The New Ballad of Chicken Little

Once upon a day, so bright and fine
Walked Chicken B. Little. A scientist, mind!

“The sky is blue,” he said, “but I am not.”
“For I know much, quite quite a lot.”

His head was in the sky
So he did not espy
The sleeping fellow lying by
the soft grass near the pine.

Chicken Little tripped!
“I am vexed,” he said, “Truly hipped!”

“Who knew the woods would be so rich in people!
They stack up in a great ugly heap hill!”

So Chicken B. Little thought and he mused:
His brilliant mind was naught confused.

“What accounts for this human pollution?
I think I have the simple solution.”

He shouted and cried and then he out-louded,
“The natural world is way over crowded!”

He wrote his revelations down
And brought them straight in to town,
Right to Henny Penny, publisher of books,
Who said, “Ok, I will take a look see.”

“If what you say is true, the world is in for trouble.
And with global warming our trouble is really double!”

The pair rushed the warning words into print
Where they became an instant, chilling hit.

They were read by Cocky Locky, activist,
Who said, “We must tax, tax, tax, I insist!”

“Tax and regulation are the only true solutions
That can really rid us of these human pollutions.”

He said, “There is ample precedent
For us to warn the president!”

So the three ran off to arouse those far and near
And tell them that the end was almost here.

They soon met Turkey Lurkey, who was up for re-election.
He said, “My vote will be our ammunition
In the fight against those damned deniers;
Those oily fat-cats, rogues and liars!”

As they considered what to do,
Up walked Foxy Loxy, who ran an NGO.

“I can help you boys fund your cause
All you need do is sign this clause,
And promise fealty to that great -ism
Which the best of us call socialism.”

“What is this thing called socialism?” asked the troop.
“What does it mean? Can it help our group?”

“It is only for the brightest lights
For those who are sure they’re aways right.
It would put forever and ever in charge
Those whose minds are exceptionally large.”

Each of the four said, “That’s for me!”
Because to find some wiser cannot be.
How perfect, how wonderful and marvelously sublime
If the world were run on scientific lines!”

As they were cooing and comparing IQs,
The Fox said, “Come, all! Let’s join the queue!
We’ll finish the deal in my dark lair.
(It only looks dark; it is actually fare.)”

So down they all went, in one long line,
trusting themselves and thinking, “O, How fine!”

When the door finally closed and all the lines signed
The Fox ate them up: My, how he dined!

But he was not sated; he hungered still.
If only more bodies could add to his mill.

Where could he go to find the great minds
Who would fain rule over all of mankind?

It was then he remembered that great invention
The human-caused change of climate convention!

The End.


A little doggerel never hurt anybody. Thus, I have no compunction dedicating this poem to Anne Ehrlich, who has taken up her father’s burden of telling the world that it is nearly finished.


  1. So… everything’s just fine then, I guess? All the Indians and Chinese and Indonesians and Brazillians can use energy at the continuous rate of 11 kilowatts per capita just like we do and it’s all good?

  2. @ Rob:

    Yes, actually it’s all good for developing nations to rise to our standard of living, including their energy use, which you peg at 11 kilowatts per capita.

    Can you think of any good reason they SHOULDN’T enjoy the fruits of modern-day, life-enhancing, nay, life-SAVING technology?

  3. @ Human Person Junior, Jr.

    Avoiding the is-ought problem, it doesn’t matter if the should or shouldn’t, they can’t. The world uses about 400 “quads” (quadrillion or 10^15 btu)/year of primary energy. The U.S. uses about 100 quads/year. If you type “100 quadrillion btu/year in watts” into Google, it returns 3.34*10^12. Dividing by 306,000,000 (U.S. population) yields 10,915 watts per capita. This is where the 11 kilowatts came from. Now, 7,000,000,000/306,000,000 means there are about 22.9 times as many people on Earth as in the U.S. If they all use energy at 10.9 kilowatts, that’s (7,000,000,000*10,900) 7.63*10^13 watts of primary energy used continuously. Typing “(7.63*10^13 watts)*(1 year) in btu” into Google yields 2.28*10^18 btu. Dividing by 10^15, this means we’d use 2,280 quads per year on Earth, or a little under 6 times what we use on Earth now.

    This, I contend, is impossible. Do you think it’s possible? The input numbers I’ve used are easily available and not argued to be incorrect by anyone. You’re welcome to check the calculations.

  4. Rob,

    The average service to a house in the US is 100 Amps which translates roughly to 12Kw / household. You DO realize the difference between power and energy, yes? You seem to be jumping from watts, a unit of power and , a unit of energy. Just in case you don’t: power is energy divided by time. IOW: power is RATE of energy usage. The proper energy term is kilowatt-hours (power * time). What’s important is the amount of energy used. How fast it’s consumed is largely irrelevant. Why would you want to know the annual rate of energy usage in watts vs. btu/year anyway?

  5. Umm.. That would be a “no.” Try reading it again. Btu is a unit of energy. How much is used PER YEAR is a rate, i.e., power. Primary energy includes ALL energy, not just electricity into homes and businesses. It’s gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, aviation gasoline, bunker oil, coal and natural gas for electricity, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, hydro, tidal, etc. Our use is right at 100 quadrillion btu/year. This is energy divided by time or power.

    The watts conversion is not necessary for the result but if I said “37,190 btu/hour” instead of 10.9 kilowatts, no one would have a grasp of what that meant. Thinking of 109 100 watt light bulbs is easier to grasp. Maybe I should have said 14.6 horsepower. Is 37,190 btu/hour a lot or a little? I doubt the average reader here would know, but 10.9 kilowatts or 14.6 horsepower is easy to grasp. By the way, energy is energy: 1 kilowatt-hour = 3.6*10^6 joules = 3,412 btu.

    As I said, in the U.S. we use 100 quadrillion btu/year. If everyone on Earth used energy at the average rate of the average American, the planet’s people would use 2,280 quadrillion btu/year, not quite six times as much as the 400 quadrillion btu/year they (we) use now. And, of course, this makes no accounting for any growth in population.

  6. Let me strip the superfluous. Ratio of world population to U.S. population (round numbers): 7,000,000,000/300,000,000=23.3. 23.3*100 quads/year=2,330 quads/year if the world did as we do. Current world consumption=400 quads/year. Ratio of what would be needed for everyone to use energy as we do: 2,330/400=5.8. We would need to produce primary energy worldwide at 5.8 times the current rate for the current world population to use energy as we do in the U.S. This is simply not possible.

    The average Western European country uses energy at about half the U.S. rate, so that would mean “only” having to multiply worldwide energy production by 2.9. Of course, we’d have to cut our use in half here in the U.S.

    Any takers?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *