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A Literary Love Affair

 

Environmental Humor

Environmental humor? Is that
some kind of joke?

By Jules Siegel

Environmentalists do make jokes -- and so do their enemies. There's at least one complete book of environmental humor. No theme is sacred. When all those celebrities were fatally colliding with trees a while back, the trees supposedly sent out this press release:

 


fRom THe TREES


"StoP tHE LogGINg oR wE WiLl coNtInUE To KiLl oNe CeleBrITY EacH WeEK. TheRe ARe nO SkIinG aCciDenTS."

 
     

On the practical side, fresh air is one of the menu items at O2, actor Woody Harrelson's new restaurant on Sunset Strip -- 20 minutes through a hospital-quality plastic nose tube, $13. Flavored, aromatized or herbalized air (Joy and Clarity, cherry apple cider with echinecea, astragalas, pau d'arco and lapacho) is $15.

At the Greening of Industry Conference, a group of environmental practitioners and academics attended a workshop on Sex, Humor and the Environment, organized by Sarah Clarke Schulich, York University, Toronto, and Sandra Rothenberg, Rochester Institute of Technology.

"There were mixed feelings at the conference about how some might get upset if people made jokes," Rothenberg reports. As it turned out, she says, "Most were very positive and were able to laugh about it."

Instead of discussing sustainable development, she and Schulich discussed topics such as sustainable sex, which is renewable, lasting, fulfilling, consensus-based and, most important "best based on love," they observed in a charming set of verses that now appear on Rothenberg's Humor and Environment Web page: http://web.mit.edu/slrothen/www/Humor.html.

Although the page now has quite a few items that aren't directly environment-based, it's an excellent source of material for lightening up an often deadly subject. Contributors come from all over the Internet, with especially rich offerings from News of the Weird, http://www.spd.louisville.edu/~rjmill01/fm/NewsoftheWierd.html, and other pages devote to humor and the absurd.

Among the highlights are these real news headlines from Bob's Joke Archive, http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/~yang/jokes/joke.html.

"Children's stool great for use in garden," "Miners refuse to work after death," "British left waffles on Falkland Islands," "Cold wave linked to temperatures" and "Survey finds subway dirtier after cleaners are laid off."

Many of the funniest items come from news reports. Some are obviously the work of witty editors. When a truck spilled 6,000 pounds of margarine on Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City, The Daily Oklahoman headline read: "Margarine Clogs Major Artery"

Other stories report foot-in-the mouth environmental observations. Relocating deaf people to high noise areas such as the Toledo airport would solve noise pollution complaints, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner told reporters, adding helpfully that they could buy the houses of unhappy owners.

Among the most appealing examples are those from enlightened environmental educators, as in a dead-pan story on the Mosquito Cook-Off at Crawley's Ridge State Park in Walcott, Ark.

Larry Clifford, assistant superintendent, won First Prize with his Mosquito Chunk Cookies recipe: boil 1/4 cup mosquitoes, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar for 1-1/2 minutes; cool on greased cookie sheet; when hard, fold into cookie dough and bake.

The mosquitoes must be fresh, as they are meat and can spoil, Clifford cautioned. Second Prize went to his Mosquito Supreme Pizza, especially appropriate because "mosquitoes have a mild anchovy taste," he said. Actually, Clifford was the only contestant. The cook-off was a stunt to bring in people to teach them about natural mosquito control methods such as bats.

Rothenberg and Schulich tend toward material that favors environmental activism, but the entire spectrum of activists, polluters, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians and miscellaneous characters appear in Environmental Humor, a book by environmental consultant Gerald Rich, who provides a broad sample of his text at http://www.wcnet.org/~envsoft, where he also sells the book by mail for $10.

Rich has been collecting environmental humor for 25 years, during which he's "noted the increasing tendency towards sarcasm." He writes, "It is almost as if people need to vent."

Some of his favorites: "First law of environmental protection: Species are protected only after they are hopelessly depleted. Second law of environmental protection: The most efficient way to dispose of toxic waste is to reclassify the waste as non-toxic. Law of unequal proportions: If you put a drop of wine in a gallon of hazardous waste, you get a gallon of hazardous waste; if you put a drop of hazardous waste into a gallon of wine you get a gallon of hazardous waste."

The law of unequal proportions highly favors environmental humor: a single laugh can disarm lots of toxic hostility and open the way to greater acceptance all around.


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