When Mother Nature blew one of the largest ships in the world to the sidelines last week -- to me, she was just reminding us of who is really in charge of this planet.
When I began writing this memo yesterday, there were some 200 ships lined up waiting their turn to pass through the Suez Canal. An estimated twenty of those ships were loaded with thousands of live animals on their way from Spain and Romania to the slaughterhouses of various middle Eastern countries.
I wrote about one of those Cattle Ships from Hell
on 9-8-2020, when the ship below sank in a storm. It was carrying about 6,000 living beef cows on their way from New Zealand to to a meat factory in China.
It turned out that the mass drowning event was certainly far more horrific, for the cattle, than the routine slaughter method of a bullet to the head that they would have experienced had their ship, shown below, arrived safely in China.
Now, back to 2021 and the next horrific event that is driven by humanity's never ending appetite for more stuff, more oil, more animal-based food, more cars, more toys, more clothing, more shoes, and on and on...
As you can see from the Suez Canal chart
below, the annual traffic (in ships per year) first crossed the 20,000 ships per year mark in 1977 -- back when the annual net tonnage was less than 300 million.
Since then, the ships have gotten larger while the number of ships/year steadily decreased for the next 30 years -- at the same time that the annual tonnage was steadily increasing -- and finally crossing the one trillion tons mark about five years ago.
In the past few years, the Suez Canal has handled roughly 1.2 trillion tons per year. According to a Google Search on 3-29-21, about 12% of the world's total volume of freight is handled by the canal -- but a whopping 30% of the world's entire shipping container freight passes through there.
And it's those shipping containers that account for a huge chunk of the entire world's supply chain. And since it's not economical to warehouse goods anymore -- with just one burp in the global supply chain -- sales suffer mightily and the reverberations are felt all over the world.
So what products make up most of that freight in those shipping containers? In no particular order: automotive parts, consumer electronics, clothing, toys, pet supplies, packaged food items, to name just a few. But the markets will sort things out, there will be a host of lawsuits -- and the world's supply chain monster will survive -- as this 3-26-21 clip from the Wall Street Journal
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said he expects supply chains to adjust as economic growth accelerates. "It's very possible, let's put it that way, that you will see bottlenecks emerge and then clear over time....These are not permanent. It's not like the supply side will be unable to adapt to these things. It will -- the market will clear. It just may take some time."
What about nature's role in this mess? Well, there's some bad news and there's some good news. Her strong winds and sand storms blew the big ship off course and shut down the entire canal for about six days. But, in the end, it was Mother Nature to the rescue when her tides and moon raised the water levels enough to permit the rescue of the mighty ship yesterday.
For me, this six-day event -- just like the sinking of the loaded cattle ship six months ago -- shines a bright spotlight on the fact that humanity has no respect for nature and what nature's role is when it comes to keeping us alive.
We behave as if the world was created to serve humankind, but the fact is just the reverse. During this entire six-day event, I heard very little about the suffering cattle on some of those ships.
I've also heard absolutely nothing about the root cause of the problem -- humanity's insatiable appetite for never-ending growth in the consumption of stuff -- in a world of finite resources.
What does Dr. Lovelock have to say about that -- as he approaches his 102nd birthday in July?
A few questions to ponder regarding Dr. Lovelock's wisdom:
- Does anyone really think that the natural biosphere is improving because of our presence?
- Does anyone believe that our global scorekeeping system (capitalism) will ever serve to limit the amount of STUFF that is produced for human consumption?
- With Dr. Lovelock's conclusions in mind, does anyone doubt that we humans could survive happily with a whole helluva lot less STUFF in our lives than we have now?
- For the record, how far do you think we are from living in harmony with nature? And do you see any movement in that direction? If you do, I'd like to see the data supporting that movement?
- Does anyone believe that humanity can continue to consume ten trillion tons of goods per year (and growing) and still figure out a way for nature to actually "improve" because of our presence?
If we are to survive longterm as a species, this practical engineer believes that we must quickly (within fifty years) build successor civilizations throughout all of the developed world -- while returning the vast majority of the world's land back to nature.
It's real easy to ask the question -- as I have done here in this chart? The hard part is getting it done. And, for that, we need to be seeing some serious leadership
stepping forward -- all over the world.
We need a good dose of what I call the Nelson Mandela brand of leadership
. It happens when a leader actually listens to the science -- and then carefully leads urgent actions toward a future way of life that will best serve all of nature's creatures -- not just humans.
All of the world's most-prominent "leaders" just focus on saying and doing whatever it takes to stay in power. And that, my friends, is not going to lead us to sustainable living on this planet.
The Bottom Line. It's all about totally changing the "systems" of living that we employ all over the world. Individuals can't change those big picture systems. Only powerful leaders can do that.
As I explained two weeks ago, I choose to believe that humanity has a better chance of
survival long-term than a growing group of big-picture
scientists are concluding.
That's because of four reasons:
1. The Protein Myth. I suspect that the majority of the "big picture" scientists in Chapter Four of Outcry have little appreciation for what a global shift to plant-based eating by all humans would do for the health of our biosphere -- not to mention our physical health as individuals. It seems that many of the scientists in that chapter still believe the protein myth about our ill-perceived "need" to consume animal-based foods in order to be healthy.
I am 100% positive that we don't. Just for fun yesterday, I searched the web for "source of protein for humans" and quickly got dozens of photos that looked a lot like this one:
As for "pleasing" Mother Nature, animal-based foods, on a per calorie basis, require over TEN times as much land, water and energy as do plant-based foods. TEN TIMES for goodness sake.
2. Systemic Change. Well-intentioned actions by individuals may help buy us some time -- but those independent, uncoordinated actions won't save us.
We must apply widespread systemic change to the harmful, wasteful and grossly unsustainable system in which we are now living in the developed world. This variable could be a game changer, particularly with the assistance of Variable #3, which appears below this slide of a future "system" of living in the USA that could demonstrate to the world -- a viable path to a sustainable future.
3. Artificial Intelligence. I am encouraged by the potential of well-leveraged AI to assist us in developing sustainability solutions that far exceed our imaginations in 2021. This could be another game-changer in the way we go about solving extremely complex problems quickly and efficiently.
4. Superior Leadership. I believe that this is the most powerful variable of all. As a former business executive, process-improvement consultant and founder of an executive search firm, I applaud the famed total-quality guru, Dr. W. Edward Deming's conclusions about the three keys to solving our most daunting problems.
As he told my former colleague Bill Conway long ago: "We must have three things, Bill: #1 Leadership, #2 Leadership and #3 Leadership!"
Once again, I will end this memo with the pivotal quality that I believe will ultimately determine our fate.