A recycled essay on Earth Day

Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared Aug. 1, 2009. It runs here again because of Earth Day and we believe recycling an essay will help save the planet.

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it.
 – H.L. Mencken

Recently toured several of the fine museums in Chicago. The city of the big pizza is second only to Washington D.C. with respect to the availability of museums. And traveling with a 9- and 6-year old is especially rewarding as they see dolphins, dinosaur fossils and historic treasures for the first time.

The unpleasant surprise of the museum visits was in discovering the pervasive propaganda of man-made global warming/climate change used to ensconce many exhibits. It’s not enough to simply learn about the habitat of the giant Vietnamese catfish, there must be a lesson about what man is doing to damage said habitat.

For the first few in-your-face exhibits describing man’s vicious damage, an attempt was made to explain to the 9-year old that some of this propaganda was nonsense. But the exhibits continued and the politics of global warming/climate change became so ubiquitous that continued explanations proved exhausting.

Apparently, us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-raping Americans are not the kind of folks you’d want to invite over to your planet for the weekend. We’d spill oil in the kitchen, defecate in the closets and eat the house pets.

You, Kind Reader, should know that we are overfishing. We are killing coral. We are putting dangerous chemicals in the water. Polar Bears are living on smaller and smaller patches of melting ice because we are driving larger and larger SUVs. We suck.

And here you thought you’d merely spent the weekend with your butt in the recliner sipping iced tea and watching NASCAR and The Military Channel. No sirree. You and I have damaged the earth’s “water pulses.” The damaged pulses result in big floods and hurricanes. There were no big floods or hurricanes until we built Hoover Dam and began pouring battery acid and french fry grease into the oceans. We suck.

Speaking of oceans, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Don’t even go near them. Desalinization is bad because it encourages people to locate in “fragile coastal areas.” And the big salt-sucking-filtering pumps harm sea creatures.

Each time you wash your hands with antibacterial soap you are destroying the ecosystem. You, you big meanie, are doing your part to “leave our mark on water and the life it supports.” Shame on you.

It’s not just us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-raping Americans who are doing this. Abusing Mother Earth began with Chinese rice farmers back in 221 BC who altered the flows of rivers and streams because they — and I’m paraphrasing from the exhibit language — wanted to eat.

Speaking of rivers and streams, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Don’t even go near them. Did you know that 47,000 large dams were built around the world in the past 50 years? We are a bunch of dam-happy people. We suck.

“Will future generations regret the social and environmental costs?” noted the rhetorical interrogative in big letters above an exhibit showing how removing a dam also is dangerous because it then moves tons and tons and tons of collected sediment down the river. We’re doubly bad people for building a dam that does damage when it stands and does damage when it is removed. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We suck.

The only thing we can do with rivers is place in them water “windmills” to generate electricity from the river flow. (Although it’s likely some save-the-fish group will protest the windmills because they may end up being nothing more than big sushi makers.)

Not all folks are bad when they alter streams and rivers. One exhibit praised the ingenuity of ancient Mexicans (Zapotecs) for the methods they used to manipulate streams and master the land around them. The lesson here is simple. When certain indigenous cultures get fresh with Mother Earth, they are geniuses. When Americans do the same, we are Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.

Yet another exhibit was devoted to the wonderful organizations bringing clean water and better living conditions to the people of Africa. Exhibit signage noted that “it will take improvements to infrastructure to make permanent change happen.” Again, when certain politically-approved cultures work to seek “improvements to infrastructure,” it’s a good thing. When Americans do the same, we, well, we suck.

Signage in the bathrooms of the museums made it clear we should use the air blowers to dry our hands instead of using paper. It’s possible that each paper towel used is like hitting a baby seal in the head with a golf club. The electric blowers in the museum bathrooms likely use magic electricity, and not regular electricity of which more than 45% in the U.S. is generated from burning coal. And we all know that each piece of coal burned is like hitting a baby seal in the head with a corporate jet.

The point to many exhibits in the various museums is that our insatiable, irrational and inconsiderate drive to achieve the insensitive level of reckless consumption we selfish Americans require will destroy the planet in the very near future — possibly next Thursday around 5:13 p.m., just as you finish that second glass of wine and wonder how you’ll get packed into your SUV the kids and their Nintendo devices, softball gear and the special tools you use to destroy coral habitats and smash Condor eggs.

It was clear the Tilleys of Fort Smith couldn’t go to a museum to simply learn. We had to be preached to because, as noted above, we suck. Straight-forward science and information must now be filtered through the political lens of global warming/climate change to induce guilt for being Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.

And then there was salvation.

Suddenly lifted from my shoulders was the growing guilt that one of my trips to Wal-Mart may have resulted in the extinction of a unique dung-eating beetle in Papua New Guinea.

There, before exiting each museum, was a clear indication that us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers would prevail. There, in a large area between the ticket counters and list of the Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers who provided the money to build and/or maintain the museum, was a collection of items wholly in conflict with the last two hours of propaganda-as-science.

There, like a shining city on the hill, was The Gift Shop.

“Dad, can we get something from the gift shop?! Please, can we? We won’t get much. Oh, please?!?!?”

It was a proud father who realized the politically-correct exhibits had not extinguished in his young daughters the siren song of Unabashed Consumerism.

Trinkets — snow globes containing cute little penguins, big plastic pens in the shape of dolphins, plastic puzzle pieces of city skylines, baby Beluga whales on Christmas tree ornaments — made in China, Honduras, Hong Kong and just about every place except the U.S. of A. were packed like endangered sardines into each gift shop.

Magnify by 1,000 the impulse item area at Wal-Mart checkout lanes and you have a museum gift shop. Which is to say 99.9% of the stuff in the gift shops is stuff no one ever REALLY needs. I’m sure the production, shipping and handling of the millions of useless baubles in the gift shops did nothing to threaten “fragile coastal areas.” And they likely were not made using hydroelectric-produced power or any earth-destroying chemicals.

My faith in capitalism was restored.


Also restored was the awareness that the over-the-top devotees of Mother Nature are a mile wide and an inch deep in their beliefs. These folks aren’t true believers like, say, Southern Baptists. The food court in a museum devoted to and operated by Southern Baptists wouldn’t serve beer or any food not fried. Its gift shop wouldn’t sell condoms or statues of the Virgin Mary. Its area devoted to the death and resurrection of Christ would not be sponsored by B’nai B’rith.

A few hours later the Tilleys of Fort Smith were transported by a greenhouse-gas emitting taxi to a restaurant just off “The Magnificent Mile” of Michigan Avenue — an area devoted to the insensitive consumerism of us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.

The deep dish pizza was hot and tasty. The beer was cold and tasty.

Outside, people were scampering to and fro with their bags of Neiman Marcus, Ferragamo, Victoria’s Secret and Burberry. Beer, pizza, shopping ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

God bless America, and her gift shops.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 3.6 (14 votes)


Earth Day column

As one who honored and remembers the first Earth Day, and who was an environmental activist for several years back in the day, I find your flippant attitude very disturbing. You need to read and study more and wisecrack less.

No laughing matter

Paula, flippant can be entertaining. Analysis takes too much mental effort for most people. Still, environmental issues are targets for jokesters. They laugh now, but will only choke later from air pollution induced disease when its too late.

Some analysis could work in both directions

Some of the smartest people are the easiest to pick apart. Just say the magic word e n v i r o n m e n t and you're good to go with a whole bunch of them. Excuse me but didn't their ilk which has now managed to nudge it's way into the employ of the US government recently conduct a study on how cow droppings might affect the atmosphere? Can we ever stop a cow from doing that?

Pointless or Missing the Point

Keep scavenging your neurons. You might get the point. Methane and other naturally occurring substances which accumulate and affect the atmosphere need to be quantified scientifically. Anything else which man can control to avert environmentally problems is what's left to deal with. That is where we can't afford to deny the science behind the facts. Paradoxically, conservatives are concerned about the national debt burden for their grandchildren but seem to care less about the air future generations will breathe, the water they will drink and the food they will eat. I suppose tax-exempt trust funds will take care of those problems for the future one percenters.

Poke your finger in it all you want,

I will continue to step over it. Anything ELSE we can control? Are you going to walk behind them with a bucket?

Beau Paul

You miss the point also. It must be in the air you breathe. We need to manage as best as possible, not throw the baby out with the bath water. Try to keep up.

The headlights are very blinding but still,

one should probably move. No specific answers to any specific questions so far after the thread basically starts out with 'I'm against it because..I'm against it and I'm smarter!' Not even one flippant specific answer by the other side which would have no problem causing me to pay $10 for a burger someday as cows still go around making future green spots all over the world. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water either but I do think people should be able to afford one to wash. Try to at least begin to realize how wonderful you are to the truly greedy capitalist.

Greed At Its Finest

Who is more dangerous to the people, the greedy capitalist or a greedy expanding government?

More than two ways of looking at it

How about government bought and paid for by greedy capitalists? That is the real danger to freedom. Government for the people, by the people is what stands-up to the tyranny of the greedy. Stop accepting the Right Wing Facist Capitalist propaganda. They are laughing all the way to the bank while you join the party of the "not yet rich" and paranoid. Yes, paranoid that you will never be rich because of government. The government, the venture capital provider of last resort for the not yet rich.

Babies and Cows

People should be able to afford children also. It seems that the government's "Aid to Dependent Cows" (Farm Subsidies aka "Ag Welfare")might not be keeping prices down but Cattlemen's profits up, especially when certain cowpokes don't pay their share of grazing fees. More green spots on the ground does not compensate for polluted water and air.

State Rights

Should the Federal Government be allowed to own State Land or should they be required to lease the land from the state? Interesting question and its my opinion that the Fed should lease land that is required for federal use from the state.


Most States were carved out of Federally owned Territory to begin with. So, what's your point?

The Point Is State Sovereignty

States should be free from federal controls unless the decisions alter other sovereign states and if the federal government wants use of land within a state, a legal lease of that property should be created for the required land for a specific time period with reasonable compensation paid to the state. Just my opinion

Your opinion

Your opinion based upon what? The terms of Statehood were agreed to upon entry to the USA. The Feds should have a footprint in each state in the event of insurrection for secession which itself threatens the Union. We fought that war already. United we stand, divided we fall. States rights extremists serve to divide, not to unite.

you may want to research just a little...

If you do, I would guess you will find very little ag subsidies for cattle production. Almost all of the subsidies you refer to are for "row" crops such as corn, rice, soybeans, etc. I am against government subsidizing anything, or anybody. That is how you stop the crony system fostered by our government now.

The mantra minus most the facts as expected

This is your chance local aspiring tree huggers. We don't want to do it either if it's damaging to nature and viable alternatives are available. Not every minor thing needs to be treated like the next ice age however.

You mean like a sales tax?

Maybe so because ours has tripled just in my lifetime because people chose to ignore. But a sales tax is a sure thing and here we're reacting so expensively much to...maybe!

Which side doesn't think the most?

How's the Ozone doing since we switched from the .99/lb freon to the originally $24/lb kind? Not a bit better? Must be the coal. Nice, we remove mercury from batteries, ban incandescent light bulbs and switch to CFL bulbs with a warning on them about mercury? The gain for the groundwater is where? Most will DRIVE to a protest over a mile away about the Keystone pipeline completely unaware two towns have nearly been destroyed by tanker train fires. Some things they can't add another blade to or change the shape of the filter when the competition gets too steep. They have to force people to use the new stuff that they have the patent on (this means royalties for several years) by stopping the cheaper product from being produced. Some things environmentalists work on probably will improve the earth but this tendency to lay down in front of each and every Terex is not the best way IMO.

Hits the nail on the head!

This column is a great commentary on our society, although I think things are worse now than then. The environmental PC police penalize you for every move, but not themselves. It is OK for Al Gore and his cronies to jet around in private jets burning thousands of gallons of fossil fuels and spewing out tons of pollution, but I should not use an incandescent light bulb. That kind of attitude makes it very difficult to take most of those folks seriously.


I don't like Gore either. Still, there are billions of inefficient consumer goods while just thousands of jets. We can spin the numbers all day long, but the simplest solution, efficient Conservation of energy will reduce pollution and wreck the Petro-Terroist nations. Don't waste fuel or blood, I say !

How About Some Common Sense

The pipe line would solve all the fuel requirements in America along with more drilling permits issued in the USA so why are we still dependent on foreign oil? Let the Middle East keep their oil and make America a producer nation and put the outlaws out of business.

Keystone Pipeline

The pipeline is meant for oil to be refined and exported, not domestic consumption. Would you agree to that fact? If not, then there is nonsense to your common sense.

Which Outlaws

The ones in Washington or the ones in the middle east? Get the pipe line approved or vote all the democrats out of office!