There was this old farmer in Indiana where I grew up, and he was ornerier than a badger with a toothache. He didn’t even pretend to be nice, so no one was flabbergasted when it was discovered he had been poisoning his neighbor’s drinking water.
It turns out he treated lumber on his farm, and one of the by-products of that process was an arsenic laced liquid. By the standards of where I live now he an immense farm, about a thousand acres, but not the largest one in that county by any means. The soil there is thick, almost viscous, black, and fertile. He surely did not want to contaminate his own land, so he manufactured a way for it to run off into his neighbor’s land.
It wasn’t long before that nasty brine seeped into his neighbor’s well water. Needless to say, his neighbor’s whole family succumbed to a mysterious illness. Each one grew sicker and sicker and battled cancers of various kinds. Friends began to wonder if it was a curse, or even some terrible divine punishment. Since that family also used the same water to spread fertilizer, their crops became sickly as well. Finally, tests revealed high levels of arsenic and other toxins, and eventually it was traced back to the old cussed farmer down the road.
Long story short, there was a trial in which a jury of his peers judged the ornery old codger guilty. The judge overseeing the case, sentenced the farmer to stop polluting his neighbor’s water within thirty years, and in the meantime, reduce the level of toxicity by .0002 percent a year. Of course by then, it was reckoned, his neighbor’s entire family would be dead, and so the judge also recommended that the old skinflint pay for their burials.
This seemed like a reasonable sentence to folks in those parts, to everyone except the prosecutor who did not believe that arsenic was all that toxic. No matter how much scientific data was presented to him, he simply refused to believe something that was a naturally occurring element of God’s good creation could be toxic to humans. So he appealed the judge’s sentence, which is where it languishes today. The prosecutor, though, for his part, was rewarded by an appointment to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
They say if a joke needs to be explained, it is not funny. Likewise, a parable requiring explanation begins to fray into a confusing allegory. Perhaps the title of this parable says it all: The Parable Of The Tragedy of Climate Change, And The Ignorant Stupidity Of Naming Climate Change Deniers To Protect The Environment.” Amen.