Despite relentless weeding and attention, my inbox recently soared past 15,000 emails, and that’s with a quite effective air-defense system (Walter Mitty-speak for spam filter; I’m watching too much Ukrainian news). Sometimes, for a bit of levity, I detour through the spam account where, by quick reckoning, it looks like I’ve left about $20 billion on the table this year alone. Hopefully those nice people (“Good day, kind Sir!”) are able to find a home for all those piles of ‘one-hundred-and-twenty-five million United States dollars’.
There are other inbound streams: a fantastic news clipping service provided by some very wonderful contacts from around the globe who keep me apprised of more energy-world info than I’d have known exists. Thanks!
Another stream is reminiscent of the spammers cutting me in on a cool hundred million, but not by much: An endless stream of “Would you like to speak to our expert” PR emails, from what appears to be an endless stream of PR firms. Good lord. Every day brings half a dozen never heard from before, each with a budget.
There are countless “we just secured a green energy grant and please tell the world” notices, which after a while sound like feeding time at the hog barn…Far more interesting are the bizarrely random attention-seeking-missiles from endearingly disinterested marketers that pay zero attention to who is on their distribution lists: One account executive inquires as to whether I’d like to write about how the “U.S. Navy Accepts Delivery of Future USS Lenah Sutcliffe.”
Another recently suggested I cover a “92-year-old-man’s letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking to overturn the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act in memory of his vegan activist daughter who was killed at a pig vigil.” Here you go Sir, the publicity you seek. May your family’s pig-vigiling be injury-free forevermore.
Couching the madness are great emails from readers. I try to reply to as many as I can (Side note: when typing really quickly, the phrase “You too.” with the period, can, under certain speed-typing conditions, be sent off as “You tool” and if you happen to get one of those don’t take it personally.) because I’ve met some very cool people through writing. I don’t get to them all, and I should. Send again if I didn’t. Until then, some year-end thoughts…
2022 was unkind to many. We staggered out of Covid, masks hanging from every pocket and with the weird walking habit of treating oncoming pedestrians as though they were magnetically repellent.
Russia attacked a neighbour, a crazed brazen ego project of a desperately fading old man determined to go down in history as something greater than his beady-eyed little head’s countenance suggests likely. The horror continues; as I look out at a -30 night I can’t fathom having someone bomb the local infrastructure under any circumstances, yet that is now routine life in Ukraine.
Economically, the world seems to be just entering a wicked hangover from too much cheap debt. Much of the world had grown accustomed to ridiculously low-interest rates, using them to binge on new cars, bigger homes, decks on those homes, and everything else that could provide entertainment like there was no tomorrow.
Tomorrow is here. Interest rates have spiked, consumers are stunned as if by a blow to the head, and governments are forced to raise interest rates to combat inflation. The economic theory behind hiking rates is inescapable for their little planning circles, all while they willfully look the other way when someone shows them the difference in federal interest costs on a trillion dollars of debt between one and five percent. “La la la la la” they shout, hands over ears.
Inflation appeared out of nowhere after decades of absence, snorted away as “transitory” for a few months, before developing into a full-blown panic attack for financial architects. There were many causes for inflation, and a large one of those was the cumulative effect of the strangulation of the world’s energy supply as if it were in the grip of a boa constrictor.
The repercussions of 2019’s climate/Greta full-court press are now being felt; all those protesters had the desired chilling effect of turning the world against hydrocarbons, to the extent that producers have in essence said “Fine, we can take a hint.” A recent Twitter thread by Bloomberg reporter Stephen Stapczynski captures the inevitable consequences: UK asks households to turn down boilers; Germany limits office temperatures, prohibits monuments from being illuminated; Japan tells workers to wear turtlenecks; France limits heating in most public buildings; South Korea says temperatures in government offices, public schools, and sports centers will be kept below 17C; Sweden urges consumers to use 2% less power; Spain tells office workers to ditch ties in summer to save energy(huh?); Austria calls on citizens to make energy-saving behavioural changes; Australia urges Sydney households to switch off lights to avert blackouts; Bangladesh’s economy-driving textile industry operating at 35% of capacity due to fuel shortages…
In the US, one of a handful of industrialized countries with surplus natural gas, the two coasts are paying massive natural gas prices, multiples of what the country’s interior pays, because those coasts hate natural gas, or enough voters do anyway, to prevent the nation’s enormous resources from meeting their energy needs. Central Pennsylvania’s gas price is $6/mmbtu; a hundred miles east consumers get the stuff from tankers at 5 times that amount and still fly off the handle if anyone mentions a new pipeline. It’s all so exhausting, particularly when so much of the global suffering is so, so, so unnecessary.
2022 is ending with what feels like a very weary world. Political polarization and inflation and shrieking media are all exhausting. Trying to make sense of it all is exhausting.
Things seem different. We used to celebrate so many things that now are toxic. Watch a sitcom like The Office or Seinfeld or so many things from 20 years ago and they are so politically incorrect that it is impossible to imagine them being made today.
Great works of art are now ostracized because they reflect norms of the day they were written in; profoundly brilliant works of art like Mark Twain’s best are now best read in a secure location away from public visibility. Great works of art are attacked by vandals who surely are suffering from some sort of mental disorder that we need to learn how to treat, and not encourage.
The news is exhausting because all the historical tragedies are now not just tragedies, they are tragedies for which a villain must be found. As an example: Since time immemorial there has been floods and fires and droughts. Now there are floods and fires and droughts that are all YOUR FAULT, you and your CAR and your HOLIDAY and your BEEF and what are you gonna do about it? Are you going to change your life or are you going to keep killing people with the weather you are creating? OMG did you just buy new golf clubs?!?!
Congratulations, you just wiped out a village in Peru with a mudslide, and oh yeah btw you’re a white supremacist which means you also hate gay people and OMG did you call them gay people don’t you know today its (insert latest ALL-CAPS ALL-INCLUSIVE ALPHA-NUMERIC SOUP) and did you really just use OMG that is like 2019 max unless you’re a Facebook Karen.
I’m not a social creature, greatly enjoy solitude, and avoid parties where possible. Yet the benefits of human connectivity are impossible not to acknowledge and celebrate and work towards strengthening. We need to.
We need to even when we don’t know we need to, such as when – may have happened to you, it has to me – you get in a spat on social media with someone whose view run counter to yours, and it quickly descends into nastiness, entrenched positions, and angry irresolution, and yet should you actually meet this person in real life and discuss the topic over a beverage of your choice find that there is plenty of common ground upon which to have constructive conversations.
The inanity of the “woke” assault/insult/phenomenon masks some good news. Do remember that “wokeness” is/was an attempt to right some wrongs that had been around for far too long: abuse of the environment (litter, waste of resources, disrespect for critical animal habitat), racism, and persecution of anyone outside the traditional sex/gender roles.
We all know that crap was far too prevalent, and taking a stand against it all is definitely for the better. Sometimes attempted correction becomes the oversteer of overcorrection; sometimes patience is required.
So let’s remember that. Much of the poison in the arena has beneath it a human commonality that almost all can agree on.
In 2023, find something better. Make something better. Build something good and worthwhile. Be kind. Be the voice of intelligent brave clarity we all admire when we see it.
Try to look for the flowers growing on top of the mounds of garbage, without yelling at the garbage. Chat with someone that lifts your spirits, better in person but virtually is better than nothing. And thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!