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for August 7, 2002


Burning Down The (Poorly Situated) House
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Next week, Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love plans to recline on a chaise lounge in the Western Pennsylvania woods with a refreshing beverage and 10,000 of her closest friends. No phones, no television, no radio. Interesting persons will stroll from campsite to campsite singing Medieval ballads and playing lutes, no lie. All this peace, quiet and sunshine is good for reflection, so let's reflect. Join Your Sugar Lumps in a deep breath. Breathe! In with the good air, out with the bad.
 
Ahhh. Nice isn't it? Wait, do you smell smoke? Are someone's pants on fire?
 
Well, not Your Snookums's, she's sure. And not yours, it seems likely. Is there a liar somewhere among us? Who is it? During the summer of 2002, the Western United States is on fire, and television news viewers throw up their hands at the shame of it.Poor trees. Poor little forest animals. Poor million-dollar homeowners and bunker-dwellers. Poor us - nothing we can do. Everything we know how to do is being done by those pathetic-looking helicopter bucket brigades and heroic Forestry Service firefighters, right? Nope.
 
Americans are a gritty bunch. We're a smart, energetic people and we solve our problems with money, talent and ingenuity. In one decade, we went from earthbound to solar system travelers, which journey was no picnic. Taking our cue from these enterprising souls, let's also take for granted Americans can do what Americans set their minds to - like, say, solving our annual forest fire problem.
 
Scientific American publishes heaping piles of articles about innovative firefighting technology. Your Pumpkin is no engineer - evaluate this information yourself. What do you think? Why, when fires are understood in terms of property damage rather than by the pain and suffering fires cause people and whole towns and mute animals and atmospheric filth and photosynthesis potential and natural beauty, is this research dryly reported as an egghead exclusive? What's in it for us to tolerate annual destruction? Bean-counting short-sightedness and apathy. Boredom and resignation. As Kurt Vonnegut put it: "The Hell With You, Jack, I've Got Mine" syndrome.*
 
For those of us who either know Jack or are Jack: it's up to us to light a fire, metaphorically speaking, under people who can actually solve this problem and make it worthwhile for them to do so. The real money, talent and ingenuity that'll solve the problem are all around us. In fact, you're soaking in it. You ARE the solution.
 
You watch Junkyard Wars. You watch Battlebots and Robotica. You watch the Discovery Channel and TLC. You're a genius, and you're surrounded by geniuses. Everyone's bored and unemployed. You have homeowner or car or life insurance. You mail checks to an insurance company all the time, right? The real money is there, the answer is with the insurance companies. After all, they're paying off billions - BILLIONS - of dollars in claims every year for fire damage.
 
What say we reorganize these assets into something sensible?
1. You. You love me, don't you? You're a genius.
2. American grit and determination.
3. Money, talent, ingenuity.
 
You there! Incite insurance companies to riot brainily. Americans respond to contests, so encourage one. Suppose insurance companies sponsored contests for geniuses like you with wild ideas about flying machines that dispersed fire-fighting chemicals in a smarter, greener way. Suppose you were rewarded for inventing the inspired method of irrigating fire-prone areas by State Farm. Suppose you figured out how to relocate greenhouse gases to smother uncontrolled flames in five states and Prudential handed you the giant check. Just suppose. Sure, for five or ten years of annual contests in which ideas garnering 37th place were still pretty good and implementable, and the insurance companies front the bucks, but after that, the claim savings would be so substantial nobody could whine. Those companies lure you with their claims to eternal solvency, right? Ten years is a drop in the bucket!
 
This way, our grandchildren don't look at us and think we were liars. The truth is there is a way.
 
*God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Dell Publishing, New York, NY, 1965.
 

©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.

 







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