Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

Imagine there existed a very special and undeniably fantastic machine, one that could possibly solve all of our environmental issues. A hundred to a handful, these miraculous machines could be transported by the thousands to any location with virtually no energy cost. Once prepared (and the preparation is nothing, even unknowingly dropping one may sufficeth), the cogs of the machine would set themselves into motion, unfolding from its capsule, expanding to the exact specifications allowed implicitly surroundings, fueled by the very greenhouse gases which so worry us presently.

The machine would require zero maintenance, it would be able to repair itself. Since it pulls energy from its surroundings, no lines would need to be run, no fleet of technicians would be required to assure continuing functionality.

I hope I'm not getting too far out there, but imagine also that these machines could pull from the air (thus purifying it) our modern environmental ills and transform them into edible, indeed highly nutritional bits of sustenance. So deep in fantasy we are, we may as well engineer these machines to also produce more, better machines. The machines could be so efficient that their newly produced versions needn't be transported by humans at all, but by animals (who happily reside within and are sustained by the machines) tricked into carrying them to new suitable areas. Were the machine population to explode, the results would only be clean air and plentiful food.

The successful creation of such a machine would unquestionably be the greatest feat of mankind thus far and would probably remain such for a long time. Unfortunately we will never be able to take that claim, not for lack of possibility but because it has already been done by the invisible force that also happened to make us--nature. You've probably already guessed that these miraculous machines are called Trees (and more generally plants), but please don't let your self-satisfaction for discovering that which I obfuscated override the content of my facade. Trees may not be able to solve All of our problems (using their wood as a fuel source releases all the CO2 they capture over their lifetime, which is rather counterproductive), but they could solve a Lot of our problems. The campaign to stop deforestation and recognize the truly miraculous essence of trees is an old and sadly frail one, something I hope changes soon and fast. Hopefully with this new perspective I have attempted to offer you you can see why existing trees must be protected and new trees must be planted (lots and lots of them)--that we lack the technical competence to create such a powerful and profound green-machine, and that we are beyond fortunate to have been given so many. That we might cut them down so that millions of items of junk mail (and memos, fliers, etc.) can be sent directly to the junkyard is a Tragedy. Before the saw was conceived, moving a large tree was equivalent to moving a mountain... now we have the technology to move real mountains yet we still cut down trees. Can't we at least move them before we consider cutting them down? Perhaps we need to start hanging signs on every tree that says

This tree is working hard to ensure that Earth will remain habitable for mankind (yes, that means you and your children) and all life (yes, there are other living things about, and they would rather like to stick around too). Please do not disturb unless massive extinction is desired.

PS - money is not an acceptable motive for disruption of future Earth habitability.

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