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  • Hello one and all, was it you I used to know?
    Can't you hear me call on this old ham radio?
    All I got to say - I'm alive and feeling fine
    If you come my way, you can share my poison wine

    No marigolds in the promised land
    There's a hole in the ground where they used to grow
    Any man left on the Rio Grande is the king of the world as far as I know

    I don't want your bread, I don't need your helping hand
    I can't be no savage, I can't be no highwayman
    Show me where you are, you and I will spend this day
    Driving in my car through the ruins of Santa Fe

    I'm reading last year's papers - although I don't know why...
    Assassins, cons, and rapers - might as well die...

    If you come around, no more pain and no regrets
    Watch the sun go brown smoking cobalt cigarettes
    There's no need to hide, taking things the easy way
    If I stay inside - I might live til Saturday

    No marigolds in the promised land
    There's a hole in the ground where they used to grow
    Any man left on the Rio Grande is the king of the world as far as I know

    - Fagen/Becker, Steely Dan, “King of the World

    This song fit my mood to a “T” on my first ship, after the Engine Room Fire where I’d gotten trapped in the black-smoke filled engine room for a good while before they realized we were still in there, then upon opening the locked hatch, me and two other desperate sailors stuck on that ladder got blown up and out of the engine room through the hatch, catching on fire as we did. I came out of that mess with half my hair singed off, minor burns on my face and arms, and lungs that felt scalded from breathing all of that smoke. I was already feeling completely isolated on the ship, as I’d burned most of my bridges with folks there, and I felt hopelessly missing from my friends in Connecticut. My dream of romance with Susan had died hard when she came down for what was supposed to be our engagement get-together, but turned into our break-up. Then, on top of all that, I had also recently tripped and come down really hard from it. The feeling of resigned devastation conveyed by this song was my perfect soundtrack for that time, and I fully embraced it. I did feel like the last guy left on the Rio Grande – but certainly not like the King of the World!
  • I don’t know why I’ve thought of this song, and these particular memories, on World Environment Day. Maybe because I don’t see how we’re ever going to escape an eventuality of such devastation, the way we currently live on this beautiful blue planet we call Earth. The statistics are staggering. We waste 1.3 billion TONS of food each year, globally – enough to feed the entire sub-Saharan Africa. The evidence that we’re depleting its resources and creating a dangerous environment in the process is even more devastating – whether or not we care to admit it to ourselves. Just look around, with open eyes. What do you think? Really?

    We continue to blatantly practice non-sustainable practices and behaviors in every way that we can, because we can. Who’s going to tell us we can’t? We do whatever the hell we feel like doing, as long as it continues to feed our need to live the way we feel like living. Screw everyone else. Future generations? Bah! Let ‘em figure it out. Their problem, not ours.

    World Environment Day has been around since 1972. 41 years. This year’s theme is “Think, Eat and Save.” Has this “day” helped? I guess it has. There is certainly a lot more awareness about the environment, and what we’re doing to it. But, what have we done, really, to change and fix it? Not nearly enough, as far as I can tell.

    I’m happy to be leading the Greening Team here in my agency. We’re looking at ways to reduce food waste. We’ve come up with a few good ways to do that. Some things we’re doing here in Agriculture to reduce food waste include reducing waste in the School lunch program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, develop new technologies to reduce food waste, work with industry to increase donations from imported produce that does not meet market standards, but that is safe and edible, streamlining procedures for donating wholesome misbranded meat and poultry products, and compost spent meat samples at our labs, to reduce the amount of meat being sent to landfills from our labs. They’re really just tiny little drops in the bucket of 1.3 billion tons of global food wasted – but, I guess you have to start somewhere. I see my role as doing what I can, from where I stand, and encouraging others to do the same. Like everything else, it has to start right here – right now. What can I do to make a difference? When will I start doing that? Time to stop talking, and start doing.

    The thought of the devastation this all could be leading to can make you want to throw your arms up in the air and say, “What’s the use? (“Might as well die”)!” But, I think we’ve been doing that just a little too long. Today, I will do my part. Tomorrow, I will get up and do it again. One foot in front of the other. Maybe it will make a difference – maybe it won’t. But, at least, at the end of it all, I can say that I gave it my best shot. I guess that’ll have to do, for now.

    Happy World Environment Day, everyone! (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a more rousing celebratory story about it. I would have made a lousy cheerleader, eh?)
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