In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 18, 2013 at 12:29 am

Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) published over 60 children’s books, which were often filled with imaginative characters and rhyme.

Among his most famous were Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Bish.

Honored in his lifetime (1904-1991) for the joy he brought to countless children, Dr. Seuss may well prove one of the unsung prophets of our environmentally-threatened age.

In 1949, he penned Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the story of a young page who must rescue his kingdom from a terrifying, man-made substance called Oobleck.

The story is quickly told: Derwin, the King of Didd, announces that he’s bored with sunshine, rain, fog and snow.  He calls in his black magicians to create a new type of weather.

The magicians say they can do it.

“What will you call it?” asks the King.

“We’ll call it Oobleck,” says one of the magicians.

“What will it be like?” asks King Derwin.

“We don’t know, sire,” the magician replies.  “We’ve never created Oobleck before.”

The next morning, Oobleck–a greenish, glue-like substance–starts raining.

The king orders Bartholomew to tell the Royal Bell Ringer that today will be a holiday.   But the bell doesn’t ring because it’s filled with Oobleck.

Bartholomew warns the Royal Trumpeter about the Oobleck, but the trumpet gets stopped up with the goo.  The Captain of the Guards thinks the Oobleck is pretty and sees no danger in it–until he eats some, and his mouth gets glued shut.

The Oobleck rain intensifies.  The falling blobs–now as big as buckets full of broccoli–break into the palace, immobilizing the servants and guards.

At the climax of the story, Bartholomew confronts King Derwin for giving such a rash order.  To stop the plague, says Bartholomew, the king must say he’s sorry.

But Derwin’s pride won’t let him do it.

“If you can look at all this horror you’ve created and not say you’re sorry, then you’re no sort of king at all,” shouts Bartholomew.

Overcome with guilt, King Derwin utters the magic words: “You’re right, this is all my fault, and I am sorry.”

Suddenly the Oobleck stops raining and the sun melts away the goop.

With life returning to normal, King Derwin mounts the bell tower and rings the bell.  He proclaims a holiday directed not to Oobleck, but to rain, sun, fog and snow, the four elements of Nature–of which Man is but a part.

* * * * *

Flash forward to March 11, 2011: A 9.0 offshore earthquake hits Japan and triggers a scram that shuts down the three reactors at the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The quake, in turn, triggers a tsunami which cripples the site, stopping the backup fuel generators and causing a station blackout.

The resulting lack of cooling leads to explosions and meltdowns at the facility.  Three of the six reactors and one of the six spent fuel pools become casualties.

Thirty months later, the plant remains crippled.  The radiation that continues to pour from it is lethal enough to kill an unprotected man within hours.

About 400 tomes of groundwater are streaming into the reactor basement from the hills behind the plant each day.  The water is pumped out and held in about 1,000 storage tanks.  The tanks contain 330,000 tomes of water with varying levels of toxicity.

And the Japanese government is no closer to ending that deadly leakage than it was on the day the plant was crippled.

There is a moral to be learned here–but not by corporate CEOs who exchange lucrative, short-terrm profits for a Devil’s bargain with nuclear contamination.

It’s a moral only for those who are willing to confront the truth head-on:

There are forces in Nature far more powerful than anything Man and his puny strength and cleverness can imagine–or harness.  And we invoke the wrath of those forces at our own peril.

In the world of children’s stories, it’s possible for a king to undo the terrible damage he’s unleashed by finding the courage to say: “I’m sorry.”

The top executives of the company that runs the Fukushima nuclear plant–and the government officials who have refused to hold the company accountable–have been saying “I’m sorry” for the last 30 months.

It hasn’t proven enough.

And the citizens of Japan–and countries well beyond it–will be living with the lethal fallout of this environmental holocaust for decades–if not centuries–to come.

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