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.
Return to Index of Essays.
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
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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