Chick-fil-A goes ‘woke,’ third world’s coal problems, and more
Plus, New York’s bottle deposit drama
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. . . . I love Chick-fil-A. My son even more. He orders their food from a store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side while I like going to an outlet to experience the friendly service and eat the simple sandwiches just out of the fryer. We even buy bottles of their slightly smoky sauce to put on other food.
Meanwhile, I have to keep in mind they are closed on Sundays, something I’ve long been intrigued by. Why would a company forgo something like a seventh of its profits, a hit which 24/7 Wall Street puts at over $1 billion a year? Because founder Truett Cathy, who established the privately held chain in suburban Atlanta, Ga., in 1946, saw the day off as a “way of honoring God” and for employees to have “one day to rest and worship if they choose.”
It all sounds very Bible Belt-ish. Certainly a very different philosophy than the City That Never Sleeps vibe of New York City.
Which is why it’s more than wacko to hear that a bunch of conservatives — no doubt of the pump-all-the-oil-we-can and don’t-take-away-my-open-carry-gun variety — have gone batty over the chain’s decision to launch a fried-cauliflower sandwich, calling it “woke” and worse.
Since Chick-fil-A’s tweet last week announcing the new menu item — which is being tested in Denver, Charleston, S.C., and parts of North Carolina — has garnered about 4.2 million views and the comments have been disabled, meaning we can’t bring you further diatribe. Meanwhile, the news release linked to the tweet opens up a “site can’t be reached” page. The company’s news room section also was unavailable.
Probably predictably, a Fox News commentator, the almost unreadable Jimmy Failla, weighed in, saying the cauliflower comestible was, groan, “fowl play.” He then went on to add that, “There’s no need for the marketing team to get all insecure and worry about the vegans. Trust me, vegans already have an option. It’s called SADNESS.”
We all know who the really sad ones are. And I’ll be very happy to crunch on the cauliflower concoction if it reaches New York City.
Here’s a reason to be blue about going green
It hit me like a punch to the chest. A headline, that is. It was on the Reuters feed: “Pakistan plans to quadruple domestic coal-fired power, move away from gas.” Seemingly unbelievable amongst the rosy reports of increased amounts of renewable energy and the swelling growth in electric vehicle sales.
Should I have been horrified? Yes. Should I have been shocked? No. After all, Pakistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with almost all the nations below it on GDP tables being in Africa. And it has a huge population, the fifth largest in the world, according to the UN. And, like most nations, especially in Asia, it has a populace with growing economic aspirations.
Which means it wants reliable power. And quick. And so, as its energy minister told Reuters recently, the country plans to increase domestic coal-fired power capacity to 10 GW in the medium-term, from 2.31 GW currently. At the same time, it plans to pull back from natural gas, which provides about a third of its electricity, after shortages and price increases plunged large areas into hours of darkness in 2022. “LNG is no longer part of the long-term plan,” said Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan. “It’s this question of not just being able to generate energy cheaply, but also with domestic sources, that is very important,” he added.
Not too far away, an even more crowded nation, Indonesia — which ranks fourth in the population tables and generates 60% of its electricity from coal, is also doubling down on the black stuff, reports NPR, despite a November 2022 pact with the G7 aimed at weaning it from the highly polluting power source.
You can also add India, the world’s second-biggest polluter, and China — the No. 1 — to the list of coal-addicted (though the latter is making incredible gains in renewables).
What they all have in common is a lot of coal under the ground, seemingly an easy fix for their energy needs. Also important: a lack of the economic cushion possessed by Western nations in addition to populations whose expectations have risen beyond remaining poor the rest of their lives.
Developing nations have been pleading for years for more Western finance to go green. That headline should serve as a very sharp spur.
What my daisies are saying about global warming
Recently — and with the weather in the 60s — I went out into the yard to dead-head the daisies by our mailbox. And they already had buds! My wife, meanwhile, reporting from her daily walks to work through New York City’s Central Park, says signs of spring plant life are everywhere, including fully open crocuses and almost-there daffodils.
No surprise, I guess, because New Yorkers are experiencing one of the warmest winters on record, a season containing virtually no snow and continual unseasonably warm days. The city, for instance, has had just one measurable snowfall, consisting of a paltry 0.4 inches during a dusting on Feb. 1. Later that week there was a very cold snap lasting about a day, but since then it has been almost shirtsleeves weather, with temperatures reaching in the mid-60s on Wednesday. In fact, January captured the record for the highest average temperature, at 43.5°F. And the way it is going, February will by far exceed the 42°F. average set in 2018.
In a way, it’s very welcome. If I need to slip out to the corner store, I can quickly pull on a light coat and not even change the boat shoes as I use as slippers around the apartment. But, as someone whose work focus is climate change, it’s also very troubling.
It recalls other extreme weather from the past few years. There was, for instance, the trip in 2019 to my niece’s wedding in England where it was over 100°F. And this is a country with virtually no air conditioning and where any rise into the 80s usually led to “let’s fry eggs on the sidewalk” quips. To make our Airbnb somewhat tolerable, we bought a couple of powerful fans, which we then bequeathed to my brother in case he encountered other calamities. It came pretty quickly — last summer was an even more baking scorcher, with temperatures reaching nearly 105°F.
Still doubt global warming? Come and look at my daisies.
A bottle deposit proposal becomes quite the drama
I see them almost every day in our Manhattan neighborhood — hardworking people, mostly Latina and Asian women, going through recycling bags left on sidewalks for city pickup to find bottles and cans that can be returned for 5-cent deposits.
The bottles are there because the mostly affluent Upper East Siders cannot be bothered to separate them, take them to a store and claim a nickel for each one. After the women have collected them in huge clear plastic bags, vans come around to take them away to be redeemed. (I imagine there is some sort of deal going on with the van operators.)
That’s now. But what will happen if New York state, as it is considering now in proposed legislation called the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill, raises the redemption value to 10 cents and expands the type of containers with mandated deposits? These add-ons include wine and liquor bottles as well as containers for hard cider, alcoholic coolers, sports drinks and many non-carbonated beverages, including coffee and tea drinks and vegetable and fruit juices containing less than 100% pure juice.
For the women with the big plastic bags, it might be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they will get double the return on their work; on the other, more householders may be spurred by the increased deposit to take the containers to the redemption points themselves.
Almost needless to say, the proposal has met with fierce opposition. First, retailers — especially the powerful liquor store lobby — are opposed to it because they say it increases their work and stretches their storage space. Meanwhile, manufacturers and distributors, especially of wine and booze, don’t want to have to label their bottles and deal with the bureaucracy involved.
On the other hand, the general public seems to like it, with a recent Siena College Research Institute poll showing that nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers favor increasing the types of containers covered and a higher refundable deposit.
At present, the bill is in limbo, with Gov. Kathy Hochul having passed on it for the current legislative session.
We will see. Meanwhile, I’ll be saying my usual hello to those gritty sidewalk women.
(A native of England, veteran journalist Matthew Diebel has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent much of his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)