THE IDIOCY OF INCINERATION I

Selmer Bringsjord

The following piece appeared in The Record a few years back. It marks the first in a series of pieces I've written in reaction to a proposal to build an incinerator bordering Troy and Brunswick. Copyright Selmer Bringsjord.
Once upon a time there lived three households, the Greens, the Trojans, and the Brunswicks. The Greens were quite depressed, because their family businesses, once prosperous hands-on affairs, had long ago up and died, while family expenses had kept marching inexorably higher. But then one day Mr. Green had a fiendishly clever idea. "What if instead of trying to build a better widget," he asked, "we intercept other people's worn-out widgets on the way to the junkyard, and melt them down?"

At first, the Green kids didn't grasp the strategy. They feared that their father, a politician, had merely suffered another fit of illogic, as politicians daily do. Mrs. Green, however, smiled honeymoonishly at her hubbie. "Yes!" she exclaimed. "And what if we derive energy in the process? Then we could sell it to other strapped souls in the Land of High Taxes, couldn't we?"

The kids finally saw the light, and screamed with glee: they found the prospect of making money without producing a product quite agreeable. "Burn instead of build!" they chorused. "That's something not even the Japanese have hit upon!"

While the Greens planned to live happily ever after (or at least happily for the next 20 years) on the strength of their ingenious venture, the other two households -- the Trojans and the Brunswicks -- saw things a bit differently. This was because they lived downwind of the Greens, and the meltdown process has an interesting side-effect: when widgets are melted, smoke is created; and it's not nice smoke. In fact, you might say it's noxious smoke -- stand at the top of the Green's chimney and fail to take the Clintonish course, and you'd be stone cold dead in a fraction of the time it takes to create cancerous lungs with the help of tobacco.

The Greens called in an expert specializing in smoke(screens?). He said that by the time the smoke drifted over the Brunswicks it would be sufficiently diluted.

The Brunswicks replied: "Are you guys playing with a full set of bricks? You don't build a fire in your chimney and then calmly inform your neighbor, 'Oh, by the way, my smoke is poison, but by the time it lands on your property it will be sufficiently diluted.' Nobody in their right mind wants their children to play on lawns which, day after day, year after year, for two solid decades, are receiving sufficiently diluted poison! You Greens act as if you're an island unto yourselves."

The Greens said: "It's our chimney."

The Brunswicks said: "It's our grass, and our kids."

Inevitably, the lawyers arrived, and a ferocious battle arose. (The lawyers kept fastidious logs of their hours and did live happily ever after.) The battle was so convoluted, so acrimonious, so protracted, and so expensive, that by the time a judgement was imminent, the Greens were too poor to care. The Green kids, of working age now, but incurably unemployed, said to their weary Father, "You know, Dad, maybe we should have spent part of the litigious decade we just watched go up in smoke trying to start companies that produce things."

"My children," replied the aged Mr. Green, "you are too kind. We should have tried that in the first place."