The Tree of Convenience

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In the story of Adam and Eve their residency in the Garden of Eden was subject to one condition: they were not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We all know how that ended: mankind's first eviction.

But that raises another question. Our banishment from the Garden doesn't explain the profound differences between our world and that of our ancestors. There must have been some other tree whose fruit we ate that set in motion those changes.

It seems clear that the modern world's forbidden fruit came from the tree of convenience. And once again, who could resist? People prefer now to later, quicker to slower, ease to difficulty.

The tree of convenience gave us processed food and the automobile. It brought us the long queue of goods and services that we expect to be available "on demand." It is everything that happens with the flick of a switch or the press of a button.

This was a tree nurtured by scientists and engineers. They were the wizards who delivered a gleaming future of newer and better.


But things appear to have shifted. These days we don't like the future so much. And besides, now we're told that all these wonderful inventions like the internal combustion engine have a downside. The scientist has gone from enabler to scold.

This raises the possibility that the repudiation of science that is tolerated or endorsed by many Americans is not merely the result of certain economic or religious agendas. People are receptive to this because scientists are no longer the good guys who are making life easier.

But there is hope. In the end our plight is just another problem in search of a technological solution. And that can be found on a new tree that has sprouted in our midst. It is a hybrid-the pluot of tech if you will-that combines the knowledge of good and evil with convenience. It is the tree of green or renewable technology. And this time we need to eat as much fruit as we can.

With a Perspective, I'm Paul Staley.

Paul Staley lives in San Francisco.