Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Darwin was Right . . . Sorta

The concept of Evolution and its half sister "Survival of the Fittest - Natural Selection" has caught on a bit of a snag.

Here's my rationale: undesirable traits are said to breed out because those traits result in the demise of the species. Birds without wings for example - not so good if your gig is flying. Breeds out. Can't reach the nest to partake of the, well, birds and bees. So, you'd think that other traits like homosexuality and stupidity would breed out as well. The former because such individuals are not in the business of pro-creating and the latter because their stupidity wounds, or better yet, kills them.

And so I take you to Crackerview, er, I mean Riverview, Florida. My hometown, so I can call it that. Some knucklehead reportedly spread an urban legend around a high school that a hobo, no not Johnny Depp, left some money in or near an anhydrous ammonia pipeline that crosses our beloved Alafia River.

Some of the kids that ride the short bus, apparently, decided to go look for the proverbial pot of gold. What they found was a very real bucket of suck. Drilling into the pipe, as if cash would flow out like water, resulted in one of them being burned over 18% of his body from face to crotch. Granted, second degree chemical burns on the twig and cherries could be argued as punishment enough. But given that it resulted in hundreds being evacuated, $250K in pipeline repair, a major highway closure, business closures, and traffic snarls that spread over 50 square miles, I'm not inclined to be too sympathetic. The real rub is that the pipeline company has stated that they're just going to "eat" the cost of the repair and not seek to prosecute the teens.

Let's make this even more poignant. This little hole involved the fire department, sheriff's office, US Coast Guard, Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, US EPA, Mosaic (the recipient of the product), Tampa Pipeline, a high-risk welding specialist from 1000 miles away, and countless others. Enormous volumes of water were used to disperse the lingering cloud into the river over two days. The impact of which is yet to be fully revealed. As we are in "manatee season," the season in which protected manatees return to shallower, warmer waters for the winter, no doubt some of them could be impacted. Fish kills? Perhaps. No one knows yet.

I am aghast at that magnitude of this very small issue. A reader to the local paper commented online that he wonders the impact if someone with deliberate malintent took a stick or two of dynamite to this 30 mile pipeline. Then what? There were no emergency shut off valves, no safe ways to depressurize the system, and no other risk mitigation controls. The pipeline is labeled with periodic signage, but of course who reads instructions much less obeys them?

My argument is that if these misguided youngsters are not charged with any sort of crime, then the government agencies, businesses, and individuals impacted by this mini-disaster have a right to claims against them and their parents. Some argue that they deserve to be cut some slack. Not so much. Common sense tells you not to drill into a pipe that isn't yours. Common sense tells you not to steal (be it money or ammonia). Hell, there are laws on the books about stealing. These fools robbed every evacuee from 48+ hours of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Apologies are all well and good, but really . . . who really means it today? Especially kids when you practically have to water board them to get an insincere, attitude-riddled "sorry."

So yes, I think there may be some validity to natural selection, yet it is not comprehensive. Maybe it stops somewhere along the food chain just past the vulture. Otherwise, idiots like this would've bred out ages ago.

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