“That’s How We’ve Always Done It”

Really? Always?

Some dates to keep in mind:

  • Spindletop, the gusher that began the petroleum age in the United States, first erupted on January 10, 1901.
  • The Wright Brothers’ famous first flight happened in December 1903.
  • The Model T was introduced in 1908.
  • U.S. coal mining employment peaked in 1923. [Despite usage dating to pre-Columbian times, coal’s dominance as the most-used energy source in North America lasted from the 1880s through the 1950s.]
  • The Macintosh computer was released in 1984.
  • Google was a research project in 1996 and a registered company in 1998.
  • Wikipedia arrived in 2001.
  • The iPhone was unveiled in 2007.

It is absolutely true that ways of work and life, systems of values, houses of worship, thriving communities, and many other desirable things spring up around certain industries in certain times.

It is also true that we no longer have a whaling industry.

And it is further true that the reason we don’t have a whaling industry anymore is less because whales are cute or charismatic than because they were no longer economical to catch. [Though it’s worth noting that more than a century elapsed between the pre-Civil War peak of the U.S. whaling industry and the 1971, 1972, and 1973 laws that fully banned non-indigenous whaling in the United States and its exclusive economic zones.]

There’s a distinction between caring for fellow citizens whose livelihoods, hometowns, and cultures are threatened or lost and keeping forlorn industries alive for political purposes.

When was the last time you bought a road atlas? Printed out a set of MapQuest directions?

That’s what we always did. Until we didn’t.