William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Mandatory suicide to reduce carbon footprint no joke

In an interview with Stephen Wright at Cracked.com, the comedian tells a favorite joke: You never know what you have until it’s gone, and I wanted to know what I had, so I got rid of everything. He lamented, “I really like that one, but it didn’t really get a laugh.”

Every comedian has a story of a beloved joke that never gets a laugh, and of other quips that everybody inexplicably likes.

I tell you this my friends because I worry about you. My number two son and I posted a “story” about Zombie Attacks Increasing Due to Global Warming, and the thing is linked at hundreds, and at a growing number, of websites. But the next day’s post—in my opinion, my most hilarious—about people willfully turning themselves into Soylent Green to battle climate change didn’t even rate a chuckle. Many of you even took it seriously! You can’t go wrong with Zombies, I guess. (By the way, check out waywardrobot.com today.)

The posting on the Soylent Coroporation’s government contract to encourage people to Go Home–i.e., commit suicide—to reduce their “carbon footprint” was, of course, a satirical observation on the zany lengths to which people will go when swayed by ideology. But it actually wasn’t too far off the mark.

How do I know this? Well, according to this fine article by Brad Allenby at GreenBiz.com, a “recent study from the Swedish Ministry of Sustainable Development argues that males have a disproportionately larger impact on global warming” because “women cause considerably fewer carbon dioxide emissions than men and thus considerably less climate change.” So we need fewer men.

Think the worst of sins is driving an SUV? Not a chance. Being obese and having children also up people’s carbon output. Eating meat is bad, too. These behaviors obviously have to be curtailed, if not voluntarily, then at some point by force—force of law, of course.

It might not come to that. There might be enough deeply concerned volunteers to pull the load for the rest of us. Says humble citizen Erik Daehler, in an article about how we can all do out part, “You do have to sacrifice,” said Daehler. “I think a lot of people are going to have to soon assess themselves and figure out that what they give up now may allow their kids to have it, or their kids’ kids to have it. It’s sort of a selfish relationship we have with the environment right now.”

But even reducing your [carbon] footprint to zero and living a so-called carbon neutral life may not be enough, said the [director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate change program John] Steelman.

You can take yourself out of the equation,” he said…(emphasis mine)

[Ordinary citizen] Tony Napolillo said he won’t wait for politicians to act.

“Everybody has to realize they have personal responsibility,” he said. “They can’t just wait for the government or the corporate world to do something about it. If everybody could strive to be carbon neutral, this would be a greater world.”

It’s never too long these days before reality overtakes parody, so I should take my own advice and leave well enough alone, before somebody does think “Going Home” is a good idea.

7 Comments

  1. Administrator

    February 5, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Thanks to Vaquero over at FreeRepublic.com for reminding us of this picture:

  2. Apparently many of your readers are in the under 50 category. It is we who missed your reference to Soylent Green. When I read Soylent Green, I thought it was a wierd name for another vegetarian/greenie company — perhaps something to do with soy. How many people who were under 15 in 1973, who would be under 50 now, saw that movie? Without that, context the “go home” euphemism means nothing. Now that I understand it, I can appreciate the humour of that San Fran post, but if a joke has to be explained, then it is not funny to the listener/reader.

    On the flip side, I doubt there is a generation alive that has not heard of zombies.

    John M Reynolds

  3. Writing blog satire is very tricky. Particularly when dealing with California (esp San Francisco) politicians. It is almost impossible to invent humorous hyperbole that goes beyond what the politicians themselves actually do and say.

    I usually label my blog satires with the tag “satire,” just to be sure that readers understand.

    An interesting twist on the “Soylent Green” idea is the “Pyrolysis Green.” That is, feeding the dead bodies of politicians into a pyrolysis process for producing bio-oil–green, sustainable, energy for a brighter future.

    You would think that such a program would discourage people from becoming politicians in the first place, but that would be overestimating their intelligence and underestimating their hunger for power.

  4. Administrator

    February 5, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    John, Al,

    You’re both quite right, of course. I haven’t reached, and won’t reach, 50 for a while yet, but I had counted more on the higher proportions of geeks on the web who might have known the movie.

    And teasing California is probably always a losing game. It’s difficult to invent behavior that is more ridiculous than they invent for themselves.

    Briggs

  5. Lets put this in perspective. Not nice, surely but it’s a “self solving problem” and should be encouraged. Darwin would chuckle. Surely if you’re prepared to end your life without checking out, even basic facts, that is to be applauded. Darwin’s awards nominees anyone. I really don’t see a problem here (mean that)

  6. My daughter was up till nearly 12:00 last night crafting a response to the quesion: what was George Orwell’s point in his book Animal Farm?

    As one who “gets” satire, I felt compelled to get out of my warm bed to keep her discussion on the right track.

    How easy to “get” it; how difficult to articulate what it means!

    But you’ve inspired me: my own modest proposal for handling the “greens” is forthcoming!

    And since I’m old as well as wise, I recall Soylent Green’s model: Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, 1966.

  7. Suicide? That’s harsh.

    How about just going homeless?

    I am trying to start a “go homeless” movement. This has the side benefit of helping solve the ongoing housing crisis. If I can just find a few celebrities to make it look cool, it will be a home run for Mother Earth.

    Please let me know if you have any tips on getting started at rootbusinesstools.com

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