Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, May 26, 2006

Worship Gaia

Worship Gaia, if You Dare
© 2006, Ross Williams

Meet the Messiah of the Church of Gaia[1]. As with any true messiah, he's unassuming. And humble. He's got legitimately humble roots. He's got roots, period.

He, of course, is Corn. Another messiah we are familiar with, Joshua, has a Greek name – Jesus. Not to be outdone, Corn has a Latin name – Zea mays.

Every good messiah worthy of worship has its ritual practices. With some, it is car-bombing; with others it is communion. With Corn, it is E85.

Messiahs typically have prophecies written about the future of their holy swell-ness, and Corn certainly has its. Corn is here to deliver us from dependence on foreign oil, save the world’s poor from drowning, and provide full domestic employment.

Last, and certainly not least, each messiah demands sacrifices of its adherents and believers and hangers-on in order to live the sacred life and attain salvation. Corn is no different, for the nature[2] of Earth-Mother Gaia is fixed and immutable.

This is where the faith of the true believers shall be tested most strenuously. Gaia can be a cruel goddess, and in her mercy she assigns obscurity and death as punishment; when she's steamed, however, she will punish the false and failed believer with hypocritical renown and a long life to suffer it in. Witness the wunderdope Paul Ehrlich, ersatz priest of Gaiaity, who prophesied doom and gloom and a billion deaths right before the world suffered unparalleled joy and prosperity and the ability to remove entries from the Endangered Species List. The false prophet of latter-day malthusianism is suffering shame into his stammering dotage.

Every religion has its acolytes, the folks who do the grunt work. What would hinduism be without the guys who shovel out the stalls? Or judaism without the folks who remove the leavening from the matzo? Or christianity without the Chinese laborers who spit out millions of crucifii, chains of rosary beads, and the assorted protestant baubles which variously litter the WWJD crowd? Or islam without those who tirelessly churn out the remote triggers, the multi-pocket vests and the plastic explosives?

Corn has its thankless workers as well. Many are called “farmer”.

The acolytes must be given their place in the function of the religion. Without them, the religion dies. When the hindus have no one to clean out their gods’ stalls, the gods move to Bangladesh, where they are indistinguishable from dinner. Without those who pick the baking soda out of the matzo, passover is gornisht, and judaism bupkis. Without the Made-in-China kitsch, christianity might be compelled to stop asking “what would Jesus do” and actually answer it. And possibly live it. Without C4 explosives to chum the desert sands with infidels’ limbs, islam would be left as the Religion of Peace® it’s long-claimed itself to be, instead of the religion of “you wanna piece o’ me?” that it’s been since, roughly, the death of Mohammed.

Without farmers, worshippers at the Church of Earth-Mother Gaia would be doomed to fueling with gasoline, or quitting their jobs so they won’t have to drive from the suburbs, or moving back to the dirty city to be within public transportation distance of their jobs. A due respect, therefore, for each religion’s grunt workers is certainly due from each religion’s adherents.

Faith in the Messiah Corn of the deliverance from the ravages of foreign oil dependency [et al] will take an exacting toll on Gaiaists. It’s doubtful that many would have the necessary righteousness to take on these individual sacrifices. Most have demonstrated a remarkable talent for self-righteousness in demanding, and often getting, the general public to undertake collective sacrifices, but individual sacrifice as a nod toward the reality of their belief system structures seems beyond the horizon… and the believers’ ability.

Americans use 360 million gallons of automotive fuel daily. Since alcohol provides a fraction of the chemical power of pure gasoline, we’re going to need more alcohol than gasoline to get the same work out of our automobiles, i.e., driving miles. It’s only a question of how much more alcohol we’ll need.

According to the figures I’ve been able to find[3], pure gasoline provides 32 bunches of energy[4] per liter, while pure ethanol provides 19.6 bunches of energy. It would stand to reason that E85 provides some bunch of energy per liter between those two figures, closer to pure ethanol. If we are using pure gasoline for our American automobiles, then we multiply the gallons used by the energy per liter and get a figure. It doesn’t matter that this figure is in mixed measurements – gallons used and energy per liter – since we’re dividing it right back out. In order to find out how much pure ethanol we’d have to have to get that same amount of energy we divide our previous answer by the 19.6 energies and we find that we’d need to have 588 million gallons of pure ethanol to get the energy from the 360 million gallons of fuel we currently use daily – assuming the fuel is pure gasoline.

E85 is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, so we divide the energy of 360 million gallons of gasoline by 15% of 32 energies and 85% of 19.6 energies, and the answer we have is that we’d need to have 537 million gallons of E85 a day.

But some parts of our nation use “gasohol” – 10% ethanol gasoline, which gives 28 bunches of energy per liter. Doing the same operation as above, we find that we’d need to use 514 million gallons of pure ethanol to duplicate what gasohol gives us, or 483 million gallons of E85.[5]

Essentially, and to minimize the boring math involved in making the point, we’re going to need somewhere between one-third and one-half times more fuel to be able to drive the same number of miles as we do now.[6] This translates to … carry the billion … one fucking hell of a lot of corn.

This is where the sacrifices come in. What are you, the Gaiaist purveyor of Global Warming, the barroom foreign policy expert demanding freedom from foreign oil, willing to sacrifice to your new messiah, Corn?

Are you willing to sacrifice your ability to buy up huge tracts of farmland, whimper to the zoning board, and sell that farmland off in quarter-acre parcels to spread the ooze of suburban self-righteousness? How about all the other sacrifices that go along with that?

That much corn needs room to grow, which means that the more suburbs we have carved into farmland the less corn we’ll get, and the more foreign oil we’ll need and the more greenhouse gases we’ll have. Most of the people who inhabit these new suburbs [tend to be] the ones demanding action on Global Warming and foreign oil, which means that they have suddenly become part of the problem, and their messiah Corn is blasphemed in the process.

All this room for growing corn needs to be protected from greedy county councils, who want to increase property tax revenue because the Gaiaists in the new suburbs suddenly demand a Wal-Mart and an Olive Garden and an Old Navy just down the street, as opposed to the Target and the Bennigans and the Kohl’s which are all the way across town. Corn fields will be killed to make property tax-generating shopping centers right next to the corn fields which were killed to make room for 200 quarter-acre-lot tax-generating home sites. The county council makes money and the Gaiaists don’t have to be inconvenienced by driving across town. The messiah Corn is blasphemed again. Oh, when will the heresy end?

But wait! The suburban Gaiaists who demanded Corn-killing shopping centers and restaurants down the street from their new Corn-killing subdivisions now say they aren’t happy having to drive all the way across town to go to work. They want an industrial park and a commercial center and banks just down the street from the Corn-killing shopping district. So they demand the county council change the zoning for “smart growth” [sic] and more corn fields are killed, and the property tax revenues increase. The messiah Corn is getting damned tired of the blasphemy.

But wait yet again! More of the grunt workers in the Church of Earth-Mother Gaia are called “chemical engineers”, and they have created chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides which make more corn grow on less land with less competition from weeds and bugs. But many Gaiaists oppose such chemicals for no other reason than they are chemicals, and many others oppose these chemicals because they drift from the corn fields into the lawns of their Corn-killing subdivisions. And so they sue to stop chemicals, and they demand their county councils pass laws prohibiting chemicals.[7] Chemical engineers have figured out how to recycle chemicals from one industry into chemicals for another, and so the lawsuits claim that the fertilizers might be laden with toxic waste and heavy metals and “persistent organic pollutants” such as dioxin, and because the possibility is claimed to exist, fertilizers are banned just in case.

…and the messiah Corn is being strapped to its cross.

On quiet evenings in the country in late summer, when the verdant corn stands Yao Ming tall, you can almost hear its whispered plea: “My followers, my followers, why have you forsaken me?”

That’s a good question. And there are others, as well. I wonder what sort of answers will come from the environmentalist earth-worshipers:

Are they willing to move their sanctimonious ass back to the city and leave the corn alone? Forgo selfish conveniences like nearby shopping in favor of leaving farmers alone? Demand that city, county and state lawmakers forgo possible property tax revenues that price farmers out of existence? Be satisfied with a bank on every third street corner, instead of every second street corner?

What about the chemical fertilizers? Corn depletes soil nutrients faster than almost every crop around, and if corn is to keep growing, those nutrients must be replaced. If Gaiaists want corn to oxygenate auto exhaust, and foreign policy neophytes want less foreign oil coursing through our carburetors, then the cost of that is chemical fertilizers. So how about it? Can they learn to control their tears? Not to mention their litigation?

Can they demand commercial and residential growth be done in abandoned city lots, and work to stop the ersatz “smart growth” plans which smartly kill corn fields?

Or are they the hypocrites they seem to be?

[1] Hey! Cool! That rhymes!
[2] Ha!
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline
[4] Consult an actual automotive engineer, chemist or physicist for the proper terms
[5] Engineers and other pedants are going to claim that new engine designs will allow future cars to glean just as much power out of a gallon of E85 as is now gotten from gasoline, or close to it, and they’re right. But this doesn’t affect [many] automobiles currently on the road, nor does it affect the basic conclusion that we’ll need more gallons of E85 than gasoline in general, nor does it affect the theme of this essay.
[6] and that means that the cost must by one-third to one-half lower per gallon in order to not spend more on driving, and our gas tanks one-third to one-half larger to not have to fill up more often.
[7] http://www.governor.state.mn.us/Tpaw_View_Article.asp?artid=955
you get the picture… google on “fertilizer ban”.


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