Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Read It Here

I watch the setting sun drop into the Pacific ocean and the sky burns red and the ocean begins to boil, sending off plumes of steam that will bring hot rains tomorrow. It is a straight line across the horizon, but I know it's not flat, it is bowed by the moon into tides and it slopes gently toward the edge of the earth where whiskey barrels full of men tumble over the falls and drop into outer space. They say that the space junk is from satellites, but we know better; it is just millions of whiskey barrels accumulating over time. Once in a while they fall out of orbit and burn up as they enter the atmosphere. The Leonid Meteor Shower is just the debris from the Age of Discovery. I am sure, up there somewhere is James Cook, Vasco da Gama, Barentz, Torrez, Elcano, Urdaneta, Balboa, Cabot, Drake, Hudson, Magellan, and even Columbus - plus their ships and briny crews. Swaggering, swashbuckling men swinging swords, strapped into barrels of salt pork, losing altitude, losing confidence. They say you can count hundreds of them in the night sky in mid-November. From here, one can trace a direct line to a very modern idea: Recycling. Somewhere I read that the earth spirals downward and catches the falling waters and it appears in the heavens as a thing we call rain. Sort of like a cistern that catches the rain that runs off of the roof of a house on the Great Plains. This is recycling. But the rains stopped coming, and the cistern never did fill up and the people fled for their lives and I read somewhere else that it was because they were being punished for the intemperance, sloth, and vanity of their ancestors. Now they recycle guilt from one afterlife to another. This is in the same paper that talks about the flat earth.
So, I turn the page and it says that a large raft of aged surfers is swirling in the south Pacific and threatens to alter the delicate ocean chemistry. They float away from shores along the Pacific rim, like coconuts. I quote one researcher from Wayfare University: "The surfers cover an area as large as the state of Kansas." And we all know that Kansas is nowhere near the ocean. Wait a second, I think I see a whiskey barrel falling in the western sky. A streak, copper colored, and it splashes into the sea like an Apollo module. A plume of steam goes up. Then nothing.
Now, persistence is the main concern. The researcher, Lemkus Boulough, stated, "We see that the inorganic and organic solids in the raft are resistant to biodegradation and ultraviolet light, and the corrosive effects of saltwater are rebuffed by the lipid sheen found on the outer laminates of most of the debris." He held up a large block of yellowish wax. "This is what we find forming in the oil sheen around the debris field. We think it has a half life of ten-thousand years." He lit a match under the wax. "But does it burn!" The paper said that the news conference was called off in order to allow firefighters to gain access to the building.
And byproducts are another concern. From his hospital bed, Boulough stated, "Once decomposition occurs, we see that the byproducts are highly toxic. We find bisphenol A, styrenes, and PS oligomer in alarming concentrations. And we are finding that there is secondary kill of scavengers and predators that cruise the deep ocean waters. Poisons are not discriminating."
So the giant raft of surfers slowly spins in the Pacific while pale, white predators and scavengers bob on the surface between bits of polystyrene, polyester, and epoxy surfboards and the expanding oily sheen on the ocean surface. This can be seen from high above, a kaleidoscope of colors, spreading into estuaries, mangrove swamps, tributaries, deltas, and over low lying coral atolls, coating birds and sawgrass and alligators and spawning fish. Everything is flammable now. Recent photos show that the sheen can even be seen from the Barrel-o-sphere some seventeen miles above the earth's surface where men losing altitude and confidence face the grim reality that all of their exploration has rewarded them with one thing: They will descend in a ball of fire.
But the marvels of ecology are at work. We stand in awe of human nature. Errors recycle between generations, are preserved, and are given protective status. No, we won't deplete our supply of barrels any time soon: recycling is at work and the downward spiral of the earth regenerates the atmosphere with barrels each summer, so the earth's expanding rainbow-colored chemical sheen and annual spectacle of failed expeditions can be enjoyed by all for many, many years to come.