The fight is on!
Yes sports fans, in what could very well be the final rounds between a 250 year-old nation and a three billion year-old planet, the mightiest country on Earth is once again squaring off against∑Earth.
For those tuning in late, it must seem an unfair contest. After all, how can one country representing just 5% of Earth's human population hope to K.O. an entire planet?
But experts say it's our unraveling planetary oasis that's really in trouble. Led by G. "Dubya" Bush and his neocon coaching staff, the US of A has maxed its international credit cards to "bulk up" its military muscle. Today, America's $11,000-a-second weapons expenditures now exceed all other national armies combined - diverting vital attention and resources from the biggest threat to national security.
Stay tuned for an all-out assault that could determine the outcome of future life on our home planet. The United States of America could very well succeed in the biggest knockout of all time!
There's Dubya in his corner now, getting last minute instructions from his handlers - Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rice and Cheney. Decked out in borrowed combat boots, camouflage fatigues and flight helmet, the scrawny but scrappy President-select sports a t-shirt emblazoned with " WANNABE WARRIOR " on the front, "ARMAGEDDON OR BUST" on the reverse.
The big question on everyone's minds is: Can this transplanted Texan end Earth's evolution? We'll be right back after these grotesque commercials for heart-stopping junk food, weekend holidays halfway around the world, carcinogenic cosmetics, and 6 miles-per-gallon urban assault vehicles∑
Welcome back sports fans! In the opposite corner, a few desolate devotees are attending Mother Earth. Somehow her radiant beauty still shines through a mass of bruises and contusions. Her gown is torn, one arm is in a sling, and oh - as the bell rings - she appears to be having difficulty standing.
Let me say quickly that though it's a perfect venue here in America, almost all 130 million seats are empty. What promises to be the most decisive title decision in history is not even being televised by America's Big Five networks, whose executives insist that there is "no money" in covering issues as boring as the environment flowing through each of our lungs and veins.
Right now, I've got my 'binos on a small group of Enviros huddled way back in the bleachers. "GO MOM!" proclaims their banner, inscribed over that famous NASA photo of a radiant blue planet alone in the infinity of space - before becoming completely enshrouded by smog. Some greens appear to be weeping. Others are shaking their fists. But repeated renditions of the national anthem are drowning out whatever they're chanting.
Arrayed around Dubya, a close corporate contingent representing Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Arms, and Great Big Cars are waving a banner reading "BIOCIDE FOR BUCKS". The bell brings them to their feet, cheering wildly as their man leaps into the ring with his trademark sneer.
This can't be legal! Bush has just thrown a handful of Depleted Uranium dust into Earth's face! Breaking out in a radioactive rash from Kosovo to Kabul, Tennessee to Baghdad, she reels back, choking on uranium 238. In contravention of three arms treaties, Congress has also authorized $15 million to prepare for the resumption of nuclear bomb testing at the Nevada Test Site, where nearly 1,000 nukes were detonated during the not-so Cold War.
Even the best-designed bunker-busters can burrow only 50 feet before exploding - not deep enough to contain the fallout they would create. In 1962 a 140-kiloton nuke detonated 635 feet underground left a crater a quarter-mile across. Though the smoking hole only reached to half the depth of the detonated device, the blast threw 12 million tons of radioactive earth into the air, where it became potentially lethal airborne fallout. [USA Today July 6/03]
Where is the referee? Fooled by the "EPA" logo stitched on Bush's gloves, Earth never sees the next punches coming, so fast they're almost sleigh-of-hand.
Wham-wham! Dubya unleashes a one-two combination of toxic waste and air pollution deregulation so lethal, city exposure to airborne corporate contaminants currently increases the American death toll by 5% within 24 hours. [New England Journal of Medicine Dec. 14/02]
Incredible! Here we have the so-called Environmental Protection Agency changing the rules in mid-fight to allow industrial waste to be legally poured into U.S. waterways - while the nation's dirtiest coal-burning power plants are encouraged to expand. The number of drastically dangerous environmental cleanup sites has been cut in half. And changes to the Clean Water Act will remove most streams from all protection, allowing rising levels of arsenic into the drinking water of American cities.
Yelling "Consumption is idiotic, I mean patriotic!" Bush's lands another greenhouse roundhouse to Earth's lungs!
She's down! The old girl is on the matt! The referee is crying as he starts throwing successive fingers in that dreaded count to 10.
Water levels on the Danube are more than three feet below the minimum needed for barge traffic. The Elbe is impassable. The drying Rhine is only deep enough to support lightly loaded boats. [AP July 28/03]
It doesn't look good for Earth! Temperatures across Europe have been stuck for weeks at 15 to 20 degrees C above the usual seasonal highs! In the Finnish town of Utti, glacial lakes have turned to bathwater as temperatures hit 30C Ų instead of the usual 19. In Paris, where one official spoke of "carnage the likes of which doubtless has never been seen in France," 50 people have died from extreme heat in the last few days." [Toronto Star Aug. 11/03]
Farmers in eastern Germany expect up to 80% crop loss this year, while Italian officials must soon decide between using scarce water to irrigate crops or turn turbines to keep factories going. [AP 8/10/03]
Pope John Paul II is urging everyone to pray for rain after Londoners experienced the hottest day in the city's history, and forest fires in Croatia, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain have ravaged nearly half a million acres. Authorities in Portugal say the fires have caused $1 billion in damage. [AFP Aug 10 and 11/03]
As Hong Kong swelters in a record heat wave, the UV index has hit "14" on a scale where "7" is considered "high". [People‚s Daily July18/03]
It looks like a technical knockout as temperatures hit a record 116 degrees F in Phoenix - where it is so hot, a woman who fainted and fell face first on a sidewalk was rushed to a burn unit, her skin scalded by the searing pavement. At least two people have died from hyperthermia - or heat exposure. In India, more than 1,100 people died after the thermometers hit 120 degrees! [New York Times July 19/0]]
Top scientists say global warming could soon ratchet world temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees higher than normal - "wiping out" global food and water supplies, "traumatizing" most economies, and "fundamentally changing" everyday life.
Now Earth is stirring, moaning, moving∑Earth is up! Weaving, coughing, sweating - somehow she's back on her feet as Europe's leading scientists say the extreme heatwave already smothering more than 30 countries in the northern hemisphere could signal acceleration in human-made climate change.
Meteorologist Michael Knobelsdorf is here with me now. Mike, what do our top atmospheric scientists make of this burning summer?
"Most of us were thinking that in 20-30 years' time we would be seeing hot spells like this. But it's happening now."
Does this mean Earth's climate is becoming chaotic?
"What's remarkable is that these extremes of weather are happening at such short intervals, which suggests the climate is unbalanced. Last year in Germany, we were under water. Now we have one of the worst droughts in human memory." [The Guardian Aug. 6/03]
This could be the chance for Bush and his supporters to put the planet down for the count! Last week's legislative knock-out of fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. automakers has given this petroleum president the leverage he needs to follow through on his earlier knockout of the Kyoto Treaty curbing carbon emissions.
With average USA passenger vehicle fuel economy plummeting over the past two decades, and motorists flocking to buy dinosaur-like SUVs exempt from fuel economy standards, the Republican Senate destroyed a Democratic amendment to cut America's gasoline use by 45% over the next dozen years.
While British Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to persuade Bush to act on the Kyoto accord calling for 20% reductions in greenhouse carbon pollution, the latest report on Energy and Climate Change by a British Royal Commission recommends emission reduction of 60% by 2050. Instead, emissions from the US are up 14% since 1990, and are projected to climb a further 12% over the next decade. [The Guardian July28'03]
You heard right, Earth fans! With the USA currently bogged down in two oil wars - and Europe and Japan moving quickly toward a post-petroleum economy as Earth enters meltdown - American legislators representing the Oil Mafia have wisely chosen to enrich themselves with campaign contributions while deepening their country's oil dependence. [AP July 30/03]
Oh, this is painful to watch. Under repeated petroleum-powered blows, the disintegration of the melting Matterhorn has seen that crown jewel of the Alps closed to the public after more than 70 climbers were airlifted beyond the reach of avalanches in the biggest mass rescues in mountaineering history [The Observer July 20/03]
Showing no mercy, Bush moves in and puts a hammerlock on this punch-drunk planet's faltering atmosphere!
Who can believe this? Having just torn up the planet's most important remaining international agreement - the Montreal Protocol to protect Earth's ozone layer - Bush is tripling America's use of methyl bromide!
Linked to sharply increased prostate cancers in farmers (and presumably their crops' consumers), this potent pesticide is the greatest ozone shield destroyer remaining in the inventories of industrialised countries. Led by California, the USA currently uses one-fourth of the world's entire production of this dangerously polluting poison, which everywhere else is being rapidly replaced with safer substitutes.
But not in the USA! Bush's next punch - a blindingly fast reversal of the agreed 2005 phase-out of methyl bromide - hits Earth hard.
"Tear up all the treaties!" he screams at spectators from the Two-Thirds World. "Why waste money protecting the environment when freedom-loving Americans are going to trash it anyway?"
Joe Sixpack may be oblivious to the crackup of planet Earth. But Joe Farman isn't happy. Here with me in the booth is the Cambridge scientist who originally discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. Well, Joe, given the already precarious state of our spaceship's solar radiation shielding and the consequences for all life forms if gene-destroying rays come streaming through, what do you think about America's very strong attack on the remnants of Earth's ozone layer?
"This is madness! We do not need this chemical. We do need the ozone layer. How stupid can people be?" [The Independent July 20/03]
Ah, thanks Joe. Luckily for all of us, the bell has just rung, ending this late round. With both contestants returning to their corners, let's break for these vital sponsors' messages of mindless, enslaving consumption∑
Welcome back, sports fans. I don't want to sound prematurely pessimistic, but with all these assaults on her air, fresh water, atmosphere, oceans and land it's hard to see how Earth can survive much more of this relentless punishment. As a few Enviros embrace her in the corner, on the opposite side of the ring the seemingly invincible USA is sweating hard from the exertions needed to knock out an entire planet.
"Water!" gasps America, reaching for big buckets labeled "Ogallala Aquifer" and "LA Basin".
Bush shakes the buckets, peers inside, tips them upside down. Only a thin trickle of water splashes out. Squandered on desert lawns, sprawling cities and golf courses, it looks like there will soon be no more water for a thirsty America!
Does this dramatic turn-around portend an unexpected outcome in this cliffhanger bout? What will the USA do without water? Will it invade northern Canuckistan next?
We won't have long to find out because∑the bell has rung on what could very well be the final round of this contemptible contest.
A nasty uppercut by Bush opens remaining protected U.S. lands from the Tongas to the Olympic Peninsula to clearcutting. A blinding right-left combination rips away protections for wetlands and endangered species across the USA.
Doesn't this conceptually challenged bully understand the word "extinction"? Now the USA is going completely berserk! Ignoring referee Kofi Annan, hitting above and below the belt, Bush attacks Earth with strip mines, cows and cruise missiles - landing repeated blows that contravene conventions, compassion and common sense.
Wait! The fury of America's attack on all her children appears to have awakened Mother Earth's protective instincts. Oh, look out! Transformed into a whirlwind, she purses her mouth and - puff - blows the USA clear across the ring! The USA is hammered by 562 tornados as the highest temperatures ever reached are recorded globally. [The Guardian July28/03]
Oh! Ouch! Earth is angry now. A stunning series of floods, droughts and wildfires whipsaws North America from one extreme to the other. Even America's vaunted military is powerless to counter winds of hundreds of miles per hour as the jetstream touches down in hundreds of cities and communities without warning.
Look out! Tropical diseases swarming north on the wings of petroleum-powered global warming appear to be swamping America's resistance - while taking down the remnants of a medical system already being stripped of one trillion dollars to pay for visiting mass killing, misery and destruction on Earth's poorest countries.
Now Bush is calling for a spin-doctor! But it could be too late to cover up from the blows raining down like karma.
It looks like the USA has been caught looking the wrong way. Scorched by an unprotected sun, half-drowned by rising rivers and oceans, Bush tries to launch air force tankers to renew a futile chemical sunscreen. But there is no more money and no more cheap gas to fly the big jets - which are needed elsewhere to keep some 60 "enemy" countries under control.
Ooh, look at that! Baked Alaska's permafrost is melting fast - buckling vital highways, pipelines and entire communities as aboriginal peoples search in vain for words denoting "mosquito" and "robin" in their 12,000-year-old language.
With us now is the Knight Ridder News Service. Can you tell us what is happening to this panting Alaskan canary, which appears indicative of where the rest of the "Lower 48" is rapidly heading?
"Alaska is melting. Glaciers are receding. Permafrost is thawing. Roads are collapsing. Forests are dying. Villages are being forced to move, and animals are being forced further north to seek new habitats. Adding 13.2 trillion gallons of melted water to the seas each year, Alaska's melting glaciers are the No. 1 reason the oceans are rising.
"Global warming is also bringing a proliferation of the spruce-bark beetle." Even as more species of tree-killing insects invade this fast-warming state, "more than 4 million acres of spruce - Alaska's predominant tree - have already been killed. Scientific reports also blame global warming for plummeting populations of herring and salmon" - unable to spawn in warming waters, and afflicted by a lethal warm-water parasite. [July 31/03]
Could the Bush team's profiteering efforts to boost oil and coal burning, while tearing up international environmental treaties, eliminating eco protections across the United States and spending every available borrowed dollar on obscenely expensive and mostly useless weaponry possibly be contributing to the knockdown of this once great country? Will yet another empire bite the bitter dirt of a permanently pestilential dust bowl?
It seems incredible that all of Bush's generals and armchair warriors left climate change out of the natural security equation. My last guest is John Houghton. - a climate scientist who co-chairs the UN Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. John, why do you claim the weapons of mass destruction have been found?
"The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a 'weapon of mass destruction'. Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere, in any form - a heatwave in one place, a drought or a flood or a storm surge in another. Nor is this just a problem for the future. The 1990s were probably the warmest decade in the last 1,000 years, and 1998 the warmest year. Global warming is already upon us."
Which country is the world's leading eco-terrorist state?
"The U.S. government, in an abdication of leadership of epic proportions, is refusing to take the problem seriously. Emissions from the US are up 14% on those in 1990 - and are projected to rise by a further 12% over the next decade∑It is vital that Russia now ratifies the Kyoto protocol so that it can at last come into force. But while the US refuses to cooperate, it is difficult to see how the rest of the world can make much progress on the much tougher longer-term agreements that will be necessary after Kyoto's mandate runs out in 2012."
Thanks John. There you have it, folks. As Mother Earth and the USA wobble around the ring, it seems only a matter of moments before one or both goes down.
Oh no. What now? I don't quite know how to say this. A tremendous groan has just gone up, shaking the stadium with collective dismay. Mother Earth has just collapsed! They are rushing hydrogen life-support into the ring. I don't know if it‚s in time. I just don‚t know.
Is it too late? Will Earth recover? If we can curb our personal rates of reproduction, carbon burning and consumption∑if we begin acting rightly, with respect for ourselves, each other, all children and our mother planet∑there may just be a chance.
It's going to be close. The final outcome of this unequal contest - now and for all the generations of myriad lives to come - is up to each one of us.
Alex Farrell, assistant professor of energy and resources at UC Berkeley, and David Keith, associate professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University say that improvements to current cars using available off-the-shelf technologies and tightening current environmental rules would be more than 100-times cheaper than developing hydrogen cars to cut the air pollution causing climate chaos.
"Clean" hydrogen is a myth, they point out, because burning greenhouse oil and coal to "crack" water to produce hydrogen uses more dirty energy than the 'clean" energy eventually produced by fuel cells Ų whose water vapor combustion byproduct is itself a potent heat-trapping gas. [Reuters Jul 18/03]
Climate change is now in the Chaos Zone of drastic and unpredictable cascading effects. Pay attention. Park your cars. Turn off lights and appliances. Cut personal consumption.
Love your mom.
A former member of the U.S. military who resigned his commission in protest to civilian killing during the Vietnam War, William Thomas served as a member of a three-man Environmental Emergency Response Team in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during and immediately following the last Gulf War. William Thomas is the author of Bringing The War Home.
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