Dorothy van den Honert: No to drones, yes to seaweed

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PITTSFIELD —I can think of three common activities that people willingly engage in that kill each other in huge numbers. The first, obviously is war. The second thing is permitting anyone younger than 19 to drive a car. Apparently the younger group account for 33 period of all fatal crashes! Of drivers of any age, 56 percent talk on their phones while driving. Or , to put it in an even more hair-raising way, 3,287 die per day on the highways!

In the animal kingdom, some creatures kill each other for dinner. We do, too, though we don't have to. Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have found ways of also subsisting on greenery, and it changed practically everything. We don't have to eat soldiers or children. So we bury them instead. The important question is this: if we don't need to eat people any more, why do we still kill them? Maybe one of the the earliest excuses was a geographical one. The globe is finite in size and a lot of it is not suitable for growing food. It took a lot of time for human beings to figure out the greenery angle. But now it works. Even people who don't like Brussel Sprouts can usually eat string beans or corn. So there goes that excuse.

Feeding a planet with huge populations, no matter how you do it, means having people live all over the place. This, of course, means populations endlessly moving around, which used to be slow and expensive. Horse and buggies gave way to faster mechanical devices like trains and cars which unfortunately required things like oil-burning engines. After awhile, the globe became covered with the remains of gasses and smoke caused by burning, and the next thing we knew the oceans were warming, the earth began heating up dangerously, and scientists began sounding really scared.By now, the scientists are being proven correct and the money-men wrong.

Then some bright engineers devised a little doodad that was so small it used almost no fuel and it could be manufactured so cheaply that lots of people could buy one. It sounded like the answer to human beings' prayers. Small, no gas guzzler, it flew through the air, parked easily almost anywhere, and, most importantly, required virtually no road building. It was called a drone. UPS saved time and gas, as did department stores. And people loved it. For awhile, anyhow.

PROBLEM UNSOLVED

Before long it became obvious that just because some kind of miniature airplane didn't need road-building and could fly through the air to get anywhere that it didn't solve transportation problems for the globe. Airplanes, like cars, must have a specific route and time schedule. Drones don't. But you can't have cute little flying machines zipping around in the air whenever and wherever they want.

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Drones still had another serious problem. If you can hover over your neighbor's house or backyard, his or her privacy is gone. I don't have to elaborate on the number of ways people can invade other people's privacy.

But if an article in a recent New York Sunday New York Times is right, there is another amazing possibility that might even finally help. It seems that cattle can actually feed on seaweed! Wow!. If this is true, there is another whole source of food to keep us alive on our globe. Apparently some smart biologist has figured out how we can treat seaweed so that it is digestible for cattle! Of course, a few forms of ocean-dwellers already eat sea plants, but apparently the docs feel that there is plenty of seaweed to go around.

So the problem is solved! Well, not quite so fast. We haven't solved the problem of how to get all that seaweed dragged out of the water and treated economically. Nor how to deal with nosy neithbors or improve the flavor of Brussel Sprouts for that matter. You can make bets with your friends as to which is the most difficult to solve. I have perfect faith in our engineers to get the seaweed out. But as to nosiness, I am stuck. Even the accessible privacy of the internet has helped only partiallly. Curiosity about what your neighbors are up to is so ingrained in human nature that nothing so far has even dented it.     aybe that nosiness is the very characteristic that has made our intellectual progress beat out that of the monkeys.

But I do have the solution to the bitter flavor of Brussel Sprouts. Just add at least a quarter of a cup of sugar to the water you boil them in. It takes away that bitter flavor. A little butter, and you have something even the kids will like.

You're welcome.

Dorothy van den Honert is an occasional Eagle contributor.


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