We all enjoy the benefits of readily available energy; whether it is the relative ease of pulling up to the gas pump and refueling our automobiles or clicking a switch and the lights go on in our homes. But there is a huge disconnect in our ability to wrap our hands around how the energy resource from which these benefits are derived, come out of the ground and are processed before reaching us. We just don’t deal with it.

In a similar fashion, everyone enjoys a good barbeque or eating a hot dog while at the ball game, but few of us consider what went on at the slaughter house or meat processing plant before the finished product reaches us. It’s another disconnect that we do not deal with. My grandfather wanted to open up a delicatessen, and he visited the facility where the frankfurters, salamis and bolognas were produced. After that visit, not only did he not go into that business, but refrained evermore from eating delicatessen.

In order to overcome this disconnect, you have to have your face figuratively pushed into it. I’ve been lucky that way. Several years ago, I spent a short amount of time in China, doing what geologists do: we were looking at mines in a rural area close to the border with Inner Mongolia. In the morning after spending a somewhat raucous evening with my companions, I set about getting some breakfast. There was a familiar scent in the air; I can’t describe it, but it was distinctly recognizable. They were burning coal, not for the production of electricity, but to run the laundry and cook our oat meal. I had spent enough time in West Virginia to recognize that smell.

Likewise, last week I traveled to Haifa where there is a very large presence of petrochemical processing facilities, and it also stunk. 
So what? This is what: in China where coal is used to cook food in unventilated kitchens, there is a high incidence of arsenic-related diseases and arsenic poisoning. In Haifa there is a high incidence of lung cancer, the highest in the land.

As for me, the disconnects are gone, and although far from being a tree hugger, no pepperoni on my slice of pizza please.


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