Boy, am I relieved. The Japanese have invented a supplement to help cows produce less methane gas, which is an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2. We could have a serious threat brewing to our west with all the giant feedlots in western Kansas plus those coal plants we all know will get built - profit for big business always trumps health, whether our own or our planet's.
Japanese biotechnology to the rescue just in time. I've got a list of other gases they should work on: the emissions from talking heads of every political stripe on CNN, FOX and MSNBC. To escape them, I flipped through the channels, landed on the History Channel and saw the world exploding.
A controversial scientific theory states that gigantic eruptions of methane gas from deep in the ocean have occurred regularly throughout history and could happen again due to oxygen-poor basins in the ocean where methane might accumulate. Even a small explosion could cause a catastrophe, generating giant tsunamis that would wipe out our coastal areas and flood for miles inland. If that's not bad enough, according to this theory, methane-laden clouds would auto-ignite, and the massive fires could cause widespread destruction, throwing mankind into a Dark Age - if we survive at all.
As the TV scientist droned on, I watched realistic-looking simulations of cities crumbling and going up in flames as 80-foot tsunamis washed across Florida, Manhattan and San Diego : until I feel asleep, exhausted by all the doom.
It doesn't help that I just finished reading "The Road," Cormac McCarthy's postapocalyptic masterpiece in which a father and son travel by foot through a desolate, burned out American landscape in search of food as they try to avoid bands of desperadoes who are resorting to cannibalism to stay alive. (I really like that word "postapocalyptic," which I found on the book's back cover, a word that has thrown my spell-checker into spasms.) I got to the end of the book and still don't know what caused the world to be reduced to ash. Could it be those methane eruptions?
The problems reach far beyond burping cows. I think we should probably ban anything that starts with the four letters METH. So that includes methane gas; crystal meth (as is methamphetamines); and methyl bromide, a poisonous gas used to kill rats and insects. But I think we could give Methodists a pass. They're harmless. And the downtown church has an outstanding bell choir.
I'm not sure about the methane eruptions. A number of scientists think the other scientists expounding this theory are kooks. But the rest of it - face it, our addiction to oil-based transportation, which has caused us to decimate our landscape, and our selfish, callous disregard for the health of the planet - is all going to catch up with humankind eventually. Because our situation seems so hopeless, I make light of it. What else can I do?
Actually, I have done something. Along with my other 12 reasons for moving to Lawrence is the conviction that this is a good place to be when the disasters begin.
One: We are tsunami-proof and far from the hurricane zones (our tornadoes and blizzards are tough but survivable).
Two: We are surrounded by fertile farmland so we can grow our food locally. (Yes, I know too much of it has been swallowed by housing sprawl, but in a pinch we could plow up the lawns).
Three: We have some little oil wells pumping away out near Baldwin. Maybe they can produce just enough to keep the T running - if we don't foolishly deep-six our already endangered public transportation system. Hopefully by the time things get serious, we will have found a way to run those cute little buses on renewable energy.
Four: We have that filthy coal-burning electric plant on the north edge of town, and there are still a couple of active coal mines in southern Linn County a mere 80 miles away, if we can secure it and transport it here until we can generate electricity from better sources.
Five, and most important: Lawrence possesses a sense of community, a spirit of responsibility for one's neighbors. Yes, I know we're a contentious people, but compared to the rest of the country, we actually seem to care about one another, and I'm betting we'll pull together in a crisis.
Plenty of you will disagree with my rosy assessment of Lawrence. Keep it to yourself. It's all I have to hang onto until the methane explosions start.