It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is this funny?

This wandered into my email. I sure hope it's supposed to be a joke. I think it is (Tripp's Institute?) But to quote the feminists and the light bulb joke, "I don't think there's anything funny about that."

This is sad and interesting not because it is serious, but because the nature of the joke shows how we are being misperceived. It's the "in it for the gold" accusation all over. "Global warming?" I responded. "No, that's finished. You can only play that violin for so long. This last winter took care of that money maker with the extreme cold and heavy ice and snow in mid-America."

Hmm. Well, stay tuned, I guess. I wonder when this noise actually goes away. In the 1990s I predicted it would go away about now, when the changes started to become casually obvious. I was too optimistic. I wonder how long people will keep blaming cosmic rays or 1500 year cycles or leprechauns, anything but their own foolishness...
I was in San Diego several weeks ago and drove over to Ocean Beach to dip my footsies into the Pacific. I was surprised to witness one of the lowest tides I'd ever seen. The water was out past the end of the pier that extends from the end of Newport Avenue. I'd never seen that before. Later that day, I was having lunch with an old high school friend who happens to be a scientist at The Tripp's Institute of Oceanography, in La Jolla.

I mentioned the low tide to him and he suddenly got a
serious look on his face. "You've seen first hand the next natural disaster that's gripping the world," he said. "Global warming?" I responded. "No, that's finished. You can only play that violin for so long. This last winter took care of that money maker with the extreme cold and heavy ice and snow in mid-America. However, there's a new crises looming that's real and could very well mark the end of life, as we know it. It's been labeled, The Noah Affect. It involves the seeming disappearance of water from the earth."

"Why the Noah Affect?" I queried. "That was a deluge that blanketed
the earth with water."

"Well, yes, but after the flood there can a period of water being
quickly dried up. In that case it was accomplished by high winds, hot, dry days and a return of extreme cold to the polar ice caps. But now we're seeing the departure of water for no apparent reason at all… except possibly one."

"What is that one," I asked.

"Containers," he replied. "You see, us scientists had found a convenient way of making a few bucks by selling people on the idea that their drinking water wasn't worth drinking. At the same time we were investing in bottled water companies and as it turned out, seeing great returns on our investments. But what happened next really surprised us. Soon, nearly every man, woman and child in the civilized world was drinking only bottled water."

"So how does that affect the water supply? Doesn't it still end up in the same places once it is consumed?"

"Well, yes… and no. The problem is that there is an ever growing
abundance of water in plastic bottles sitting on store shelves and in warehouses. Plus, something we hadn't counted on was the way people dispose of their nearly empty water bottles. Let me ask you this; the last time you drank a bottle of water; when you threw away the bottle, was it dry inside and did you replace the cap?"

I thought for a moment. I immediately saw where this was going. "The last time I drank a bottle of water, when I threw the bottle away, it was recapped and there was about two ounces of water still remaining in the bottle."

"There in lies the problem. That's what most people do and the bottle
ends up in a landfill where it will take about a hundred years to deteriorate to the point where that water again enters the water life cycle. Now, if you multiply that by five billion people a day throwing a cup or more of water in the trash, you've got about twenty billion ounces of water tied up for a hundred years… each day. In a month you have six-hundred billion ounces and on and on. Well, you can quickly see what's happening. It's been estimated that in ten years, the world's oceans will be about twenty-five percent smaller and with the depth of the seas decreasing, the polar ice caps will extend further south, gobbling up more useable water. That, in turn, will affect the climate and we'll see global cooling taking place. In fact, we may have already seen the early effects of it this past winter. It will change the whole eco system in ways we've never experienced before and available water for crops will virtually disappear."

I left San Diego that day with a giant lump in my stomach, resolved to make sure I never capped a plastic bottle again. It's scary to think about, but I'm convinced my scientist friend is right. I've been to the beach and seen it for myself.

Doesn't the carbon "end up in the same places"? Well, probably, but not before causing us a lot of trouble for a few intervening centuries... Sorry I'm having trouble seeing this joke as funny...

Update: How about this similar joke? It is sort of funny. I think it wasn't intended as humor though.

3 comments:

EliRabett said...

It's hilarious. OTOH, there actually is evidence that sea level rise has been affected by increasing storage of water behind dams.

Thomas Palm said...

I found it funny too.

Anonymous said...

I had to check my calendar and splash cold water on my face to be sure I was not being gigged by the "Noah Affect".

Question: is drinking bottled sea water hazardous to one's health?

John McCormick