|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Robinson Crusoe Moment
Saturday, August 5th, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|Thoughtful readers surveying the condition of our world today may be forgiven for feeling out of sorts. War, willful ignorance and intolerance, widening gulfs between rich and poor, the prospect of cataclysmic pandemics and natural disasters, two more years of the Bush administration -- the home planet, that gleaming blue and white island in the inky sea of space, suddenly seems a lot more hostile than it used to be. But despair is not an option. We have reached, in the view of this page, our Robinson Crusoe moment, an occasion if not for celebration, then at least for quiet stock-taking.
Crusoe, it will be recalled, is shipwrecked and cast ashore on a deserted island, utterly alone and entirely dependant on his wits for survival. One of his first acts is the preparation of a written ledger tallying up the goods and evils of his circumstances. This he does not for posterity, since he doesn’t expect to leave any descendants, but “to deliver my thoughts from daily poring over them, and afflicting my mind.” Crusoe recognizes that the moment had arrived when “reason began now to master my despondency.” Instead of giving up in the face of seemingly lethal adversity, he takes stock in order to fight back.
Following the excellent example of Daniel Defoe’s 18C hero, it is time for us, on a planetary scale, to draw up an accounting of the evils that afflict us, and of their offsetting goods. Crusoe begins by noting that although he is cast upon a “a horrible, desolate island, void of all hope of recovery,” he is at least alive. That seems a reasonable point of departure for us as well. Beyond the bare fact of our present existence:
The hottest year ever recorded, 2005, is well on the way to being surpassed by a still hotter 2006, with the prospect of ever hotter years to follow. As long as we burn hydrocarbons to produce temperature-raising greenhouse gases, rising seas, drowning polar bears, tsunamis and hurricanes appear to be in our future. On the other hand, in the quarter ended July 31st, the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbons, ExxonMobil, reported a 36% profit increase. Another giant, ConocoPhillips, had a whopping 65% rise.*
Demolished buildings, burning cars, shrouded bodies heaped along roadways, streams of refugees, the grim daily accounting of the dead, displaced, and wounded – between Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq, the Middle East news is grim. But not for everyone. The turmoil has been an excellent excuse to drive up the price of oil. For big oil exporters like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, the ill-fortune of their neighbors has produced a record flood of petrodollars. The Saudi American Bank forecasts that for the Saudis alone, oil revenues will exceed $200 billion this year, up 25% from last year’s record take.**
Thanks to fiscal and monetary policies that favor corporate profits and the top one percent of income earners, real wages for everybody else remain near flat or falling for the fifth year in a row. This wasn’t a worry for Chevron CEO David O’Reilly, who earned over $36 million last year. Nor for recently retired Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, who made almost $70 million.
As Crusoe observes, although he is cast naked on the shore of his desert island, the climate is very hot, and he wouldn’t want clothes even if he had them. And so, as big oil and OPEC take the shirts off our backs, global warming will ensure that we no longer need them anyway. Writes Crusoe in his journal, the world is never so terrible “that we may always find in it something to comfort ourselves from.”
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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