Thursday, July 27, 2006

Three Second Memory

Everybody knows that goldfish are stupid. The irrefutable evidence lies in their (perhaps somewhat mythological) habit of eating any food that's put into their bowls, even to the point of bloating their little golden tummies to death.

Humans, on the hand, are geniuses. The evidence lies in our big brains, big tools, and resulting domination over a big planet.

Thus it's confusing when such smart creatures mimic brainless ones. Take our Senate's passage of a bill that expands oil drilling in the Gulf Coast, rhetorically supported in large part as a way combat continually rising fuel prices. There are many fascinating aspects of this bill - for example, that if turned into law, some of the dividends from the extracted oil and natural gas would be given to the nearby states instead of only to the federal government; or that certain congresspeople who normally support drilling would suddenly oppose drilling if their states wouldn't benefit financially from this bill; or, even more interestingly, that legislators who normally oppose drilling would consider supporting this bill if their states weren't negatively affected.

But I'm not here to point out senators' internal inconsistencies; that's Garry Trudeau's job. I'm here to call humans stupid. Why else would we think the long-term solution to oil dependency was to continue sucking oil out of the earth faster than it is replenished? Why else would so much more money be dumped into finding new places to drill oil than into finding alternatives to oil?

Because we're goldfish. We like to consume, and no whiney long-haired hippie with speeches about the planet's mother spirit, nor any scientist with tales of woe about distant, abstract concepts of resource depletion will dissuade us from consuming. There's nothing unnatural about this; unfortunately, though, there's nothing natural about drilling for oil.

I would like one day to devise the perfect campaign to encourage environmentalism and conservation in the developed and developing worlds. I imagine it will involve reminders about how our grandchildren will inherit our world and our mistakes, and how attractive things like redwoods and tigers should be preserved so we can continue to enjoy them. This is not my ideal message, but it seems so far to be the most effective.

In the meantime, the environmentalists will continue to operate as a disjointed, misrepresented, maligned faction of society, and Ted Stevens will continue to be an idiot.

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