• Eno Thomson-Tribe

Volcanic sacrifices for carbon offset: pros and cons

Art by Brett Corpuz

Things have been tough this last year. We’ve endured a global pandemic, an economic meltdown, and a political insurrection. And now that we’re finally coming out of it, getting vaccinated, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s made me start to think about the future, and other existential threats that we’ve been ignoring, like climate change.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem. I’ve looked at the data and crunched the numbers, read the legal briefs and op-eds. And in my opinion, none of the proposed solutions, from legislature to technology, go far enough, quickly enough. But I believe I may have a solution for battling this crisis, one so simple that it can be implemented immediately. Like, tomorrow. It’s radical and unorthodox, and it may not work. In fact, it probably won’t work. But I think it sounds cool.

I propose that we return to the ancient practice of making human sacrifices to volcanoes. According to myth, this practice was used by native peoples on volcanic islands with the aim of appeasing a volcano god, and to prevent an eruption that would kill everyone on the island.

Now, with climate change, all of human civilization is on a metaphorical volcanic island. And since volcanoes are a large natural source of carbon emissions, it makes some sort of intuitive sense to return there. Maybe the fact that humans stopped making sacrifices to volcanoes is the reason we have global warming in the first place!

My gut tells me that after the year we’ve had, it might help, and it certainly can’t hurt – with the exception of the person being sacrificed – but it would be helpful to have some sort of insurance policy. However, this is merely a proposal; let me detail some of the logic of this idea, and some of its pros and cons, and you can let me know what you think in the comments.

First, it’s important to acknowledge the relative unlikeliness of success of this idea. I mean, we could start pitching people into volcanoes, and nothing could change. Or, things could improve – a decrease in atmospheric carbon, slowed global warming, rich harvests, and other good fortunes, but we wouldn’t be certain that our human sacrifice program was the reason. Still, it beats cap and trade.

Next, it’s tempting to imagine sacrificing people who are actually guilty of violating environmental laws. Litterers, fossil fuel executives, climate change deniers, people who fly private. This could serve as a deterrent to other polluters. And it’s an option! But the sacrifices can also be completely random, like a lottery, or even a volunteer sign-up system. This system could be sponsored by fossil fuel executives who don’t want to die, and who would offer a nice settlement to the families of volunteers. The marketing campaign writes itself: Give Back to Nature! Donate to the Future! Live Forever as a Carbon Hero!

The question of how many people to sacrifice is a perplexing one. There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide. So, do we throw someone into each one every day at sunrise? One per month? 10,000 people on the summer solstice? Or just go full Purge until we see results? I’m open to your suggestions! Again, leave them in the comments below!

A major negative would be all the anti-sacrifice pushback. There would be a lot of grassroots opposition to a human sacrifice program. Just look how worked up people get about animal rights! They would claim sacrifices are “evil” and “absurd” and “superstitious nonsense.” And let's face it, the whole idea is probably slightly unconstitutional (eye roll emoji). But if climate change has its way we will be living in a more desperate and dystopian nation state with fewer rights anyway, so the timing could just work out. In which case there’s a simple solution to those activists: just chuck them into the lava! Problem solved.

Now, I’m not endorsing capital punishment. Everybody wants to live! But the problem is, if some of us don’t die, we all will. There are lots of cruel and inhumane methods of executing criminals on death row, from the electric chair to the gas chamber to the firing squad (yes, they’re bringing that back). Those all sound horrible to me. What about a nice toasty dip in a volcano instead? This method is much more humane and would kill people much faster (and potentially in groups!). What do you think?

Look, I know this may sound crazy, and maybe it is. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It is my favorite film, after all. If you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments. And if you would like to volunteer to be sacrificed, please register with the Sacrifices for Sustainability Program (SSP).

Sponsored content by the Sacrifices for Sustainability Program (SSP).

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