Up in Smoke

After much research, we bought two cords of maple for our woodstove today.  A beat-up dump truck fought its way up the hill to my barn and dumped the wood in a sprawling heap.  The grizzled guy in the truck squinted for a moment at the check I handed him, then asked me to rewrite it so he could pass it to his employees under the table.  In return, he didn’t charge me the taxes he would have paid.  Unethical?  Maybe.  But in a world where the cost of every regulation and tax is no longer a number on a piece of paper, but instead a meal or a school cost or a prescription, my ethics and morals have been beaten into a new pragmatism.

Take the wood, for example.  The old me might have argued that wood smoke harms air quality.  Certainly more than using our gas furnace.  In the before time, I dialed the thermostat to 68 degrees and told the kids they could put on a sweater and do their part to slow global warming.

Last winter, with the thermostat set at 63 during the day and 50 at night, I quit worrying about global warming.  When your feet are freezing and your fingers are too numb to type and you can’t tell which kid is which because they’re swathed in layers of coats and blankets, it’s amazing how quickly your priorities shift.

Last year, we had enough wood for a short fire each evening—until about February.  Even with our cost-saving measures, our heating bills approached $200 per month during the coldest months.  With wood here at about $250 per cord, even my cat can do the math.  Burning wood will make us a lot more comfortable and save us money.

The same dynamic holds true at the grocery store.  In the before time, I bought organic fruit and cage-free eggs and local produce that hadn’t been shipped from Australia.  Now I look for the lowest prices, no questions asked.

Magnify my family by a world of poor people, and you realize that environmentalists are fighting on the wrong front.  Don’t waste time trying to convince rich people to buy recycled toilet paper.  Instead put the resources into making running water available first.  People living on the margins don’t care about the environment.  They can’t afford it.

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