Acid rain, carcinogens, global warming, oh my!

President Barack Obama went to Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday and - wait, hang on a second, just a little déjà vu, there - talked earnestly with other leaders of the so-called industrial world about the troubling problem that we've all heard so much about: global warming.

Of course, "global warming" is something of a misnomer - the British Isles, for example, stand to get colder. It's all about climate change and it should be all about enlightened self-interest.

Let us consider for a moment a world in which the most arable farmland on an entire continent has been turned to desert and the people who live there are generally regarded to be in the Third World: disease runs rampant and there are all sorts of socio-economic problems ranging from warlords to butchery. This is not a pleasant place to live. Right now, it's called Africa.

But, by some estimations that have been reported ad nauseam by what seems to be every news outlet on the planet (including but not limited to: The Associated Press, the BBC, NBC, The New York Times, etc.), this could be the fate of America - because the Midwest could dry up if prevailing winds shift. And why is this happening? Some say because we're continually pumping all sorts of toxic sludge into the air.

Of course, there are still some skeptics out there who say that this is all just a great big cycle of life and we haven't been keeping weather reports long enough to understand just exactly what goes on in the stratosphere. Fair enough.

How do these skeptics feel about cancer, I wonder? According to the American Cancer Society, cancer rates on the East Coast have been rising dramatically for years, figures attributable in part to smog and pollution blown by prevailing winds - prevailing winds may become a leading cause of death, apparently - from factories in the Midwest that have been belching all sorts of carcinogens into the air for nigh on a century.

We worry about secondhand smoke and childhood obesity; how about we worry whether the very air we breathe is going to kill us?

Perhaps you don't care about cancer, but how do you feel about wildlife? I'm going to ignore the plight of the polar bear because, let's face it: the polar bear has been mentioned to death, along with the giant panda, which could be a column unto itself ...

Of more local significance, the Adirondack Park, the largest park in the contiguous United States, is dying acre by acre because of acid rain and acidifying soils due, again, in large part to the Midwest and their damn prevailing winds! There are dead lakes, crystal clear all the way to the bottom, composed of sulfuric acid. There are dead woods, composed of sulfuric soil. Soon, there will be dead animals composed of sulfuric flesh (which is, incidentally, a really good name for a rock band).

I'm sure there are many other pressing climate issues in other countries that are just as devastating. So, to the world leaders, especially Obama, who all flew to Copenhagen on private jets in an age of videoconferencing, I say this: tell your people that they're killing themselves. That might get the message across in a hurry.

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