More important messages from readers

by | Apr 11, 2001 | Archives

Dear International Friend, Markets cannot exist without differing views. The last Presidential elections showed this as do the wise messages below.

Message from a reader:

“Gary, something you said about your idyllic environment. When I was a kid in England, I sometimes had to walk home from school with my finger on the walls of the houses so as not to lose my way in the yellow impenetrable ‘pea soup’ fog.No exaggeration. It’s all gone now. Your generation has no concept of it. What bothers me is that so many ‘boomer’ and ‘ex flower powers’ now control the world with no education in elementary biochemistry, physics and basic science. You mentioned carbon dioxide, without which there would be no mammalian life on earth, as if it is poison. This fallacy is being propagated by the remnants of the Marxist movement to undermine (especially U.S.) capitalism. Legislators are mostly lawyers and career politicos woefully ignorant of the CO2 cycle. If the movement succeeds in convincing them, we are in great trouble. Briefly: man and animals breath out co2 plants and trees breathe it in and breathe out oxygen, hence we survive. More co2 more plants and trees and crops. All man’s co2 is infinitesimal compared to that produced by insects, cattle, FOREST FIRES and volcanos. Reputable scientists not ‘married’ financially by grants and salaries to the SIerra club et cit will tell you they can only measure with great difficulty about 1/2 a degree rise in the last 100 yrs. and there is strong evidence of variations up and down in the ocean temps. over hundreds of years. Where are we in relation to the last four ice ages estimated at about 10000 year intervals? At all times in human history we have had ‘apocalypse now ‘ groups. This is no different. We are in danger of losing our great progress in civilization if we let Kyoto etc influence us. We are all environmentalists but not all stupid. Measurement is the basis of science not politics. Let us measure, evaluate and observe. See a recent op-ed article in the Wall St. Jl. explaining in simple terms the co2 ‘problem’. I am seriously considering the multicurrency ‘sandwich’ Tell us more as currencies evolve. Thanks”

Here was my reply:

“Thanks for these insights as they are important ones. I do remember heavy London fogs when I first moved there and understand they were really much worse before the introduction of smokeless fuel. I also appreciate our need for carbon dioxide (which is why I have been promoting the purchase and preservation of forests and have put a great deal of my own wealth into owning forest land).

I also appreciate the fact that until a few years ago the great scientific concern was global cooling. Mankind never has foreseen the wonders technology can bring. I have been told that in the Victorian era there was great panic in the City of Chicago because the sanitation department submitted a report showing that within a decade the city’s streets would be covered in three feet of horse manure. I cannot comprehend how the western world’s current trend of consumption can continue, especially if we allow the 5.2 billion poor people to have a modicum of material wealth (such as a car, house, appliances and TV). Yet all this can change with one tiny insight into a new form of energy, etc.

But in the mean time while we are waiting for this next invention, wherever I have lived (in some of the most remote parts of Gloucestershire) and now being in the wilderness of North Carolina and in Ecuador, I have found garbage dropped by generations past everywhere. Merri and I have spent tens of thousands of dollars pulling bed springs, refrigerators, mattresses, microwaves, TVs, etc out of our creek. Many of the creek banks were garbage piles! Trees in the Blue Ridge are dying at higher altitudes from acid rain. I could go on. This to me is just a symptom of misguided material aspects of capitalism., along with the disintegration of family, faith, regional culture, heritage etc. For example in days past when I was at an international airport, I could spot an American versus an Englishman, versus a German in a second by their dress. Today this is difficult as they are all wearing Nike, Levis and Ralph Lauren. How disappointed I was recently to return to my old London village to visit a quaint tea shop and find it replaced by a Starbucks. How dull and boring life becomes when efficiency replaces charm (and I have yet to find a charming Starbucks). Don’t get me wrong I believe totally in democracy and capitalism. I believe in service to mankind and in having creature comforts. Yet observation of myself and many others leads me to believe that material comfort can be addictive and can carry a hidden price that many do not see. So perhaps we, humanity, needs reminding of this so we can stand back and not take this process of accumulation too seriously.

Recently I spent a night deep in an Ecuadorian humid tropical forest near the Colombian border with a family (an American woman – Cuban husband and two sons) that had lived there for more than a decade. Their home is attainable only after several hours drive on rough jungle roads and then an hours hike. There is minimal electricity, no hot water, etc. They have self educated the kids. As we enjoyed dinner by candle light I was amazed at how bright, alert and well informed the children were. They live very much off the land and would be what many considered poor, but in our conversation the mother told us how rich they were, rich in family, rich in fresh food, rich in friends, rich in health, clear water, pure air and rich in freedom to think, learn and grow without the awesome burden of Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Washington D.C. telling them how they should live. They are free of having to impress others and keep up.

Last year, Merri and I spent an entire winter living in a ten by ten tin roofed hut living without hot water or electricity so we could better understand the plight of the Ecuadorian Amerindians that our foundation is helping. I thought I was there to learn what they were doing wrong so I could show them a better life. Fewer times have been happier in my life and I learned more about how I was living wrong rather than the other way around. We certainly agree that capitalism and democracy are important. We also agree that various factions in governments tend to distort fears (ie. warming-cooling, China, etc.). Yet regardless of government party lines, my own observations tell me that western society’s model of capitalism is distorted right now. The price of this excess is high so I hope my writing in some small way can help at least a few find a more balanced perspective.

On the subject of balance, speculating against currency distortions through the multicurrency sandwich is one way that capitalism keeps currency imbalances from growing too distorted so I will certainly keep you informed of currencies parities as they move”.

Here is another message with a differing point of view.

“Thank you Gary. Keep up the good work. Especially in reminding people that there is more to life than making money and accumulating possessions. Yours truly,”

What more can I say except, good global business and investing!