’s the monthly payment on a tax-advantaged lease/purchase for a 727-227 versus a 737-300? Easy-peasy. Same thing with the fuel bill: Texaco was a million and something a month – and this was in the mid 1980’s.
A few aspects were more subtle: How many ads would in take in the Miami Herald to generate x passengers to fly flight #y in this date range with a 90% confidence interval?
There was back-end crew (cabin attendants) and front-end crew (the flying bus drivers) and there were landing fees, gate rentals, jetway expenses, the honey truck, catering, booze in first class, rum punch in the back…running an airline is just a wee bit complicated, but easily modeled and once modeled then you could plug the numbers into a laptop (staff named mine Gloria) and we could tell if it was a good day, or bad, just by looking at the departure messages.
The real advantage of the model was that we could look at aircraft utilization and figure out what our incremental costs would be for charters and such.
When I started, the airplanes were running just over 7-hours a day of flight time, and by the time I’d left we were up to about 12.5 hours per day of flying. That makes a huge difference when you’re allocating some costs on a dollars per flight hour basis, but you need city pairs and stage lengths because some expenses in maintenance were based on cycles (a takeoff and a landing) while others were on engine time.
It’s like if you have $600 in car expense for 3 hours of use ($200/hour cost factor) or you spread that over 100 hours of use – in which case you’d down to $6 an hour. That kind of thing.
OK! Enough of the financial modeling class. But it’s useful to look at cable channels that way, and so on.
So there I was with a locked up brain.
I know I can model any business out there – it’s a finite set of variables which are then grouped and modeled for break-even. But can that be done with the environment?
The reason I ask is that in some areas, mainly the West Coast, there’s a huge environmental sensitivity to “wetlands.” Here in Texas, and I daresay across much of the South, we have swamps and they breed cottonmouths and skeeters and no, we’re ambivalent about them. Hugging trees if fine, but hug a bug – ‘specially one that could carry West Nile? About here my interest in environmentalism begins to fade.
Yeah, bass eat bugs and so do trout. I get that.
But that warms me to the point I was going to make (eventually):
Has anyone modeled the minimum species counts and names that it takes to make a planet work? Or, even a region within a planet?
Seems to me someone must have done it – and there have been some bubble environments done by NASA where (going from memory) they have actually modeled this stuff.
But has it been reduced to a simple spreadsheet?
Or, is it something so big it won’t fit on a PC?
As you know, I’ve been out riding tractors all week. Husqvarna lawn tractor and the Kubota romper/stomper with the bush hog on it.
Been seeing the whole range of wildlife in the process. A few snakes (including an ornery cottonmouth) and all kinds of bugs. Been through every kind of web imaginable.
The management question rolling around comes to this: How many of these critters could I do away with and still have a nice piece of land?
Take scorpions, for example. I know they eat other bugs. But, if I got rid of all of them – the whole kit and caboodle –- couldn’t I have a better place?
Of course, then the armadillos might not get as much to eat. But I might go for that because they dig up soft parts of the yard and are a general nuisance. We don’t hound them – they seem relatively unbothered by us. And in a cat-like sort of way, they’re cute.
But could we get rid of all the scorpions and brown recluses – and sure, let’s toss in the black widows, too – and still have a working ecological system? I’ve already got the Orkin man slated to give the mounds of fire ants which are popping up by the road some swimming lessons in pools of chemicals.
Board of Directors question: Other than some supposed flies that eat fire ants, another other bright ideas? The flies didn’t work.
I mean people talk about the “natural balance” – Fearless Leader was off doing this in the Everglades this week. But, when comes down to it, I’m looking for the equivalent of my “financial model” so I can roll with hitting the one or two things that will really work to reduce the general pest levels.
Absent a reasonable (spreadsheet) I’ve started on Hidden Nature: The Startling Insights of Viktor Schauberger to see if a non-traditional observer of how land “works” has anything to offer in the way of sensible management advice.
In the meantime, Panama has guard duty as we head into town for another case of tractor hitch pins which aliens are beaming off the tractor while I’m out thrashing about. Either that, or I’m beating the 4×4 tractor to within an inch of it’s life a little too often.
Naw, couldn’t be that…has to be the aliens.
Oh.. One other real note about living on 30-acres of wannabe tropical property: Elaine doesn’t like my idea of raising our own beef. She’s a warm and caring person and doesn’t want to eat any animal we raise. My proposal to avoid the issue by not naming cattle on the hoof didn’t get a warm response. Something about being an insensitive carnivore.
But this gets us into a whole sticky-zone of how humans projecting emotions onto dinner. That’s one I haven’t figured out how to reduce to a spreadsheet. Maybe if I named heads of lettuce and apples, it would help.
Raising our own beef seems to me to be a better deal than paying $15 a pound and taking a chance on someone else’s cattle raising.
Not counting the electric fence, turning a $100 bill worth of small cow into 1,00 pounds of prime beef just seems to pencil out better. Even after the cutting and wrapping.
Sorry…didn’t mean to raise a such huge moral dilemma before breakfast.
Returning to Hank’s list the next translation is “Cruelty-free materials” which is Brownfornian for “synthetic materials.” But that comes from oil and that gets a bad-rap with fracking. So where’s that balance?
The Eco-George is trying to do right but it’s hard being a meat and vegetable-powered fellow in a trail mix world.
Write when you break-even…