Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dear Mr. Vice-President - May I Call You Dick?

Dear Mr. Vice-President

Regarding the proposal I submitted for your review entitled “How to Solve the Climate Crisis: Must I Do Everything Myself?” Thank you for a your prompt response. It was most gratifying that your representatives contacted me even before I had fully withdrawn my hand from the postal box into which I was placing the completed dossier for delivery to you office. Given the astonishingly swift reaction my query elicited, I can only conclude that the media has created a false impression of your disposition on this matter in the public mind.

Clearly, you care very much about the environment after all.

My thanks to your staff. In these past several weeks they have been unfailingly attentive towards me. I am ashamed to tax your hospitality even further by respectfully requesting some additional luxuries. A little natural light, perhaps? And some clothes. And if someone would be so kind as to phone my wife and let her know when she might expect my return.

By the way… When exactly might my wife expect my return?

But your time is valuable...

Sir, I am not one who pays much attention to contemporary politics, but I am an unerring judge of character. I see the torment that is in your heart. You want desperately to alert the world to the dangers of global warming, to light the great beacon of public peril. But, like a Hamlet, all your urge to action is swamped by the erratic tides of an internal equivocation you cannot suppress.

Why, you wonder, why can't you ever just make a decision?!

Do not be ashamed that I have read your innermost thoughts so clearly.

And even if you were to speak up, how can one quiet-voiced, soft-hearted man hope to convince the sour Brahmins of conservatism to cease their obstructionism? To date, they have parried every approach. We have engaged in dialogue, but perpetual political dueling has poisoned the soil where compromise would sprout. We have pleaded for modest restraint of industries that pollute, but reluctance to regulate is their central imperative. We have offered facts, but the pronouncements of scientists they slough off as the naval-gazing of an effeminate academia.

So let us speak to them in terms they understand. Let us sell them insurance.

Conservatives love insurance. It provides a means by which they may hedge against the mischief of death, the fires soon to be set by their estranged children, and the divorce that must ensue when they at last acknowledge their own homosexuality. Insurance lets them profit each time the world proves to be as dark and menacing as they secretly wish it to be. And though they may witness one of their children tragically sucked into a wood chipper, they find satisfaction via the miracle of remuneration, and more still in the validation of their negative outlook.

Like you, I can only pity their wretchedness.

But let us take the opportunity presented by our opponents' spiritual deformity. Let us address the issue of climate change not as one political or scientific, but as one actuarial. Let us eschew the patchouli-scented, flower-powered argument of harmonious planetary stewardship that conservatives find repellent and propose the horse-sense of a fiscal hedge.

What would they offer in refutation?

Perhaps they would be reluctant to insure against an event they believe to be without precedent. They might note that insurers have audited history's track of eyeballs gouged, limbs severed, homes devoured in flame and luxury yachts drunkenly grounded. Actuarial odds makers can offhandedly calculate precisely the chance that you will regain full use of your fingers after fishing around in an airplane lavatory for the meth pipe you dropped. But we have yet to lose a planet. Come back after that happens, they will say. Then we'll talk.

Others on the right will know that the planet has indeed been lost before. Paleogeology shows that life on earth has been ravaged to its barest foundations by climatic reversals on several occasions in its deep past. But those who grasp earth's history can be no less stubborn. They seem to believe that the fact that disaster can strike even without cars or coal-fueled power plants means we should adopt a fatalistic passivity. As they watch their grandchildren scraping the baked clay for grubs to eat, they will take comfort in the fact that it might not be completely their fault.

But the masters of industry will open themselves to the message if it comes from you whom they blindly believe to be one of their own. Tell them! Tell them how data from ice cores and fossil samples, from ocean temperatures and atmospheric analysis, from studies of forestation patterns and species extinction all add up to the most tragic thing they can envision.

Reduced growth.

Paint the horrors of this future for them in all its sickening detail. The consumer products collecting dust on store shelves because a malnourished populace has not the energy for shopping. Sales of jet-ski's drying up as fast as the rivers and lakes upon which they once frolicked. Thousands of Mediterranean cruises refunded because the fleet is being used as temporary housing for 200 million African refugees.

"No!" They will cry, "Not refunds!"

Compel them to confront the monstrous horror of commerce impaired, the piteous site of profits reduced, and the soul-crushing purposelessness of life when quarterly revenue targets are not achieved. Then they will ante up. They will beg you to take their money to build windmills. To install solar panels. To convert cars to run on fryer oil.

For you, Dick--may I call you Dick?--the sacrifice required may be total. You must never allow the forces of evil to know the real you. You must be to all observers unfeeling, bitter, selfish, and cruel, even if the strain causes the true light of your spirit to flicker and go out.

But you can do it. Just be yourself.