Living Under Water

Published November 05, 2004, issue of November 05, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

There’s an old joke about the British secret service learning that the polar ice cap is melting, threatening to drown the world within six months. The queen asks the clergy to go on television and prepare the public for the End. The archbishop of Canterbury goes first, urging his flock to receive sacraments and get ready to meet their Maker. Then the chief rabbi gets on the air. “Nu,” he says, “we have six months to learn how to live underwater.”

This week, life became a Jewish joke. According to the daily London Observer, Queen Elizabeth II raised the issue of global warming with Prime Minister Tony Blair the other day, asking him to pressure the Bush administration for a change in policy. The queen, a well-placed source said, “has become worried like the rest of us.”

She has good reason. Scientific evidence has been accumulating rapidly in recent years that the global climate is changing with unexpected speed as a result of human activity, primarily the use of fossil fuels. There’s worldwide consensus over the steps needed to stave off calamity. The United States stands virtually alone among industrialized nations in refusing to acknowledge threat or accept the needed solutions. During its first term the Bush administration commissioned and then rejected no fewer than two scientific reports on the threat, refusing to accept what everyone else knows is true.

This week the stage was set for a third confrontation between the administration and science. A scientific report by a consortium of eight nations bordering the Arctic Circle confirmed that the polar ice cap is melting nearly twice as fast as the rest of the world, threatening to raise sea levels and ravage the fragile Arctic environment. By century’s end, the ice cap will be melting entirely each summer. The Arctic nations, which produce 30% of the world’s greenhouse emissions, are to meet in Iceland on November 24 to discuss steps to save the region, but American officials are expected to oppose the scientists’ recommendations.

As the rabbi said, it’s time to learn to live underwater.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.