Coping: With Sustainability Modeling / Eco-George

,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?

“A What?”

(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…


15 thoughts on “Coping: With Sustainability Modeling / Eco-George”

  1. Hi George. I was wondering how the peppermint oil worked out for you? It is safe to use indoors as a barrier if need be.

    Take care.


  2. Eco-George, there is nothing wrong with “trying to do right”. That life-style commitment used to be taught in families and schools, but now, not-so-much.

    Re: Cows. If a cow is struck by lightening or by a chainsaw, the cow dies. Everything dies. The difference in this case is whether humans get something to eat, or whether the flies do.

    Re: Plant naming. My understanding is that plants grow better if they are named and talked to. Wait. That was a study that was done in CA, wasn’t it?

  3. Raising beefs where you live might work, if you’re a glutton for punishment. Some folks out here love doing that, but personally, I’d avoid it like the plague. I’d rather fix a tractor any day.

    I’m vegetarian by choice, and it’s an easier life. Less to have to choose between in restaurants, simpler cooking, and for me, a happier life. Unfortunately, I have purple thumbs and can’t garden for beans, though I’ve spent years trying. Perhaps I’ll find a bride with that skill, otherwise I’ll just make do.

    I find trying to raise food that can run away is just more trouble than it’s worth, even if I was open to eating a cow.

  4. This financial reset will be over when the wages of the average American is equal to the wages of the average Chinese worker. This may happen as soon as 2020, and certainly no later than 2032. This means buying power, not numbers. Americans have no concept of seeing more zeroes on their paycheck and their buying power actually go down. The buying power of the Chinese economy surpassed that of the USA just last year, even if the numbers don’t match.

    And as far as your Eco model goes, if you can’t stand the answer, don’t ask the question. It is already a consensus in independent circles that the earth is toast. In 1993 the Sierra club determined that life on earth was producing more feces than the earth could break down naturally. There was one hog farm in the USA that was producing more sewage than Los Angeles. Now there are seven. NYC and LA have been dumping raw sewage into the ocean for more than 50 years. Those clouds of sewage are getting closer to shore every year. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is so huge that if pollution was stopped today it would take a century to return to where it was in 1950, and that was not great. Then we have Fukushima moving in on the west coast ecosystem. Then consider the bats and the bees going away. Still want to ask that question?

    The way you do your beef is that you raise for your neighbor, and he raises for you. But I have to chuckle at “preppers” who if given a chicken and a knife would starve to death. Its an even more grim scenario if they are given a larger animal. I’m sure panama does, but do you even own a knife that could dress a chicken or rabbit? It’s the American way. Statistics show that to supply america’s meat habit that ONE MILLION creatures are slaughtered EACH HOUR, 24/7/365!

    And the way to solve that immigration problem is to move to one of the areas where all the immigrants come from because there are no jobs. Show up with your American “resources,” hire a couple people to clean and landscape, they will welcome you with open arms and you can live like a king. As long as you leave your “whine” at home.

  5. well now ,you know cows work and you know armadillos work so I guess I would put an electric wire at the top of the fence for the cow s and an electric wire at the bottom of the fence to hold the armadillo in your Garden of Eden

    • option number 2 is to buy some guineas they will eat all your bugs but you’re going to need a outside dog to protect the guineas from the Predators and you will have to teach your dog not to eat your Guinea

    • option 3 get guinea and build a chicken tractor for them and drag the chicken tractor over the antholes and then when through you can have guinea for dinner

  6. Hi George – I have no more love for fire ants than you – but rather than chemicals or gasoline – boiling water works as well – and is perhaps a bit cheaper – and less troublesome to the environment.

    I grew up on a farm – the first thing I remember about it was when my dad said “don’t fall in love with dinner” – meaning the cows, pigs and chickens. That’s what cats and dogs were for – besides catching the vermin in the barn and letting you know when you had visitors – two or four legged that weren’t part of the ‘family’.

  7. we have to start thinking like the rest of the universe,the galaxy, the solar system ,and the inner core of the earth,we and others beings and animals that live on the surface of earth are prisoners and have BEEN for trillions of years but you know what you need to do to survive because you been here trillons of times before but the only thing that keeps you from remembering who you are ,are the same things that the cia -opps bar system has crunched down on all who are important , its a painful reckoning but very very very few ever remember their past, only when they have sensation so great that THEY WANT TO REMEMBER when they die that their physical being will realize who and what they are and were and look up on youtube the 1000’s who have come forward trying to break the spell of complete memory loss at death on earth, that is why some kids can remember past life times and can have so accurate info that it stuns all scientiST s

  8. We live on 40 acres in the Yelm WA area and have raised just about every Animal you can name in the US along with 5 kids. now I have one Bull and 5 Cows grazing which gives us 5 Calfs a year which now gives us a good profit and a supply of Beef which we trade half for a pig which a neighbor raises along with a supply of poultry and eggs, We also put in a huge garden so we have a good supply of home grown food. So putting in a Cow or two will pay off in the long run for you.

  9. Be careful you don’t “find” those missing hitch pins with the brush hog. When one gets to bouncing around inside the mower deck it can be bad enough but when they reach escape velocity you want to be on the back side of the point of exit.

    Try this with your steer project. When you take it to the processing place tell E that you will not likely be bringing back the same animal you dropped off. That worked on my 2 daughters until I said once that a roast looked an awful lot like Elvis'(that years steer) butt. Ate a lot of beef by myself for a while after that. Mmmmmm.

  10. It might help if Elaine looks at it this way: Meat that you buy inn a store is usually held in a food lot before they are slaughtered. There they are fed GMO corn and feed that makes them so ill, they are on their last legs anyway. (See the documentary “King Corn.” Then, they are slaughtered in a slaughterhouse that is hideous for them as well as the workers.

    On the other hand, if you raise your own animals as well and kindly as you can, providing them with healthy food, no anti-biotics or gender-bending drugs, a happy, peaceful experience, and then kill them in a way that is not scary to them, and they don’t suffer, it is a lot better.
    We even sage our the animal that is going to be butchered as well as ourselves. We thank it and tell it we hope it had been happy. We ask that the Divine Mother welcomes this animal into Her loving embrace. And, then we shoot it in the back of the head (with a pellet gun, as I am talking about a rabbit.) But, it would be the same for a cow.
    You can be a vegetarian, but if one is allergic to wheat and gluten and beans (like I am), it is damn near impossible to be a vegetarian.
    So, instead of thinking that you are butchering a cow, think that you are saving a cow from a crappy commercial bovine experience.
    All the Best.

  11. Hey George – I broke even!!

    Zero and Zero! (just kidding)

    RE: Ant control
    I have great success using food grade diatomaceous earth for ants as well as other insects in the garden. It is easy to apply and non toxic to pets and humans. I pick up 50 pounds in the spring -I think I paid around $30 last year. I also use it for flea/mite control on the egg birds (all named “Ginger) The meat birds (named either “Buffalo Wing” or “Chicken Tender”) will get a dusting when they arrive later today.

    I just read a tip about grits for ant control – article said apply dry grits to ant hill and the hill will be dead/gone within a week. I haven’t tried it but thought it sounded like a good “science project” the next time I have ant problem.

    Quite awhile ago, you wrote about soap drying your hands and not totally rinsing off your hands. Check out soap nuts! I have been using soap nut soap for several years now. From hand soap, shampoo, laundry, household cleaning, etc. I purchased 10 lbs three (maybe four) years ago and I still have nuts! LOL

    I am grateful you share your site!

  12. good morning about the ant problem I am reading the garden tower project in the plant companion section about garlic I am planting garlic in my garden tower anyway it says that garlic repels fi fi so AP HIDs cabbage looper ants rabbit cabbage maggot and of course vampires I put on there for a joke so what I would do is just take some garlic close take the individual clothes and stick it in the anthole with the narrow side sticking up and push it down in the hole and covered up a little bit and see what happens and if nothing else maybe you’ll grow some garlic out there

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