Nemo makes a good point in the comments of my recent post:
“Nice article David. I agree with all you said and would further add that we should also take into account what really is involved with the use of “a tiller/chainsaw/tractor/truck/auger/string-trimmer.
Let’s say you had gone out and bought all of these things .. that would run you many hundreds or even thousands of dollars. To earn all of that money would require also a lot of hard work and labor with a good chunk of it skimmed off the top by gov. taxes. In addition, what is the environmental impact of mining, smelting and manufacturing all of the metal and plastic components that go into making those “labor saving” tools”?
I am reminded of a passage from Thoreau’s “Walden”:
“One says to me, “I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.” But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day. And so, if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you.””
Great point, Nemo. It rather reminds me of the push for electric cars, and how it leads to just pushing the problems to somewhere else. Instead of using gasoline, you use the power grid to re-charge, which burns fuels farther away. You also need to mine rare earths for the batteries, often in faraway lands with terrible labor practices.
Something to think about. Hidden costs are everywhere.
I loved the Thoreau quote.
You’re right, I think a lot of the appeal of electric cars is that the costs are pushed farther away so they’re less visible. Many people would prefer to believe that electricity comes from renewables, when actually a third of it in this country still comes from coal, which is worse than petroleum. But it’s easy to plead ignorance and hope for the best when you’re just plugging into a socket.
Also reminds me of people who criticize homesteaders who harvest their own livestock, because they don’t like the idea of watching someone kill an animal. Yet they are fine with buying meat in a grocery store, when it’s already wrapped up neatly and bears no resemblance to the animal it came from. Even though the animals on a small homestead usually have a very good quality of life, while the ones in the grocery store usually came from a factory farm.