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The following essay by Malcolm Wells was originally published in Energy Essays, Edmund Scientific Co., and reprinted in Notes from the Energy Underground, 1980, Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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Antipode

Everybody has one. And everybody's antipode is a little different from everyone else's, unless, that is, someone's standing on your shoulders or lying on top of you.

The place on the other side of the world that's exactly opposite from the place where you are is called your antipode, and it isn't in China, either, not unless you live in southern Argentina. The Philadelphia antipode is in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles from the city of Perth in Western Australia, so don't try to dig your way to China or you may find a shark instead of a Maoist.

Now, before these boring facts put you to sleep, I want you to look down.

Straight down through the earth beneath your feet: at this very moment, far, far away, fish are swimming upside-down in a wild, stormy ocean you may never see. Call you imagine them being there? Look down, and really think about it.

From their point of view, here, eight thousand miles below their tapered bellies, two million upside-down Philadelphians are living in filth no self-respecting fish could tolerate. Which is still a boring fact, I guess, until the reality of this thing we call Earth suddenly hits, and we see what a frighteningly lonely miracle this blue-green ball of rock really is.

Traveling forever through the emptiness of space, we sail on a ship that's already stocked with all the provisions it may ever have.

We're the rich passengers. We eat three meals a day and watch television. The other passengers get barely enough to eat, and many don't even get that. Everything we do threatens them, we're so rich an powerful. Our car, our heater, our lights, our friendly neighborhood supermarket--each uses provisions that other passengers badly need. They'd use our leftovers if we'd let them, but we send most of our garbage straight to the bottom of the sea--or into the sky--out of reach forever.

Does the President know all this? Probably. Do you think he's ever considered living a life of voluntary poverty as an example to the rest of us? I wouldn't count on it. But that's not what disturbs me most. The first question is, what have I done? What have I saved for those other passengers--or even for those antipodal fish whose fate I hold in upside-down hands so far below their gills?


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