September 16, 2007

Two Cases of Hubris

WHY do we call ourselves Homo sapiens [the wise man] when we, so obviously, ARE NOT?
It’s amazing to see my point made as clearly as this:

This morning I came home from swimming and turned on the TV. I joined a program in progress on the Science Channel. A narrator was describing a tentative plan to build a tunnel to carry human traffic across the Atlantic Ocean: a body of water humans haven’t yet explored thoroughly, don’t even have a map of yet but know enough about to know it’s seismically active.

I said, ‘Huh?’ dubbed the whole project ‘hubris’, changed to a History Channel and ran smack into another one.

It seems Henry Ford tried to buck the Amazon Forest and failed miserably. He was manufacturing cars during the 1930’s and needed rubber. Rubber trees grow in the Amazon Forest—so he bought a huge acreage and set about planting rubber trees without doing even the most basic research.

The Amazon naturally produces approximately 20 rubber trees per acre of land. Ford tried to plant 200 trees per acre. Now, rubber trees are prone to a leaf-blight. If their leaves touch, they spread the blight among themselves—rather like rot spreading through bushels of apples when they’re stored together. Not surprisingly, blight got loose in Ford’s rubber tree forest and the trees died.

Belatedly, Ford called in a botanist who did the research and explained the problem to him. Ford, like so many rich men, was used to having his own way. He seized on one portion of the report by the botanist which said the trees didn’t like the hilly location and the blight did. So, Ford bought ANOTHER plantation on flatter terrain and tried again. Again, he planted trees so closely together their leaves touched and, again, the trees all died.

Finally, in 1945, after he’d been trying to grow rubber for 14 years, DuPont produced synthetic rubber and Ford gave up trying. Without ever having set foot on either plantation, he had spent $40 million—the equivalent of $200 million in today’s money.

Ford’s folly cost him several millions. Cheap compared to the hundreds of billions proposed for the Atlantic tunnel [assuming it were to come in on budget (and when is the last time THAT happened?)] not to even mention the lives that will, inevitably, be lost if the plan goes forward.

Lessee -- we've got ships. We've got airplanes. What the hell do we need a tunnel for?
I'll bet I know: Britain and France built the Chunnel. And the US can't STAND the fact that somebody else did such a great engineering job. So, we've got to go them one better -- and damn the consequences, full steam ahead!

I don’t know about you, but MY definition of the word, ‘wise’ includes the ideas of 1] using reason to reach decisions and 2] learning from past mistakes.
So, where the hell do we get off calling ourselves Homo sapiens?


Larry said...

Here is something we all can and should do. Check out this blog:

Shut it Down

two crows said...

thanx for pointing this out, Larry--
I've sent it to everyone in my address book and will post an entry on the blog linking to the website.

Mary Ellen said...

Hi two crows!

What a great story, I never heard that about Ford before. It doesn't surprise me, though. I don't know how such stupid people manage to get so rich. I guess it's better to have more brains than more money...and it's a hell of a lot better being a Democrat than a Republican!

sumo said...

I too was unaware of Ford's Folly...thanks for that info. I totally agree that those with money tend to think they know it all...and can naturally handle anything that comes there way. What a jackass!

two crows said...

hey, M E--
and this amazingly STUPID idea of a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean is just more of the same.

two crows said...

hey, Sumo--
and the jackasses who want the Atlantic Tunnel are planning a much larger calamity --
Ford lost his own money in his disaster.
these folks plan to spend our money on theirs.

TomCat said...

Hello? Earth to the idiots planning this!! Why would we even need or want such a tunnel? It's too damn far to drive through it, so that would mean taking a train. Why do people take trains? The scenery. No scenery in a tunnel. The tickets would have to be very pricey to recover the costs, so why pay more when a plane is so much faster? And for cargo, ships are much more economical. Is this a government corporate welfare project to enhance No Millionaire Left Behind?

two crows said...

hey, TC--
trains are proposed.
and yes -- slower than planes for moving people. no scenery -- so why take a train?
and inefficient for moving cargo.

seems obvious to me that the US just can't stand it that Britain and France constructed the Chunnel -- which DID make sense.
this idea certainly doesn't --

but hey, it'll put the US on top in the engineering dept again -- and isn't that the whole point?
that and just one more no-bid contract?

when it comes off the drawing board, FOX will be shouting from the rooftops about it.

two crows said...

oh, and one more thing:
a GREAT target for terrorists!

what idiot thought this up?