Diego Garcia

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Recessional for the lower forty
By Diego Garcia

As for the ambiante.  It's too late.  Even if everybody unexpectedly were to be good, recycled their bottles, disdained plastic bags, rode a bicycle to the busstop, composted the grass clippings, lit up with LED, air dried the laundry, cooked with solar, and aborted all but one child, it's still too late. 

Walk around the neighborhood.  Not evil people, mostly.  Ordinary liegemen to Sam.  Way too much stuff.  A smudge pot or two in every driveway.  A crib swollen with sofas and cosas.  Sure, now, with the mortgage underwater and the 401 kayoed, "I'm not in a buying mood, except maybe at Wal-Mart." 

There's this woman Thessaly who lives on an acre or two in a self-built cottage outside Ukiah.  Self-sufficient, self-sustaining, pretty much.  Thick garden all around, pantry shelves groaning with glass jars of preserved rhubarb, an outdoor toilet producing soil that fertilizes the fruit trees, 12-volt solar juice, bins of rotting verdure happily composting.  In the summer she teaches sustainability to acolytes.  In the dreary winter she hops on a plane for a vacation in Tasmania .  

Thessaly !  Your share of the soot from the kerosene that lofts that jet to Hobart compounds ten times over the light thumbprint of your sustainable homestead.  It doesn't matter if you poke in an extra oak for an offset.  High altitude flatulence from jets is almost as debilitating as the methane from the cow fleet.  Thessaly is a good ol’gal who has raised her New Age consciousness to the rafters, but she's the problem when she goes to the airport.  Somehow the enviros, jetting off to do-good conferences in Aspen and Bali , don’t see the contrails.  It's too much fun to jump about the world in hours. 

Is there any signal that there will be less air travel?  Yes, if oil spikes, which I hope to God it will.  Meanwhile, more long-range jumbo jetliners rolling onto the tarmac, and air traffic control staggering.  I don't fly much, but I'm just another hypocrite.  I don't have the excuse of deliberate ignorance of the mad fascists of the airwaves.  Bad fess a'comin' from soot.  An ice-free Northwest Passage is pretty darn likely.  A longer summer in Newfoundland .  Bangladesh needs to be building dikes and increasing the size of its Coast Guard.  The long and lat of low-lying Pacific islands to be marked by floating palm fronds.  Every bit player is in on this. 

My contribution to the coming swimming lessons of swarthy Southerners on the littoral plain is the three tons of smudge puffed annually by my Ford Intransigence.  Should I spike my Ford?  I know it’s complicit in ushering countless innocents to a watery grave.  Not six fathoms five today maybe, but pretty soon.  Since I believe this, shouldn't I...?   But I won't.  Far away people I don't know, not of my tribe or complexion, will drown.  So what? I'll stop my ears to their gurgles.  I need the Ford to get my fat, under-exercised corpus to my boring, meaningless job. You know the level of my security clearance.  Same as yours.  A Will Rogers security clearance.  All I know is what I read in the newspaper.    But I know better than the government or the CIA, evidently. 

I never believed for one little second that Saddam had slate cleaners, despite what Judy Miller said on the front page, I dozed along with the egghead profs on the op-ed page who said, maybe Saddam has a lashing of mustard gas or a vial of anthrax.  But not nukes.  Iraq is too dysfunctional.  Science is antithetical to the wishful thinking of dictators.  To make a bomb you need scientists.  The pool of competent nuclear physicists is small enough that we pretty much know who they are, says the egghead op-ed writer.  Nobody like that in Iraq .  Besides, you need rivers of juice to turn centrifuges.  In pre-invasion Baghdad , air conditioners were rationed, to keep the grid from collapsing.  They barely had enough juice to turn the overhead fans in a hookah joint.  There it was in the paper for anybody to read, including Collin Powell.  Iraq did not have nukes. 

So, what do the egghead professor op-ed pieces in the New York Times say about the warm-up?  Al Gorp says Manhattan will be an estuary by Friday.  No.  But that’s not even the scary thing.  Did you read argument of the UN report?   Carbon lingers in the air, so even if sap put all fossil-burning on hold the warming effects of present carbon will go on for a decade.  The conclusion of the panel, humankind needs to cut back 100 percent on carbon emissions.  Today.  Say what?  Hunnerd percent, today?  Stop all fossil power generation, today?  Fact is, the planet is going to up the soot bigtime in the next decade, thanks to the Chinaman and the Hindu, not to even mention Sam and Ivan.  Dirty new coal plants up the ying-yang and the Yellow River .  There’s no clean coal.  No gasification or carbon sequestration.  Won’t happen.  Everything’s dirty.