Parents, don't let your children do what I am doing

Do not, please, allow this column to come into the hands of children, for it contains, nay must contain, a confession of the most appalling and sordid nature. That young people must be warned against a fate such as mine I do not deny. But let me speak frankly to you, dear readers, that you may later pass on my message in a delicate way. For the simple fact is that I metabolize. Constantly. I cannot help it. I dare not even try. Before getting out of bed, each and every day, I do it. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. There, in black and white, you have the hellish rhythm that dominates my existence. I breathe. Can you forgive me?

To grasp the full horror of my habit, consult a minister. Not of the church; no one listens to those duffers any more. Of the crown. Specifically federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion, who proposes to classify carbon dioxide among those substances formerly known as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Stern is his attitude, yet what price is not justified to keep others from sinking into my subhuman condition?

Some may dismiss my confession as melodramatic scrupulosity. Many people metabolize, they may say. Others, hardened to the vices of the world, might even dismiss my agonizing pangs of conscience on the trite grounds that metabolizing is a victimless crime unless you're a sandwich. But no. I shall not take the easy way out. I am a menace to mankind. Unsuspected, unobserved, I prowl among them spewing poison.

Carbon dioxide, journalists assure us scientists assure us, is setting the Earth on fire. Like that of a dragon but worse, my breath ignites not individual maidens or castles but the entire planet. I am become Shiva, destroyer of worlds. It's worse when I exercise.

To the addict, of course, rationalization is second nature. Some prate that plants absorb CO2 and emit oxygen and animals do the reverse and call it all some gigantic "cycle of life." Meanwhile fiends in the pay of the oil industry claim CO2 is not really that big a deal, there's a lot of it around, our own contributions are minor and, in any event, it can't have much to do with global warming because it absorbs energy on much the same wavelength as water vapour.

Water vapour! Aaaaaugh! My agony is increased. For, dear reader, I not only breathe carbon dioxide. No. Ha ha. So low have I sunk that with every breath I expel H2O as well. I have seen it on the mirrors. I have seen it on the windows. With my finger I have traced the outline of my depravity.

Shun, I pray you, the siren song of those who deny that water is bad. Listen to the wise. For instance, in Parliament on Oct. 8, 2002, Liberal MP Julian Reed said "I would like to challenge any member of the opposition to ... sit for an hour in a room filled with carbon dioxide. If they come out of it alive, I will give them a month's salary. They know very well that if they are faced with high levels of carbon dioxide in the air they will die. This is one of the manifestations of climate change which we are witnessing." Indeed. And need I point out the consequences of spending an hour in a room filled with water? Or maple syrup? Warn your children.

On Oct. 24 of that same year, NDP MP Joe Comartin assured his colleagues: "The reality is that carbon dioxide is part of smog." It's not, but never mind. The point on which to remain focused is we're all gonna die yaaaaaaaaaa! CO2 threatens mankind at least in law. And I'm spewing it out. I cannot lie. I did it after writing that last sentence and, how well I know myself, I will do it again before the end of the next paragraph.

How then did I fall into this habit? How did the bright promise of my innocent youth end in such depravity? Ah, there's the horror. Metabolizing, whatever you may have been told, does not at first induce torpor and intoxication. No, it sharpens the perceptions, bestows energy, leads a man forth into the world, to climb mountains (well, very small ones), attend the theatre, pursue academic distinction. How little I then suspected I would become an object of horror to others and even more to myself, unable to bear to regard myself in the mirror and, as I trace out its ravages on my face, see that telltale mist appear on the glass once again?

Be warned. Metabolize not. The facts are shocking, but you must know them. You must in due season and with due delicacy warn tender youth not to tread the path I have trodden. Failing this, the next tragedy may be that of your daughter's ... or your son's ... or yours ... or yours ... or yours!

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson