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Sunday, October 28, 2007


This is Marzipan.

She greets you with her happiest smile.

Marzipan lives in the Sovereign Republic of Urzgyztan Puddelia, which for obvious reasons we’ll refer to by its acronym based on the native dialect: SPUD. Ironically, in SPUD they grow no potatoes, just goats, who grow fat on the rich SPUD prairie grass.

Marzipan's pet goat, Fatty.

SPUD being a Third World country, Marzipan has some problems that the rest of us aren’t dealing with…yet. Global warming has been a big one, of course. Being a small tropical island in the Ural Sea, SPUD has already been hit with rising ocean levels, and Marzipan has been forced to move her hut inland several times.

On the bright side, you can bodysurf off the porch!

But while there’s now plenty of sea water, there isn’t nearly as much DRINKING water – they’ve been experiencing a severe drought there for six years, to the point that they may soon have to shut down the fountain in front of the SPUD Hilton Magnifico.

Rooms from $3,000 per night, with AAA discount.

This could severely impact their tourist industry, which consists mostly of sheiks from Dubai and ExxonMobil executives. Did I mention that SPUD has 3 large oil fields? Representatives from Schlumberger, Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root showed up in Marzipan’s village in 1974, the year after the OPEC oil crisis, with a nice man from the World Bank.

The visitors cleverly wore blackface to blend in with the locals.
(The fifth guy is John Perkins.)

They made a deal with the chieftain of SPUD (now referred to as Supreme Dictator for Life, no acronym) to load money to SPUD to build an electrical grid, highways, oil pipelines, and a number of other necessities that would make life better for all SPUDlians. Even though, at that time, there were no cars in SPUD other than the Rolls Royce that the Chieftain got as a gift from Henry Kissinger, and many curious SPUDlians got fried trying to tightrope walk on the new high-voltage lines (tightrope walking being the only SPUD Olympic sport).

Fried SPUD’s – a tragic mass grave

In the end, though, it was mainly the big corporations that got the money that the World Bank loaned to SPUD, though a fair bit went to the Supreme Dictator for Life, who now spends most of the year in the Bahamas. SPUD fell deeply into debt, and the World Bank came to the rescue by showing SPUD how to sell off its water and electrical utilities to private multinational corporations. So now Marzipan pays Bechtel for every glass of water she drinks, and can’t actually afford electricity.

Current cost: 7 gloops, the SPUD national currency. 9 gloops without the dirt.

Marzipan wouldn’t mind this so much, except that SPUD is primarily a Roman Catholic country (with small Kurdish and Druid minorities in the south and east), so birth control is a cultural no-no. Marzipan actually got to touch the PopeMobile when the Pontiff visited in 1996, and she took his message to heart by having unprotected sex with her husband every night. As a result, she now has chlamydia, HIV, and 7 children between the ages of 10 and 1.

Mama’s, don’t let your babies grow up to be altar boys

Marzipan and her husband pray regularly for Marzipan to be cured of her diseases, which clearly God visited upon her for her wickedness – it’s not like she could have gotten them from her husband! Unfortunately, prayer is her only hope, because they can’t afford antibiotics or anti-retroviral drugs. Marzipan is happy, though, because every day as she does the laundry in the ocean, she gets to watch the Norwegian ospreys gambol in the surf.

Gamboling is illegal where prohibited by law.

Norwegian ospreys are the national bird of SPUD, and also its main source of meat. Unfortunately, the oil companies had to bulldoze the rainforest that was the osprey’s habitat, and now the ospreys are getting scarce – actually there are only 5 left, after her husband shot one yesterday for dinner. They’re not entirely sure what they’re going to eat after that, because the delicious SPUD salmon stocks collapsed four years ago, and nobody’s actually seen a fish off the coast since last summer. But they’re confident that God will provide.

God – now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google, Inc.

They have had one comfort in life, though: their car. Once the oil fields got going, and the refineries were built, it was announced that many SPUDlians would be needed to fill the jobs that had not already been taken by the experienced oil field workers brought in from America, Canada, France, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan. They weren’t really fun jobs, mostly involving dangerous work, but the good news was, all new employees would be issued their own car so they could make the 40 mile commute to the Black Zone, as the walled-off enclave containing the oil-fields is known. This is Marzipan’s family car:

Stylish, and excellent for towing your hut.

Marzipan’s husband loves this car, and has kept it in tip-top shape all these years, even though he had to carve a new set of whitewalls, by hand, out of the island’s last rubber trees. Lately, though, gasoline has been getting more and more expensive – 28 gloops per gallon as of last Wednesday – and Marzipan’s husband overheard some visiting Saudi Aramco executives say that global oil production peaked at 85 million barrels per day in 2006 – last year! – and is now declining.

Turns out everybody was a little too optimistic about the date

Unfortunately world oil DEMAND is at 88 million barrels per day and rising. The Saudi Aramco executive said that the old Saudi Arabian fields are pretty much waterlogged and couldn’t pump much more, so countries like SPUD would have to start making up the difference. But since SPUD is already at maximum production, the only thing they could do was to stop letting SPUDlians have any of SPUD's oil, so they could sell all of it, and make more money for the country, or at least for the Supreme Dictator for Life, who approved the plan from the Bahamas.

Just a little summer hideaway, with cottages for the wives

So now SPUD is no longer on the list of countries whose citizens get to have oil, but Marzipan and her husband feel good knowing that they’re contributing an extra .000001% to the 12 million barrels a day of oil and gas that America imports to stay strong – they hope to move there one day, when their ship comes in, assuming the sea level hasn’t risen so far that the ship runs over their hut. In the meantime, Marzipan’s husband has had to move to the refinery, because he can no longer commute, so Marzipan has to take care of the kids by herself.

Marzipan has lost her happiest smile now.

She’s not alone, though. A nice woman from Save the Children came by and helped a little with food for the kids, but couldn’t help Marzipan with why she was having so many kids. The people from Planned Parenthood came by, but couldn’t help with the fact that the ospreys will be gone by next Thursday – they said they don’t do deforestation. The wild folks from Rainforest Action Network dropped in, but couldn’t help with the peak oil problem. Some very depressed analysts from ASPO visited to talk, but couldn’t help with the rising sea levels. Marzipan asked the cheerful people from the Cooler Heads Coalition about that, and they gave her some pamphlets, but unfortunately the kids were hungry and ate them.

Meanwhile, it’s snack time in the Bahamas

After they were gone, Marzipan got to thinking, and decided that all these different groups – who referred to themselves as NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) – really meant well, but couldn’t help her very much because they all treated her like she had just one problem, when the fact is she has a lot of different problems, and they’re all related. So Marzipan sent me a letter asking if I could suggest to you that the NGO’s all get together, like the world's nations did at the UN, and maybe together they could be as big as Schlumberger and Halliburton and KBR and Bechtel and the World Bank and ExxonMobil and all the rest of them put together, and make the world different, instead of just trying to prop up the world the way it is now. She even had an idea for the name of this new super-organization: UNGO.

No goats or ospreys were harmed in the making of this photo.

Big bonus: in Marzipan’s native dialect, UNGO means love.