Sunday, July 25, 2004

Cloudy Ethics

Scientists in China are stealing clouds. I think they’re actually trying to steal water, but being scientists they tend to overlook the obvious methods of water snatching-- like backing a tanker truck up to a lake, or even arranging for a stream to take a sharp right turn. No, these brainiacs, or as the Chinese call them-- Puff Daddies, are using rockets to seed innocent puffy white clouds, causing them to suck up moisture as they drift over some poor guy’s land, and then hoping the clouds deliver the purloined rain onto their province.

Cloud stealing is not only technically tricky, it’s surrounded by cloudy ethical issues. The core debate centers on when, exactly, does a mere puff of wator vapor become a legitimate rain cloud--clinically referred to as cloud viability?

Is it when the stratosphere feels the first excited dew form under the Sun’s leering eye?

Is it when the Wind’s gentle caress twines vaporous wisps, rolling and roiling, until engorged, they strain at the lacey veil of air around them?

Is it when the scientist’s rocket, penetrating higher and higher into the creamy whiteness, finally releases its load of particles in a gushing explosion?

Or is a rain cloud only a rain cloud when it has grown to maturity, sagging full and heavy, capable of spurting its precious liquid onto the upturned faces waiting expectantly on Mother Earth below?

Whew! What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, cloud viability...its important because land owners, the dastardly Stratocasters, have resorted to firing even more rockets into the seeded clouds-- which blows them to birdfeed. The Puff Daddies claim it’s morally wrong for the Stratocasters to destroy fetal rain clouds. In this Chinese Battle of the Firecrackers the real loser is the Troposphere, who’s stuck somewhere in the middle.

The Stratocasters claim that an artificially inseminated cloud is not protected by the dozens of laws that protect naturally occurring clouds. Furthermore, as the owners of the air space in which the clouds get freaky with the rockets, Stratocasters claim it is their right and a personal choice to destroy unwanted clouds. The Stratocasters are financed by the deep-pocketed and deeply tanned owners of theme parks and beach resorts who would like nothing more than to guarantee their patrons good weather for a change.

The government’s Puffies argue their cloud seeding is not the issue since it simply accelerates a process God already started and is technically performed in the missionary position. Once there is a hint of white in the sky, they claim that cloud exists and is protected by the government or at least the National Hurricane Center. The Puff Daddies have the backing of former president Bill Clinton, who thought the group had something to do with smoking weed.

While the lightning rod issue revolves around individual rights versus what God wants us to do, other tangential issues remain unsolved. For example, who owns the byproducts of clouds-- mainly thunder and lightning? If lightning from an artificial cloud kills someone, is the cloud’s Puff Daddy held responsible, or is the cloud acting on its own will? What about clouds that start hanging out with the wrong company-- smoking chimney pipes in the rust belt before moving on to the harder stuff, eventually dropping acid rain and tripping on the sunset-- are there programs to get them back on the right track? Are rain and hail considered equivalent products in the courts? I mean, they’re in different physical states altogether. Does federal or state law apply? If a Puff Daddy is abusive, can his cloud be taken away or put up for adoption? Does an adopted cloud have the right to know who its meteorological parents are?

Left out of the debate, and none too happy about it is Mr. Wind. Said a vitriolic Wind, “They have tried passing Wind and they have tried breaking Wind, but who do you think is really controlling things around here? I have half a mind to start another El Nino, or is it El Nina? Maybe I’ll just start an El Nunya-- as in ‘Nunya going to have a house left when I’m done’.”