View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.

As de Tocqueville pointed out over 160 years ago, US lawyers have risen to take the place of the older form of societal control: that of the aristocracy. They share habits, tastes and—he pointed out—they share the aristocracies’ “contempt for popular opinion.” He felt, and this has been borne out since, that lawyers and their control and interpretation of the law, form a counter-argument for the intentions embedded in the Constitution.

Many people feel that the divide in America is primarily caused by location, ethnicity, and education. To a large extent those are the markers or the outcome of the real reason behind the divisions among the population. And, no, I am not blaming the rich or the poor here either. America has always been the nation where you could work to get ahead, to prosper if you had the brains or the drive.  But there is a creeping issue that’s endemic in America now—social mobility seems frozen. And as anyone who’s been immobile can tell you, the body, mind and possibilities atrophy.

Let’s deal with something simple; basic science, nothing complicated. A 6-year-old can handle this measurement (meaning: if anyone denies this level of science, discard them as unreliable or silly): Air gets trapped in ice. Go to your freezer, take out an ice-cube and look. You’ll see air bubbles. Those air bubbles may be compressed, they may be large or small. What each air bubble is, is a perfect proportion of the air surrounding the ice as it formed. It cannot change the air around it when formed. Period. Basic 1st grade physics. Don’t understand that? Stop reading, go back to school.

Johnny Appleseed was not a myth. He went about the country, especially the northeast to the Ohio Valley, and planted apple seeds. Now here’s the clever part... he mostly wanted to plant the seeds atop hills. Why? If you walk around the bottom of valleys and stream banks, you will suddenly come upon “wild” apple trees there. Some are small crabapples, some are forgotten varieties. Untended and wild—these trees are Johnny Appleseed’s legacy. You see, a tree planted atop a hill will drop apples that will, naturally, roll downhill finding another bed to grow in.

US Airline passenger traffic is rising, fast. In the next 20 years, the estimates are that there will be half again as many people flying as there are today in America. By the end of the next decade, the estimate is that over 1,000,000,000 people will fly in America – that’s 3 trips for every American on average. The growth rate is around 2% per year which sounds low until you compare it to the airports—already over-crowded and congested—which only have development budgets at less than 1% per year. Something has to give.

Years ago – 37 to be exact – I first heard the terms “lungs of the earth” and “rainforest” applied to the Amazon. Both are dreadfully wrong. Well meaning, but wrong. Anyone who has stood in a tropical forest will tell you there is a distinct lack of oxygen available. Even at sea level, you can be out of breath just walking. Why? Because there is so much humidity pushing decomposition of the debris on the forest floor that oxygen is being consumed as part of that process. Now, do forest trees produce oxygen? You bet. But when you add in the heat and humidity of the Amazon forest, the net effect is that the so-called rainforest produce—at best according to NOAA scientists in a report in 1992—as much oxygen as carbon dioxide that they consume. In other words, tropical forests are a wash.

No, we’re not going to discuss the control and dissemination of Internet stuff on Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo and others. 99% of that material is based on consumer demand, research on something you forgot or wanted to know about—just a little, just enough. And, yes, Google and others are controlling those precis of information and access to products and your needs. And, yes, we should be concerned.

During the Middle Ages, language and the ability to have anything written down, were at the center of power in Catholic Europe. The common man (or woman) was powerless when faced with books they could neither read nor ever hope to afford – each book was original, hand inscribed and illustrated—treasured repositories of knowledge and laws. On top of that physical limitation, Latin was, for example, the language of the church which ruled Europe. Most people had no ability to learn Latin and that meant they were constrained from understanding the actual teachings of hand-inscribed bibles even if they ever got a look at one. Totally reliant on what the educated priests told them, their lives, laws, rules, moral code were all often subject to a clergy’s interpretation of what he could—at times—barely read himself. And, of course, with each new church official redefining what the “word of God” was written in these secret texts, one day’s rules and laws were often changed to suit a new direction the church states wanted to promote.