Polar Bears and Poltroons
Danger Zones - via Pope Emperor
America's Next Top Disasters
3. Indian Point Meltdown
7. Landslide at Mount Rainier
10. Rupture in the Alaska Oil Pipeline
Rupture in the Alaska Oil Pipeline
The Alaska pipeline was built to withstand everything its designers could think of. But the supports for the pipeline are anchored in permafrost, which is now melting. Up to a third of the uprights are out of alignment, and more will be at risk if the thaw continues. A pipeline break would jeopardize 850,000 barrels of oil per day - 11 percent of the nation's capacity.
Fairbanks, Alaska (Reuteres) - Erasmus Plink is a Polar Bear. And he is worried about his future. His bluff face, once white, is now yellow and patches of hair fall from his ursine bulk. Stirring a coke, he gestures disgustedly towards a patch of grass on this unseasonably warm Spring day in Alaska.
"Ice, where is the Ice?" he asks, rhetorically. Then he sniffs sadly, adding "There is no money in Ice anymore, and I got to make a living. I've got bearlings. The Department of Homeland Security hired a bunch of us to shore up the pipeline with sandbags." Red rimmed eyes squinting with anger, Erasmus's voice lowered to a growl. "Now they won't let me travel home to my family over the Arctic Circle -- I'm on the no-fly list!"
The plight of Bear Plink is an increasingly common one. Locals were initially frightened as Bears began showing up in westernized cities around Alaska, looking for work as the Ice depleted. The Department of Homeland Security stepped in at the behest of Senator Ted Stevens, and put the illegal bears to work. Many, lacking citizenship or even green cards, signed on to shore up collapsing oil infrastructure out of sheer desperation.
Now, some Bears claim they are forgotten, little more than indentured servants. Lacking icebergs to rest on, the swim home is too dangerous for many Bears. Reuteres contacted a low level bureaucrat with Homeland Security, Laura Callahan, to ask her about the status of Erasmus Plink.
"I'm not really authorized to tell you how Mr. Plink was placed on the list, sir," she explained blandly, after taking down Erasmus's social security and Alaskan driver's license numbers.
"All I can tell you is that there is something in his background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for."
Left unexplained by Dr. Callahan is how a middle aged Polar Bear, whose previous criminal record was limited (at the age of fourteen) to swiping seals off of Muklukeks Used Mammals lot and eating them, can be tied to Middle East hominid terrorists of the genus "Homo Sapiens."
"It's a mystery, innit," Erasmus said, after I related Callahan's comments to him. Then he added, "Maybe we're just too valuable to set free, keeping the pipeline straight. You know, we get paid in fish 'cause we're too sick and exhausted to unionize. Imagine what you'd pay People for work like this."
Before shambling off to lay sandbags, his coke drained, Erasmus fixed me with a rheumy stare and rumbled one final thought:
"One day, we shall tear all of this down...if we live."