There’s an acronym I picked up while serving in Uncle Sugar’s Navy. “TANSTAAFL.” It translates as follows: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Which means that, if you want something, it’s going to cost you. Sooner or later, no matter how long you might try to dodge it, there’s a bill to be paid.
Just now, I’m following the news about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Minor aside: Somehow, the word “spill” doesn’t seem to adequately cover this situation. It’s somewhat similar to saying that the Titanic had a “leak.”
One obvious reason for my interest is that, as most of you know, I’m from that part of the country.
Born and raised in New Orleans. Spent a lot of time while growing up learning to mark the seasons by which type of seafood or waterfowl was showing up either on the dinner table or at restaurants. Shrimp, oysters, blue crabs, red snapper, trout, ducks, geese and what have you.
I spent two of the best years of my life at LSU studying for a degree in marine biology and working in the same wetlands that are now threatened.
There, I had a front-row, hands-on, and, at times, chest-deep-in-the-water look at just how productive and fragile those wetlands are.
And it’s scary to think about what could happen to them as a result of this situation.
There’s no doubt that oil has made our lives what they are in terms of productivity, comfort, mobility, and prosperity. Much of what we take for granted comes from oil and it would be somewhere beyond tough to just give it all up.
Still, It seems that we’ve made a bit of a Faustian deal as regards oil. Basically, our entire economy revolves around something that can cause us major headaches and you’d think that, by now, we’d have recognized that downside to our dependence on it and looked more closely at our deal.
Had we ever seriously done that, by now we might be a lot farther down the path of weaning ourselves from it.
Instead what we’ve had are administrations, politicians,and other assorted leaders who’ve endlessly mouthed words about becoming “energy self-sufficient.” Who’ve rattled on about developing “alternative energy sources.” Who’ve funded studies, appointed committees, produced reports, filed documents, installed “blue ribbon” panels and given speeches on what we should be doing.
And, at the end of all of that gas-baggery (my column, I can make up words), here we are facing the latest little calamity that’s been dropped into of our collective laps.
You’d think that, by now, we’d have also come to an understanding that it’s an absolute certainty - as regards technology of any kind - that anything built by the hands of man will eventually wear out, break down, or fail.
What’s worse is that such will generally happen in accordance with Murphy’s Law which basically notes that whenever something bad happens, it will happen in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time. This, no matter how many safeguards are in place or how many experts tell us that “nothing terrible can happen.”
Now there’s this “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico that looks as if it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better and, if it gets as bad as some think it will, that “getting better” part could take more time than we care to imagine.
Perhaps, this is the crisis that will finally generate concrete action. Perhaps this is the calamity that will get us serious about reducing our dependency on oil.
I’d like to believe that but, somehow, I doubt it. Our ability to ignore things until we’re headed over the cliff seems to reside at the genetic level.
So, that’s why I think the acronym I mentioned earlier is appropriate. Because, if we decide to just continue the way we’re going, we’d better get used to the fact that there’s a price to be paid.
Right now, we’re being presented with a bill for our dependence on oil and you can bet that it won’t be the last.
Rather, it seems that “lunch” - as it relates to that dependency - is going to be a continuously painful and increasingly pricey proposition.