Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All The Industrial Acts Of God

With all the black smoke pouring out of my neighbor's residential tire factory, I've taken some time to think.

One, I don't especially like black smoke from industry. That was one of my biggest complaints about the monster truck tire factory on the other side of town. They have a smokestack that you can barely see, because it's always engulfed in its own output. The wind currents right through there are weird. The factory does a lot of sucking and blowing, both. So they're trying to send forth their waste smoke, yet it's consistently pulled back down and swirled around before finally saying goodbye and wafting off.

I don't care for all the smoke, but our city leaders ignorantly think more black equals more green. There's many trade-offs in this arrangement, of course. We can have all the money in the world, but if we're flat on our back in a respiratory unit -- and that's the lucky ones -- then what are we going to do with it? Plus, the neighboring communities tend to hate us, except for the ones who have lots of workers over here, and they too are captured by the almighty paycheck.

Yet I'm torn by the smoky output of my neighbor, because a lot of this residential industry push -- every man having his own industries in his own yard -- was my own idea. My own initiative. But the idea was out there for anyone to snag on to, so I shouldn't be taking all the credit. Credit? There could be other crusaders out there, fans of clean air, let's say, or opponents of industry in all its forms, who would give me the blame!

It's at that point that I would have to reassert myself. And say, I can't be blamed for all the unintended consequences of my actions. That'd be ridiculous, because then nothing would ever get done. We know that when you toss even a pebble into a pond you get tiny ripples that wash toward the shore. And at some micro level, the tiniest ripple, when it reaches the shore has some consequence. It might be the erosion of a few tiny nuggets of soil. Trivial, perhaps, but perhaps it's not so trivial to the little village of ants who've settled that shoreline. To them, they might question their faith: "Why would a good God allow this to happen?"

Then start multiplying the consequences as the rocks get bigger and pretty soon you've got people splashing around in the water. Entire villages and shorelines are being decimated. Ants, mice, and other lifeforms are suddenly out on their own and become sea urchins, with nowhere to go. Did God allow that? Did God cause that?

We've all seen the language in insurance policies, that the insurance companies are off the hook if they can demonstrate that the damage was "an act of God." And that's good, in my opinion, because anytime God causes damage, it was meant to be. Maybe we could've behaved ourselves a little more, so there's a positive push for the future. Like, let's say hurricanes are more or less a natural phenomenon in a given area. Those folks will want to behave themselves a little more so they won't get one. Because how do you think it got to be a natural phenomenon there? Bad ancestors. And you don't want something worse, like hurricanes with flooding.

If I put my garbage in the garbage can, then the wind comes along and blows it over and the garbage blows all over my neighbor's yard, that's an act of God. I couldn't foresee it and I couldn't stop it. But we could nudge this a little bit. Let's say I purposely plant a thousand acres of trees. Since we know wind comes from trees, there could be some personal liability on my part if everyone's garbage blew away. The key thing, of course, is not to plant more trees than you're going to feel comfortable paying for later.

So our industrial push goes on. The neighbor is in the right. Just because his tire factory puts forth a lot of black smoke, it's not really his fault that the black smoke doesn't stay on his property. It goes up and the wind blows it away. So that has to be one of two things: 1) Either an act of God; or, 2) The fault of some guy in the neighborhood who planted trees a long time ago.

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