I had meetings all over Southern California on Thursday, and driving to and from them enabled me to listen to the radio and absorb news that I otherwise would have missed.
I had barely backed out of my driveway when I heard this story about a scandal surrounding the biofuels trade between the U.S. and Canada. It seems the transportation company, which was compensated by the government for bringing an eco-friendly product into Canada, never bothered to unload it when it reached its destination; the same load kept making its way back and forth across the border, while the company raked in huge profits by pretending to do something good for the environment. Apparently, it would have cost the company a trifle more to have actually unloaded the biofuel and then get more, so they figured: screw it.
I think there’s a lesson here somewhere, which goes like this: We’re counting on basic human decency if we’re to have a chance as a species. There’s not too much we can do to save this planet if our basic ethical standards have declined to the point that, at the end of the day, we’re willing to cheat even the most pro-survival concepts to make a couple extra bucks.
This reminds me of another story in the news lately: there are fantastically rich people in Asia who don’t have a problem bringing the rhinoceros population to extinction so they can enjoy the (apocryphal) powers of its horns as an aphrodisiac. If we as a people don’t have a better moral compass, we’re all doomed.
Having said all this, I believe that, for every moral idiot like the biofuels cheaters and the rhino slaughterers, there are many millions of decent and kind people – the people who patiently and quietly teach your children, and live their lives morally according to their own wits. It’s the time of the year to celebrate these people, and humankind’s best intentions.