Not long ago I read a report trying to explain the environmental impact based on the foods we buy. Yet another attempt to make me feel bad for the numerous poor choices I have made in my life time. The gist of the article made me think about how many trees I have indirectly deforested, rivers polluted, and CO2 emitted by choosing specific foods and not thinking about the consequences.
Given the number of burgers, sausages, industrial cookies and of course chocolate and cinnamon danish* I have consumed in my 5+ decades on this planet, one could roughly calculate that I personally have led to 3% of global forests being destroyed. Which is approximately the weight of 100,000 male African savanna elephants. Trust me.
Furthermore, by my rough, sleep-deprived calculations, I have emitted more tons of CO2 — and especially methane — than most central American countries have in the same period of time. Which I consider quite the accomplishment, however it doesn’t sound good on a job application nor does it make for a great conversation starter on blind dates. Trust me.
(*Note to reader: danish usually doesn’t have a plural form, it’s like water or beer or air – it’s an uncountable ethereal and tasty substance that defies logic, and supports rampant diabetes.)
Wired for Bad Choices
So many many of my bad choices to eat meats and danish, as opposed to locally grown leafy greens, are notionally based on the principle that we have free will. I chose to ingest delectable baked sugary delights that led either directly or indirectly to an oil well being drilled (what? you think petro-sugar comes from real sugar? who’s being naive now?) and I felt no guilt. Coincidentally, I also immediately felt a numbness in my left arm and a difficulty breathing for a bit, but I can’t imagine the two are related.
Was it a question of poor education or a lack of facts that led me to choose the clearly evil foodstuff? Is there a little devil over my shoulder cackling with evil laughter knowing that mother earth has descended that much closer to the abyss? Of course not. We are wired for bad choices.
Our human DNA and electrolyte-fuelled mushy gray matter lead us to seek out what we want, not always what we need. Look at poor Socrates – he wilfully drank a chalice of poison as opposed to being forced to eat a kale salad with dried cranberries and low-cal dressing, knowing the former would be far more pleasurable than the inevitable bloating and gas he would get from the meal of greens. Granted, drinking poison impacted his dating life and earning potential, but frankly, if you had to eat a kale salad or choose death, the great hereafter isn’t a bad option.
Bad Choices Built Civilization
I am not getting into a discussion of free will versus determinism, mostly because I am not smart enough to discern the difference and it is a mood killer on first dates. Trust me.
Rather I make the argument that if we didn’t make bad choices, civilization wouldn’t have evolved as far as it has. If humans didn’t make bad choices, we wouldn’t need police, the fire department, emergency medicine doctors and nurses, lawyers, self-help gurus, or dietitians.
Bad decisions are the cornerstone of learning and growth. How many times have you said “Oh another drink couldn’t hurt. Make it a double!” only to find yourself lying in bed the next day reaching for a painkiller that was invented because someone saw a need to reduce the searing pain of a hangover. Your bad decision led to the modern pharma industry’s feeding you meds.
Think of all the lawyers that we need because people decided to submerge toasters in water or all the prosthetics that were invented because some humans decided to stick their hands into a spinning blade? Where would personal injury lawyers be without poor decision-making? They’d be flipping burgers instead of driving Porsche SUVs.
Since we are bound to make bad choices, either due to faulty genetics, poor lighting, poor education, poor parental modeling, a lack of sleep, or a significant other telling us we always do the laundry wrong, I say screw it. I am going to have another danish.
Pontifically challenged and perpetually perturbed,
Augustus Johann Sebastian Druker, 16th waterboy of the Earl of Sheepshire