Fiddling While Rome Burns

Have you ever had the thought that our society is deliberately distracted, confused, and sidetracked from the real issues that matter, focused instead on hot-button concepts, perhaps gay marriage?  It’s fairly clear that the survival of mankind and all life forms here on Earth depends on the actions we take over the next few years to achieve sustainable practices in energy, water, and food.  The planet is warming, the sea levels are rising, the oceans are acidifying, potable water is becoming scarcer, the rain forests are disappearing, and farm lands are becoming deserts.  Yet we don’t have a problem with our endless debates as to whether or not marriage is a union between one man and one woman.  That seems a bit strange to me.

When I work at home, I sometimes take a break in the middle of the day and play the piano for a bit.  I jokingly refer to this in my own mind as “fiddling while Rome burns.” Here I am, working on a piece of Chopin; in the three minutes it takes for me to play it, my government has borrowed another two million dollars to buy oil from a regime that wants to see us dead. 

It’s not easy to keep this in perspective, but I think it’s the job of each one of us to do so.


PS: I’m in New York City this week with a few open time slots.  If you know of anyone you think I should see while I’m there, please let me know.  Thanks.


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16 comments on “Fiddling While Rome Burns
  1. I like to say,”You’re so germane, you probably think this song is about you”
    Politicians and News, Media are like prostitutes, paid and sent to excite and distract the guards while the robbers steal everything…

    Seriously, as I said when the Real Estate bubble was high in the sky, this current situation is just as volatile.
    Greg Chick

  2. Glenn Doty says:

    Nice post Craig,

    I will say that it’s not as bad as you think regarding oil… The Obama administration’s “use it or lose it” policy has been bearing fruit. This is especially true as it corresponds to a period of excess gas production following the warmest winter on record (for the U.S., I’m not certain whether it’s the warmest globally or merely in the top 3).

    In the past year, crude oil production in America has increased by 612,000 bbl/day, and natural gas plant liquids production has increased by 207,000 bbl/day. Add in efficiency improvements and reduced gas consumption, and our total net import of crude and petroproducts has reduced by ~1.15 million bbl/day in the past year. So, at $90/bbl, during 3 minutes of piano playing the country only imported $500,000 worth of oil.

    It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as you thought, and it’s getting better every year.

  3. Artguy says:

    Hot buttons are great! (For evil doing) The wealthy can agree to ANYTHING! Just a short flight away is the abortion for daughter, the college for gay son, the contraception pill for wifey or the offshore bank for money.

  4. San Francisco just had another record heat day (108 F)and most people comment that “ain’t summer wonderful”! I guess it needs to get to 123-124 F where you drink six to eight gallons of water per day or dehydrate and die. (Been there done that, Fort Irwin, Army Reserves)before most people can get off their duffs and realize that there is a problem. Of course by then it will be way to late to fix.
    Right now then only thing driving change is price, Wind and Solar are displacing coal, because they produce electricity cheaper for a utility.
    The key is to reduce the price of fuel cells by 10 X. We want to build a fuel cell scooter but no one buys it with a $2,000 one kilowatt fuel cell. Hydrogen production efficiencies are advancing but the fuel cells are stuck and the question is can the Planet survive until the cost of fuel cells comes down to a useable level. Its the race of the millennium and the future of EARTH depends on it.

    • ronf says:

      John Gotthold said: ‘The key is to reduce the price of fuel cells by 10 X.’

      Not true, the ‘end-to-end energy efficiency’ of a fuel cell is really not much better than gasoline engines. Don’t know what that means? Go look it up!. Batteries are improving faster than fuel cell costs are dropping. There is much more to the price of a H2 powered vehicle than just the fuel cell itself. Along with those other things you’ll find many seriously difficult technical problems to be solved. Ever consider where H2 would come from? How much energy does it take to go one mile on H2 versus just on electricity stored in a battery? Too many MAJOR hurdles need to be crossed for H2 to be viable for transportation purposes. Electric scooters are here now; no waiting for 5-10 years. I’ve heard that for too long, too often.

      You also said:
      ‘Hydrogen production efficiencies are advancing…’
      It’s still so far behind sources of electricty, like wind and solar which are cheaper by far conventional energy sources.

      Without inviting a flame war, let me suggest that you do your homework!

  5. Don’t wait for government action-we are all dead by then!

    Replace agribusiness-as-usual with sustainable agriculture using Permaculture principals & Biodynamics. Support CSA & Farmers Markets

    Pay farmers really well-which will put people back on the land.

    Everywhere, catch & use water, over & over. Pass grey-water legislation.

    Reduce the speed limit to 50 mph which greatly reduces gas consumption/carbon output and saves wear & tear on roads & critical accidents & allows lighter vehicles. Go diesel.

    Turn sustainably harvested wood-chips into soil, not biofuel.

    • Melvyn Moore says:

      Agree 100%,agriculture is unsustainable.With population ever expanding,it`s vital that land is used and not abused to feed our peoples.There is an old saying”Mother Nature does it best”
      work with nature not against it.

  6. Fabrizio says:

    I think the discussion on finding sustainable solution for our planet can go on even if you spend time on topics like gay marriage.
    In reality I think that if you do not have the sensibility to take care about minorities, how can you take care about things which have even a lower voice, like the environment.
    Maybe the two things are only apparently disconnected.

    You are also using part of your time to play Chopin (which I assume you feel is good for your spirit) and still having some to write this blog, so I don’t think you need to be particularly efficient if, as a politician or opinion maker, you try to tackle two problems at the same time.

  7. Jim stACk says:

    I feel it’s always the money. If only we could stop subsidies for dirty fule including the new excess NG and discoveries of dirty OIL the world would change faster.

    Germany is on the right track with taxed added on OIL and no subsides so it’s $8-10 a gallon. They also helped solar and wind get started and can now cut back and still lead the world.

    It’s all down to the cost, some say they care about the environment then drive home in their SUV to a very poorly insulated home that’s 4 times to big.

  8. Craig Shields says:

    Btw, I’m sorry if I offended gay rights activists. Those who know me understand that I support equal rights, and that I believe the last thing I think our government should do is regulate who marries whom. My point was that this really should be a no-brainer for our society, thus enabling us to deal with real problems.

    • Frank Eggers says:

      Same-sex marriage need not be a distraction. Simply provide for it and go onto something else. There is no reason that it should take a significant amount of time to do that. If churches and other religious organizations don’t want to recognize same-sex marriage, they don’t have to; they are well within their rights in not recognizing it. But we are not a theocracy; we have separation of church and state.

      So, get those issues out of the way that have limited impact on most people, then we can concentrate on issues that affect more people.

      Obviously it would help if the media did a better job. They generally provide no background information. For important issues, they should have non-politicians who are highly qualified discuss the pros and cons of issues so that people can better understand them.

      Even on non-controversial matters, the media provide poor coverage. For example, when a road accident occurs, instead of having tear jerking presentations which provide no useful information that would help us avoid accidents, they should explain in detail exactly how the accident happened and what the various people involved, whether the accident was their fault or not, could have done to prevent it. Considering that they won’t even do that, it is not surprising that they fail to provide adequate and useful information on economic issues, foreign policy, why health care is so costly, exactly how it has been determined that CO2 emissions cause global warming, etc. etc. I.e., the media should be used to educate the public to enable the public to make better decisions in their daily lives and to choose more effective leaders.

  9. Cameron Atwood says:


    I’ve always been astounded that there is even any question about as to a civil ceremony being granted to LGBT folks as a civil right. People mystify me who fear that recognizing equality for 6 to 10% of the population will have a negative effect on a traditional hetero institution that already fails 55% of the time in the first five years alone.

    I take your point that many such “wedge issues” are used to divide the electorate, and there has long been a strategy to use “values” to prevent a united party line front on crucial matters. The values that we need to focus on are shared responsibility for our shared fate, and cooperation for mutual benefit.

    We are a nation of people that care about each other and understand that for general prosperity there are things we must do together that cannot be left to the whims of the corporate mind. National infrastructure for transportation and information are two of a great many examples. Our roads, rails and bridges are decaying, and our internet quality, speed and penetration is laughable in comparison to nations where common investment through government has played its vital role.

    As Greg notes quite astutely, bribery is the root issue here – with energy evolution as with so many other areas of needed (and prevented) change. As long as Cash is King, we can expect the most heartless avarice and craven cowardice to fil the ranks of our “leadership” from top to bottom.

    Glenn’s info is interesting, but I think it rather misses the point – that is that climate disruption obviates the continued use of fossil sunlight, if we hope to prosper as a species and avoid a mass extinction event for the rest of the biosphere. Increasing production of fossil energy is like building a bridge further out into empty space with no supports – it just adds to the height of our fall.

    Jim demonstrates that other nations are already blazing the trails on which we need to be leading, not dawdling as we are – and that gets back to the bribery.

    The recent SCOTUS decisions have demonstrated the value of this truism: Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property – “corporate personhood” is the legal fiction that property is a person. Another legal fiction needing desperately to be recognized and eliminated is the fraudulent claim that money is free speech.

    Recommendations? has made some useful progress on these fronts and has the proper goals in mind, and this organization is worthy of support. I advise readers to examine it, if they would dare to act.

  10. Roy Wagner says:

    Pandering to the masses was the downfall of Rome not paying the Soldiers was the nail in the coffin as Nero Played.
    I do not think any Regime wants the US to be dead, Citizens of other Countries may have a jihad against us some US citizens have there own crusades against government some violent.
    America does not have clean hands in these issues.
    In the US the entire economy is based on cheap energy from fossil fuels a hard thing to replace overnight.
    The profit and future marketshare of Energy production is affected by renewables as we drive up costs for cleaning emissions from their energies to new standards.
    Meanwhile efficiency’s and advances in renewables bring costs closer to cheap Coal and Gas.
    I believe we should be emphasizing the positives of renewables whilst exposing the pollution of fossil fuels.
    A rhetoric of peace and co-operation would be better safer and cheaper way in my opinion.
    Than policing the world to ensure an Oil supply

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