Wednesday, March 10, 2004

According to the Iowa Environmental/Education Project website, “the project will teach a global understanding of how life works on earth (sic) and how we can lead truly sustainable lifestyles in harmony with all of nature”. Having been an environmental engineer for part of my life and educated for another part, I’m curious just how this is going to work. In fact, I can’t wait the two and a half years construction will require; I need to know now just how this thing will contribute to my global understanding. So I researched my extensive reference library and selected a classic work by renowned world-traveler P.J. O’Rourke to give me some insight into exactly what a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the rainforest might include. He explains,

"But what it is like to actually be in the rain forest is hot and sticky.
When you get out of your hammock and go nature hiking, you're immediately
covered in sweat. Your underwear clings, your shirt clings, your pants
cling, and things that EEK! aren't part of your clothing at all cling to
you. You're also immediately covered in bugs. And the rain forest is, as
the anem would imply, rainy. Hence, WHOOPS! slippery. You're immediately
covered in mud, too."

So now I’m a little concerned. Even we Iowans who have reservations about this being a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money, or who have silly Conservative concepts of limitations on the role of government, have to put aside our differences and get behind this thing to make it prosper. This is too important to all of us. Since the Grassley bill passed, columnists and pundits around the nation have been making it a laughingstock. Apparently the combination of Iowa and pork is too much to resist.

If we’re going to bring in the 4100 paying customers each and every day that we have to have to make this project a financial success, it needs to be a pleasurable experience they will rave about to friends and family. We can’t have people, or Heaven forbid, children, attacked by jungle bugs or worse! Granted, it would be extremely educational to be set upon by the various itch-producing entities of nature. People would soon figure out why our ancestors decided it was a good idea to drain the swamps – er, ah, wetlands. But that would not be profitable.

So, can we control the nuisances that tend to thrive in such environs as the PorkForest is intended to represent? Tree snakes and fire ants shouldn’t be too much of a problem; we should be able to hold them up at the Missouri border. Crocodiles can be confined to the aquarium. We don’t need monkeys or birds; some piped in jungle sounds will suffice. But what about mosquitoes? Uh-oh. Mosquitoes in Iowa in the summer – as inseparable as baseball and beer. And just to make it more challenging, let’s add extra humidity and a year-round warm climate! Can you say malaria?

I’ll make an executive decision here; the mosquitoes have got to go. Better living through chemistry, you know. Probably best not to tell anyone…So much for living in harmony with all of nature - we’ll settle for harmony with most of nature. Come to think of it, it was a silly idea anyway to think that we could replicate a natural ecosystem in a mere four and a half acres when the environmentalists have been telling us for decades that areas the size of Massachusetts are too small to maintain sufficient ecological diversity. The best we can do with a tiny building like this is a simulation of a natural habitat.

Think of it as a cartoon – kind of like the Jungle Ride at Disneyland but with fifty years of technological advancement. The important thing is to make schoolkids think that nature is wonderful and that interfering with nature is awful. That way we’ll be assured of good press reviews and plenty of repeat business from the schools. Let’s see, how many times per year does each schoolchild in the state have to visit to make 4100 customers per day?