Black Humor

Joke # 1 Adding lead to gasoline was a little trick invented in the U.S. Back in the nineteen twenties, leaded gasoline became the norm in America and in the rest of the world. By the time the United States government banned it in 1986, it was killing adults at a rate of 5,000 per year, according to the official Agency in charge of protecting the environment. In addition, according to the various sources cited by journalist Jamie Kitman in his research articles for The Nation, lead had caused damage to the mental health and the nervous systems of millions of children–nobody knows exactly how many–for 60 years.

The chief promoters of this poison were General Motors executives Charles Kettering and Alfred Sloan. They went down in history as patrons of medicine because they founded a great hospital.

Joke # 2 The ancient Greeks and Romans knew already that lead is an enemy of blood, soil, air, and water. Yet some countries continue to add lead to fuel. My own country, Uruguay, goes even further: it punishes good behaviour, so unleaded fuel is more expensive. Those who pollute less, get to pay more.

Joke # 3 Ethyl, an American company, and Octel, a British one, sell abroad what they are forbidden from selling at home. Lead additives for gasoline are exported to those countries that can be poisoned with impunity: almost all of Africa and some countries of the South. And despite being a dying business, the bottom line is not so bad: Ethyl’s 1999 balance sheet showed gross earnings in the amount of 190 million dollars.

The problem with Jack the Ripper was that he had bad advisors. Poor Jack did not have good PR agents to embellish his image, or advertising experts to bless his activities, whereas Ethyl Corporation–born out of wedlock between General Motors and Standard Oil–says in its marketing blurbs that “respect for people” is the foremost guiding principle for its actions, and that it does what it does by developing “a culture based on mutual trust and mutual respect.” As for Octel Corporation, it explains its activities as follows: “Octel continues to play a major role in the worldwide phaseout of leaded fuel by ensuring a safe and efficient supply of TEL [tetraethyl lead] to customers as long as they still require it.” A masterpiece: practicing crime is the best way to combat crime.

Joke # 4 According to the last report by the World Bank, 15% of the world’s population gobbles up half the energy used by the entire world. Cars guzzle a good portion of that half. The rich countries have 580 cars per 1000 people; the poor countries have 10.

The rich countries have banned leaded fuel, but their four-wheeled residents spit out other kinds of poisons. The dizzying motorization of the streets is responsible for a good part of the gases that heat up the planet, drive the climate insane, and drive holes in the ozone layer. Cars keep increasing in number and in size. Maybe those 4 x 4’s that all the pampered young people dream of buying are called 4 x 4’s because they use four times as much gas as small cars.

OURS will be done on earth as it is in heaven: every one past babyhood has a car in the country that gulps down the most energy and spits out the most poison. The greediest and most wasteful country of all has only 4% of the world’s population, produces a full 24% of the carbon dioxide that assaults the atmosphere, and spends huge amounts of money in public relations campaigns to absolve itself.

An organization humbly called Global Leaders for Tomorrow (GLT) Environment Task Force has disclosed an ecological world map that was very prominently displayed in Newsweek Magazine and other media, along with an explanatory text in which global leaders demonstrate that the rich countries are the best friends of nature, the most eco-friendly, while the main culprits for the ecological calamities of our planet are Bangladesh and Uganda.

Joke # 5 Is carbon dioxide harmful to human memory? We should find out. During his presidential campaign, George W. Bush promised that he was going to reduce toxic gas emissions. He forgot his promise as soon as he stepped inside the White House. He said no the Kyoto treaty, thus confirming once again that the only speeches worth listening to are the ones never given.

Joke # 6 Is the World Government a government or is it an Oil Pipeline? Oil companies were the biggest contributors to Bush’s campaign–the most expensive presidential campaign of all time. The President had founded the oil company Arbusto Oil, later renamed Bush Exploration and eventually sold to Harken Oil & Gas. Vice President Dick Cheney made his personal fortune in the oil company Halliburton. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was a member of the Chevron Board of Directors between 1991 and 2000. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans was CEO of the oil company Tom Brown Inc. and Director of the oil company TMBR/Sharp Drilling. The Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, Kathleen Cooper, was an executive at Exxon. Thomas White, Secretary of the Army, was Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services.

Joke # 7 It could be called the Association for the Extermination of the Planet and Surrounding Areas. Instead, it is called the World Environment Center.

Its members include, among others, British Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum, Exxon, Texaco, International Paper, Weyerhaeuser, Novartis, Monsanto, BASF, Dow Chemical, and Royal Dutch Shell. All these friends of nature and humankind are in the habit of periodically bestowing awards on one another. They have announced that Shell will receive the 2001 Gold Medal for “Environmental Achievement.” Among the many achievements of this corporation, we could mention its efforts to lay waste to the Niger river delta, and managing to get the Nigerian dictatorship to send the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa to the gallows in 1995, along with other annoying people who kept protesting.

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