Monday, December 17, 2007

Climate Scientists at Prayer

Just yesterday, the Pope weighed in on the subject of climate change. Which is helpful, because what better way to cut through the noise of debate than to get an infallible opinion?

The Pope reportedly intimated that the climate debate was being skewed by a fringe group of unethical, ideologically hidebound charlatans hell bent on obscuring truth and ignoring reason in order to get their way. Just who are these nefarious schemers? No, not the baptists, whose grill one might expect the Pope to be eager to get all up in. The evildoers are--wait for it--the environmentalists! Apparently they have been driven by their Wiccan masters to create a mass illusion of global warming so that they may play midwife to the birth of a brave new world of composting toilets, recumbent bicycles and hackey-sack tournaments.

Needless to say, like any decent satirist, I wept for joy when I heard the report. When, pray, had fertilizer distributor ever backed up a dump truck in a driveway and disgorged six cubic yards of such fecund manure in which to cultivate the pointless and profitless musings of an intellectual mediocrity such as I? In my imagination, I humbly accepted numerous major awards for the riotous, scathing, globally transformative, and yet somehow achingly poignant piece I would soon write on the topic. At the thought of how poignant it would be, tears welled in my eyes again, though I had not the foggiest notion from whence the aforementioned poignancy would be derived.

Just one problem. What the Pope actually said was nothing like what they said he said. Perhaps the pointy hat thingy he wears fell down over his face and momentarily obscured his words.

This was an enormous disappointment. It was like a dream where you are starting your swing on a world series winning homer and suddenly the bat becomes a live chicken and the ball turns into Carol Channing. You awake to the deafening screeching that ensues.

However, I find some small solace in this little dumpling of a thought: the Pope was actually correct when he said what he never said. The environmentalists are close minded ideologues committed to world domination. I ought to know--for I am the most pious of environmentalists.

Though we are a largely ecumenical collection, all environmentalists acknowledge one central, revealed truth: the apocalypse is nigh. Christians, for their part, welcome the apocalypse. It signals the coming of the Messiah, redemption, and the kingdom of God. Though the Bible is short on details with regards to what day to day life will be like after The End, it is generally assumed that in the Kingdom of Christ, gas prices will come down to under a dollar a gallon, fat will be considered attractive, and malls will be open 24/7. On lazy summer evenings, the children will catch fireflies until dusk, and then roast marshmallows over the fresh burning corpses of gays and atheists.

Surely for Christianity these are flush times. They've got a ringer in the White House, the signs of the second coming falling into place like three cherries on a slot machine, and, apparently, unlimited access to meth-dealing male prostitutes. What could be better than that? If they have an enemy right now, it can only be complacency. It's a wonder they don't just lay around in bed all day.

Not so for we environmentalists. We believe that there is no "after" The End. It will be like sleep, but without dreams, and not followed by coffee and pancakes. Ever.

Thus, for us there is no greater goal than the preservation of our own skinny little vegan asses.

You must understand, we don't have a Bible of our own to provide insight as to what the future holds, what meaning there is to existence, or whether it's OK to eat shellfish. Instead we are reliant upon the constantly revised consensus of a class of mystics we call "scientists." Selected based on how smart they look in glasses and how dull they are at parties, they roam the four corners of the globe (which we hold by faith to be spherical, by the way) and look for signs that will tell us what the future holds and what meaning there is to existence.

Once, in ancient times, scientists conducted their investigations by examining the organs of sacrificed sheep, the distribution of scattered cowrie shells, and the patterns of bird flight. Nowadays, they do exactly the same thing, but they have clipboards and they wash their hands frequently. Periodically, our scientists gather together, compare notes, and then issue a statement of belief. And their belief becomes our creed, or canon, if you will.

Right now, our piously held faith with regard to the future is that there isn't going to be one.

You can see why this realization, by itself, would be upsetting. But to fully appreciate the extent of our present discomfiture, you must take into account a second fundamental doctrine of our order, which is that life has no meaning.

Now you might think that believing that life has no intrinsic meaning would incline us to surrender our mortal coils with a shrug of indifference. But counterintuitive as it might seem, though we're not sure why we are living, we are really, really, REALLY certain we don't want to die.

Thus we environmentalists face a paradox framed by core tenets of our own beliefs, an existential crisis analogous to the impending permanent triumph of Satan. Really-really-don't-want-to-die, meet going-to-die. There's plenty of room to debate the opposing views of environmentalists and Christian fundamentalists, but it's pretty obvious which group is more acutely dangerous and likely to lash out. You'd better believe we are reevaluating our pacific tendencies regarding means and ends. And while there may still be a list of things we won't do, we don't need a very big piece of paper on which to write them down.

So what the Pope didn't say was true. But before you Christians settle into the cocoon of smug, smarmy, self-satisfaction with which you are so familiar, consider this. Though you may be inclined to dismiss our scientists because they are a little fuzzy on apostolic theology, they've nonetheless proven to be pretty good about predicting events in the world of the senses. They know why plastic wrap keeps casseroles fresh. They know what combinations of fibers lead to itchy underwear. And they know when there's a good chance that the climate is tipping into patterns of behavior unprecedented during man's time on earth, and likely to be a lot more irritating than any wool-blend briefs.

How's the weather down there in Atlanta? Not getting much rain, are you?

Just because you may not be going to hell anytime soon doesn't mean it's not going to get hot.