The Universal Battle Of The Bulge

There's no nice way to put this, but the Earth is getting fat. It's thick around the middle. Putting on a spare tire. Yes, as much as we don't want to admit it, Mother Earth is getting dumpy. This could just be a symptom of age -- after all, the planet is 4.5 billion years old which, while still younger than Strom Thurmond, is considered by most experts to be galactic middle age -- but according to scientists that's not the case. They say it's happening because glaciers are melting and the resulting water has raised the level of the oceans at the equator. This, of course, has been Earth's excuse all along -- "It's just water weight" -- but we pooh-poohed it and shamed it into spending countless years bouncing from Atkins to The Zone to Weight Watchers to the Incredible Hollywood Grapefruit Diet until it out-Oprahed Oprah. I think we all owe Earth an apology. Well, for this and the lousy way we treat it in general. I mean really, do any of us think polluting the water, cutting down the rain forests, and driving gunk-spewing SUVs are ways of saying "Thank you for being here so we don't fly out into space where we'll die because there's no oxygen to breathe"?

The study, published in the journal Science (motto: "Better than Sominex"), claims the glaciers are melting because of the El Niño of 1997-98, which if you remember was also blamed for everything from hurricanes to volcanic eruptions to the French winning the World Cup. As recently as six months ago scientists were predicting a new El Niño was in the works but we haven't heard much about it since. Apparently it's history. After all, who needs a scapegoat like El Niño when we have the al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein?

When news gets around about our planetary bulge there's going to be trouble. People everywhere will shrug off their post-holiday poundage by saying, "Hey, if it's okay for our planet it's okay for me." I'd like to hear them use that excuse when their faces erupt, their brains fill with fog, and their gas reserves are unleashed in mixed company. Face it, the last thing we need is another excuse for being overweight. As it is, one-third of the adults in this country are overweight, as are one-eighth of the children. In California, the supposed health capital of the country and actual doughnut shop capital, 77 percent of the fifth- through ninth-graders failed aerobic, strength, and body fat tests last year. And most of them swear they studied hard for it and did all the homework.

Of course that could be part of the problem -- kids swear too much. Well, that and they lie too often. Recently the Josephson Institute of Ethics (motto: "So that's not our real name, big deal") released their "Report Card 2002: The Ethics of American Youth," which revealed that 93 percent of the high school students surveyed admitted they had lied to their parents and 83 percent had lied to their teacher, yet for some reason the people at Josephson are still under the impression that the kids told them the truth. Not only that, it turns out 74 percent of the students admitted to cheating, which also helps explain why they did so poorly on the aerobic, strength, and body fat tests -- if you're going to copy the kid who's trying to do push-ups next to you, you'd better make sure he doesn't look like Mother Earth after an El Niño meltdown.

It would probably help if children had role models who didn't bulge in the middle like Barney, Homer Simpson, Porky the Pig, and Santa Claus. Then maybe when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up they won't say, "Rosie," which is particularly painful when it's your son telling you that. Of course it could be worse, they could follow in the footsteps of Michael Wong-Sasso of Los Angeles, a 7-year-old who wants to be a trash collector when he grows up. He's so dedicated to this career that he follows garbage trucks as they drive along their route, checks out the contents of trash cans on the street, and even had his birthday party at the Sunshine Canyon Landfill. Seriously. He and 40 friends spent the day frolicking with toy earthmovers, making animals from recycled materials, and talking trash. They also tried not to say, "Gee, this place is a real dump" more than once every four minutes but you know what little self-control 7-year-olds have.

Actually it's good that there are children like Michael who are interested in helping keep the Earth clean and neat. Not to mention getting exercise in the process. After all, one day he too might be middle-aged like Mother Earth and have to worry about fighting creeping midriff bulge. And he won't have El Niño, a bad education system, or Saddam Hussein to blame it on. Hopefully. But he'll still have doughnuts. Yeah, that's it. It's the doughnuts.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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