f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 24, 2007

too few seconds, too much carbon

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:20 pm

    We apparently had an inadvertent visitor to this weblog today, when someone Google-searched the phrase /life is short/.  The querist ended up at our May 12th post “Life is short: get one,” about a divorce law firm’s sexy billboard and the over-reaction of our Dignity Police.  As often happens, tracing the referral backwards brought me to an interesting website and off on a tangent from lawyer punditry — this time, clicking on the search’s #2 result took me to The Death Clock website, which proclaims: 

DeathClock “Welcome to the Death Clock(TM), the Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away… second by second. Like the hourglass of the Net, the Death Clock will remind you just how short life is.”

And, as gimmicky as the site is, it served its purpose.  Discovering that I may have only a half billion seconds remaining alive — about 16 years — made me immediately think: “That’s not enough.”  More important, I vowed: “I have to make better use of my time and energy.”  Given my birthdate in 1949, my gender and BMI below 25, and non-smoking status, here are my Personal Dates of Death, depending upon my “Mode“of life:

Normal: September 20, 2023
Pessimistic: Aug. 10, 1999
Optimistic: Dec. 7, 2040
Sadistic: September 20, 1986

    I don’t know the expert basis for the expectation differential due to one’s outlook on life.  The good news for me — since I am still breathing and posting — appears to be that I am neither a pessimist nor a sadist (no matter what various relatives and old girlfriends might say).  Clearly, I have a big incentive to start quickly leaning toward optimism: 17 extra years of life.  Of course, as far back as my high school salutatory speech, I insisted that (like most curmudgeon’s) I am a “pessimistic optimist” (and a loving cynic).  There is also a good incentive to watch my caloric intake and to exercise regularly, as weight clearly matters, too.   For example, if my Body Mass Index moves up to the edge of the obesity range of 30, I lose exactly a year of life expectancy.

DeathClockN  If you click on the Death Clock’s Extend Your Life link, you will find yourself at the cholesterol information page of Healthology’s Health Clock website (with its motto “life is good, why not extend it?”).  Along with a lot of ads, there appears to be some good information at Healhology on ways to increase your chances of a longer, high-quality life.

 news of his death
the cigarette smoke rises
straight up


dry leaves
trapped in the spokes
grandpa’s bike

…. by DeVar Dahl “news of his death” – New Resonance 3
“dry leaves” – a piece of eggshell (Magpie Haiku Press, 2004)

Death Clock used the CIA World Factbook as the source of its Life Expectancy estimates.  I’m hoping that it used the worldwide average life expectancy when coming to the dismal figure for me.  For now, I plan to give myself at least the additional 8 years of life expectancy of the average caucasian male in the U.S.A. who reaches my current age. (see CDC’s National Vital Statistics Report 2005, Table 6).  Got to be optimistic.


even to these old eyes–
cherry blossoms!
cherry blossoms!

my shadow looks
like the Old Man’s!
first winter rain


growing old–
even the cherry blossoms
a bit annoying


in leafy shade
an old one’s voice…
a frog!

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue 

you!  Yes, You!  It’s been six weeks since I last complained at this site that the American goverment and public are doing far too little to help solve the global energy crisis and related environmental issues.  [Aside: Is there any chance that StepItUp2007 had any lasting effect?  How’s a guy ever going to become an optimist?]  Well, Frank G. Zarb’s op/ed piece yesterday in the New York Times, “How to Win the Energy War” (May 23, 2007) gives me the excuse to bring up the subject again — as if any responsible citizen of Planet Earth needs an excuse.  Zarb was the assistant to the president for energy affairs in the Ford administration (that’s in the mid-70’s for all you younguns).  He points out that:
“With gas prices hitting yet another all-time high, consider this: while history is littered with examples of countries that were forced to change their domestic and foreign policies because of the lack of a natural resource, there are very few notable instances of nations that had the ability to eliminate such a vulnerability but didn’t. America’s current energy condition, however, is a spectacular example of such a failure.”
The column basically tells us how courageous Zarb’s old boss Gerald Ford was to propose so many solutions to the energy crisis in 1975.  Of course, a cynic might point out that Ford didn’t plan to run again for the Presidency when he made his proposals.  Very little of the Ford plan got passed, and the problem then and now is that politicians won’t tell the voting public that we need to significantly reduce the use of energy, while paying higher prices and taxes to achieve energy independence.  More efficient products alone won’t sufficiently reduce our carbon footprint:
   We need, for example, to drive less, lower thermostats and live in smaller houses, get rid of our low-mileage cars, install those flourescent bulbs, etc. etc.  Symbolic actions — like planting trees and recycling plastic bags — just won’t make up for the gluttonous energy consumption of we Americans.  Click to calculate your impact or take the Ecological Footprint Quiz. For ideas on what you can do that will make a real difference, see ABCNews, “Reducing your carbon footprint” (June 7, 2006).
CO2percapitaMAPg  [larger] This CO2 per capita Map makes it clear: The USA is the biggest carbon culprit.  The ABCNews report noted that “On average, every American is responsible for about 22 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations. That is far above the world average of 6 tons per capita.”  In her posting “Law firm goes green, but could it do more?” Carolyn Elefant at LegalBlogWatch (May 23, 2007) reports that the prestigeous law firm Arnold & Porter is purchasing carbon credits to offset millions of miles per year in air travel mileage, but Carolyn rightly asks: 

 “[A]t a time when clients are complaining of burgeoning legal costs, it seems that Arnold and Porter could save clients money and protect the environment by using technology to avoid travel where ever possible.

jetTakeoffN “How much do you travel for business — and how much do you think you could eliminate?” 

 Despite my fledgling career as an optimist, I am going to leave you with pointers to three thought-provoking articles.  I hope they will provoke each of each to us ask whether our “green pronouncements” are matched by our actual lifestyles and choices:
  1. In “Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint Is Big,” Business Week, Feb. 27, 2007), columnist Bruce Nussbaum has some stats about St. Al’s energy consumption.  E.g., “Gore’s mansion, [20-room, eight-bathroom] located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).”
  2.    In “False sense of satisfaction?” (February 19, 2007) the International Herald Tribune‘s James Kanter asks whether tree-planting and credit-swapping, etc., are doing more than soothing consciences.
  3.   Focusing on the heavy carbon footprint of jet planes, NewsBusters proclaims that “Jet-setting bands overpopulate Gore’s Live Earth” (April 13, 2007), and opines that the eco-elite of the entertainment world needs to change their lifestyles considerably before they can convincingly tell the rest of us to reduce our consumption.  I’d suggest that we shouldn’t wait for the stars to make responsible choices, but need to take a look at the numbers and resolve to do a lot less flying, along with less driving. 
 archLogoN While looking for information on global warming last year, Canadian Lesly Magrath, wife of our Honored Guest Poet DeVar Dahl, discovered the McDonald’s “global casting call” promotion — in which they asked everyone on the planet to say “what they love and how they live it.”  Lesly ended up entering the contest.  DeVar explains:
 “The prize was the opportunity to have your picture on McDonalds’ cups and bags.  Lesley sent in a picture of us taken while hiking in Waterton. She told them that we love to hike, we sing and tell stories as we do and we feel alive body and soul.”
    “Anyway, 13,000 people entered the contest with 500 of them coming from Canada. We were lucky enough to be selected and went to London in August 2006 for a photo shoot with 23 other people from around the world.”
You can click here to see Lesly and DeVar on their McDonald’s cup.  DeVar adds:  “In March 2007 the bags and cups came out. McDonalds told us that they are in 100 different countries and on any given day 52,000,000 could see our picture.  This has been quite the adventure and we are enjoying our ’15 minutes’ of McFame.”  DeVar is a high school teacher and his students — along with his grandkids — think it’s pretty cool to see Lesly and DeVar at McDonald’s.  Let’s hope McDonald is making a significant effort to reduce its own carbon footprint and negative effect on our environment. 
long summer day
a hawk holds its place
between the clouds
summer heat
the crickets wait
for me to pass
spring evening
knowing a new moon
is behind the clouds
the narrow place
between my neck and my collar
November wind
…. by DeVar Dahl
“long summer day” – New Resonance 3; pawEprint58
“summer heat” – New Resonance 3; Haiku Canada Newsletter XIV:3
“spring evening” – World Haiku Review, Robert Spiess Tribute, March 2002
“the narrow place” – A Piece of Egg Shell; Snapshot Press Haiku Calendar 2003
half a tank   gas pump g 
above the gas pump
Old Glory in tatters
……… by dagosan

p.s. Don’t forget to pause and consider the true meaning of Memorial Day this weekend (no, it ain’t hotdogs and the “official” start of summer).  See Blawg Review‘s posting; Norman Gregory Fernandez’s reflection at his Motorcycle Law Blog; and our collection of haiku from Memorial Day 2006.


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