A Little Water Humor

by Peter M. Tirschwell
The Journal of Commerce
Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News


Is America a country of environmental zealots willing to blindly follow the lead of others? Peter Sparber, a Washington, D.C. business lobbyist who regularly clashes with environmental groups wanted to find out. So he tried an experiment.

He put together a mailing list of people who supported banning pesticide use and sent them a letter from a fictitious group he called "Stop the Silent Killer Foundation".

The letter read: "Dear Mr. Smith: You have been identified as a person who cares deeply about the future of our fragile planet, the health of our children and the quality of our nation’s leadership. If we are right, we need your help, and we need it immediately. As you have undoubtedly read, dihydrogen oxide has been found to be a major threat to the environment and to human and animal health. Here are the facts:

In 1991, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 4,100 Americans— many of them under the age of 10— died from excessive dosages of dihydrogen oxide commonly found in many homes and recreation sites. Our polluted lakes, rivers and oceans are known to contain vast quantities of dihydrogen oxide. On this, there is no controversy! Contaminated ground water? Same tragic situation. In California, Missouri and Georgia families have lost their homes to dihydrogen oxide contamination. In some applications, dihydrogen oxide is a major contributor to injuries from falls. In other applications dihydrogen oxide is a major cause of burns.

Why does America endure this wasteful destruction of our planet, our children and ourselves? Greed. Simple greed and stupidity. We need your help now. In the next 24 hours, we need you to demand an end to the production and use of dihydrogen oxide. Please write: The Dihydrogen Oxide Institute, P.O. Box 7178, Washington, D.C. 20044-7178. On behalf of our future generations, I thank you. Sincerely, John Alan Waterman."

Dihydrogen oxide is, of course, water. But that did little to stop the howls of protest that poured into P.O. Box 7178, a mailbox Mr. Sparber rented out. Here are some responses:

# What is going on here? You people must really believe the world will come to an end in the year 2,000. Why else would you be poisoning the planet and its inhabitants with dihydrogen oxide?

# Stop the production of dihydrogen oxide! Dihydrogen oxide has been found to be a major threat to the environment and to human and animal health, and yet you continue to produce it?!

# Please stop all production of dihydrogen oxide until such time as we can all be assured that it is safe to humans, animals and the environment."

# Any product that causes injuries and death, as well as pollution, should not be used. Thank you."