Story 1: CIRCA 500 BC (Greece)
Once upon a time, in an ancient part of the world, there lived a father with two daughters exactly a year apart in age. The father loved them dearly and everyday on his way back from work he brought them something – a toy, a pastry, a gift. Sometimes he skipped work just to stay home and play with them. As the years flew by the two daughters grew into lovely young woman. The father, now an old man, was increasingly worried about his daughters’ marriages. He was certain that his daughters loved each other as much as he loved them, and that they would loyally take care of each other when he died. What worried him was their financial security. He wanted the daughters to have husbands who would provide them with a good life. The father was smart; he knew how the economy worked; and therefore he did not want his daughters to be married to men who worked in the same profession. So he got one daughter married to a farmer and the other to a potter. After all, the father reasoned, people would always need food and they would always need pots to store their food and water. The father was fortunate. The daughters married good men and went to separate villages, and the father prayed for their wellbeing everyday.
One particular year the weather gods were being mischievous and the climate was erratic – changing often. The father visited the daughter who had married the farmer, and inquired about her health and business. The daughter said, “Father, you know things are ok, but I am worried for my husband’s business this year. You know the climate has been changing and there is no rain for almost two months. If it does not rain soon then all our crops and vegetables will dry up. Maybe you can pray to the gods for heavy rain in this month.”
The same afternoon, the father visited the daughter who had married the potter, to ask how she was faring. The second daughter replied, “You know father thanks to your prayers and my hard-working husband, I really want for nothing. However as you know the climate has been changing and it has not rained for almost two months. I have only one wish. Maybe you can pray to the gods to ensure that the dry weather continues, and the sun shines hot and bright, so that all our pots can dry fast and we can have a bumper sale next month.”
That night the weary, old father went to the temple and asked God, “If one of my daughters wishes for rain, and the other for dry weather, what am I to pray for?’
And God replied, “Father, you love both your daughters. But when the success of two businesses is based on opposite circumstances, you cannot succeed at both at the same time? Can you? You cannot have your rice pudding and eat it too.”
Story 2: CIRCA 2010 AD (Your City)
Somewhere in a residential suburb in your city there lives a father. He has two daughters, who are exactly a year apart in age, and he loves them dearly.
When the daughters were young the father used to play with them everyday; buy them gifts and Mattel toys made in China. The father enrolled them in the best school, and they reciprocated by graduating with honors. Just like any other father, he was worried about the wellbeing of his daughters. He knew that his daughters loved each other as much as he loved them. He was certain that they would take care of each other when he died. He was not worried about their loyalty to each other. What worried him was their financial security. At first he thought that if he found successful husbands for his daughters, they would live well. However, being a smart father he knew that times had changed, and given the fickleness of relationships today, good husbands were no guarantees anymore.
So the father spent all his money and sent the daughters to the best universities. But he did not want his daughters to be in the same profession. After all one never knew when the economy would hit a recession and both daughters would suffer. So he sent one daughter to study business and economics and the second to study botany and ecology. After all, the father reasoned, people would always need money and the same people would always need the planet.
The father was fortunate. Both daughters graduated successfully and found great jobs. Today the daughters are successful, young career women. They live in different parts of the world.
The businesswoman/economist lives in New York but spends her time traveling around the world. She is a venture capitalist, who works for a financial firm, and is always seeking new business ventures to fund. She believed that the best way to become rich in today’s world is by making more money for the wealthy. In the new millennium, money, rather than trickling down, was being successfully siphoned upwards by the super-rich. Her prudent career plan was to place her self strategically in that pipeline pulling money upwards and periodically suck some big drops out of the system. Her training in a good university has made her prone to cite evidence for her actions.
Corporate chief executive officers (CEOs) earned 30 times as much as the average worker in the 1970s; 116 times more in the 1990s; and almost 300 times in the new millennium. A few hundred millionaires own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people. The UN University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research titled, “The world distribution of household wealth,” published in 2006, found that the richest 1 per cent of adults alone owned 40 per cent of global assets, and the richest 10 per cent of adults accounted for 85 per cent of total world assets. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population (3 of of 6 billion) owned barely 1 per cent of global wealth.
The ecologist lives in Sanitago, Chile, but spends her time traveling around the world. She is an expert on rainforests and coral reefs. She had always believed that climate change was a fact, not conjecture or the opinions of some environmental crazies. However her training in a good university had made her prone to withhold her beliefs and intuition and wait for evidence and data. And ever since her belief had been given factual teeth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which asserted and provided conclusive evidence for global warming, she had sworn to dedicate her life to reverse these negative climate changes. Of course, the mission was based on scientific proof and not on faith.
The IPCC report had conclusive evidence to pin climate changes on human activities over the industrial era, especially the last three to four decades. The eleven years between 1995 and 2006 had been ranked among the 12 warmest years in world since 1850. Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, which increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values, were due primarily to fossil fuel (petroleum) use. The situation was apocalyptic. If global temperatures were to rise by another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius from their 1990 levels, almost 20 to 30 percent of all species would become extinct by 2050. Coral reefs, unique ecosystems established over decades, were the most sensitive to climate change, had already started deteriorating. In addition to the suffering of migratory birds and mammals, salt marshes and mangrove forests, and entire regions such as the Arctic; Pacific islands; and densely populated deltas in Asia will all disappear under the rising sea.
The father prayed for both daughters’ wellbeing everyday, but never got a chance to visit them because they were never home. However, the daughters loved him a lot and whenever their flight made a stopover in the father’s city – your city; and both would seize the opportunity to see their father.
One day in the last week, the daughter, who was an economist, had a flight stopover in the morning. The father inquired about her health and business. The economist, who was now a very famous venture capitalist said, “Father, you know things are ok. However, I am a little worried that I may not surpass the targets of the last year. If I do not surpass them by 300 percent then my wealthy financial backers will not give me a bonus. You know that last year I made handsome returns on investment by setting up industries that exploited the natural and human resources of developing countries. However, this year I have been working as a consultant to some car manufacturers from USA and Japan, and they are trying to take advantage of the rapid economic growth of the BRIC countries.
“What are BRIC countries?” the father asked.
“Oh, you know Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Pray for me father that I may increase the purchase of cars in these countries by 1000 percent. If that happens and at least 33% of the people in these countries start using cars then my business will boom and I will become the most successful consultant.”
The same afternoon, the father was also visited by the ecologist daughter who was flying from Chile to Iceland. The father stayed back at the airport; welcomed her when she came to the airport’s meeting point; and asked how she was faring. The second daughter replied, “You know father the climate has been changing. I am traveling to Iceland to study the melting ice caps. Father do you know that in a few years excess carbon dioxide production due to the burning of fossil fuels will lead to complete melting of the ice caps in the north and south poles. The molten ice caps will increase sea levels and many low lying countries will be completely flooded and submerged. And do you know why environmental carbon dioxide levels are increasing? Because already the use of cars in developed countries had led to environmental damage, and now more people are using cars in Brazil, Russia, China, and India, and together they are burning much more petrol and gasoline than ever before in the history of mankind. I have only one wish, father. Maybe you can pray to the gods and ask them to ensure that no one, especially those who live in the BRIC countries purchase any cars in this year or the next. If that happened father then maybe the use of fossil fuels will be reduced and maybe we will have less climate change and we will all survive.”
That night the weary, old father went to God and asked, “If one of my daughters wishes for people to buy and drive more cars so that all those who have invested in car manufacturing companies get higher return on investment, and my other daughter wishes for people to stop using cars and burn less fossil fuels to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and slow climate changes, then what am I to pray for?’
And God replied, “ ___________.”
The father was unsure, “God, what did you say?”
God replied, “______________”
The father turned around and asked the reader of this piece, “What did God say?”
And the reader replied, “ ___________.”
© Para-Babel, 2013