The story is told of a feudal land baron who proffered a challenge to three of his overseers: whichever one gave the best answer to three questions would have a job for life; the other two would be fired at the end of the month. The baron's questions were:
- What is the biggest thing in the world?
- What is the fastest thing in the world?
- What is the best thing in the world?
Two of the overseers received permission from the baron to go in on the same answers. Being guileful sycophants, the pair quickly agreed that in order to win, their answers had to provide the maximum in flattery. And so, they responded:
- "The biggest thing in the world is the baron's heart."
- "The fastest thing in the world is the baron's prize stallion."
- "The best thing in the world is working for the baron."
The baron pondered their answers, frowned, and then said: "What kind of a simpleton do you take me for? I was looking for a bit of wisdom, not base flattery. Pack your things and be off the estate by the end of the month." Utterly deflated, the two slunk dejectedly out of the room.
This left the third man, a rather simple and artless soul. Fearful that he would lose his job -- and certain that he was nowhere near as smart as the other two -- he swallowed hard and stammered out his answer to the first question:
"The b-b-b-iggest th-th-thing in the world is . . . is . . . the w-w-world itself."
The baron smiled broadly and said but a single word: "Brilliant!"
And here we pause . . .
It follows that if the single biggest thing in the world is the world itself, then the single most important issue facing the planet is the planet itself . . . namely man-made global warming. I sincerely doubt that any reader of the K.F. Stone Weekly considers global warming to be a hoax or seriously questions the science behind it. The signs are both omnipresent and ominous: blistering heat, shorter winters, devastating crop losses, disappearing water sources, and rapidly shrinking polar ice caps to name but a few. Most of us understand that although history does record ages of greater and lesser terrestrial temperatures, this time, it is largely -- if not entirely -- our doing. Our addiction to burning fossil fuels is the major culprit; each year the people of planet earth burn some 33.5 billion metric tons of CO2, of which slightly more than 55% (18.4 billion metric tons) goes into the atmosphere, thus depleting our all-important ozone layer.
Climatologists and policymakers warn that unless the United States and other industrialized nations move to rein in emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 2020, most aspects of life -- from the food chain to the oceans to communicable disease -- could be altered, largely for the worse.