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The Drake Equation - Heather Walsh

”Humans aren’t the only species on Earth. We just act like it.”

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Emily Crossley works for an environmental company called GeoForce. The primary goal of the company is to fight against the proliferation of large SUVs. Emily throws a rally every year to raise awareness about how EVIL SUVs are and also raise funds to help sustain the company. She works with her best friend Carson who ”divides his money between baseball tickets, adopt-a-whale programs, and Nora Ephron movies” and is also the star attraction at the dunk tank. 

”I know all those meatheads just wanted to dunk the fag. But I don’t care. I’m using them for a good cause.”

Carson was a star athlete in high school, and openly gay, providing much confusion for the sports fans who believe that only straight men can be real athletes. The community decided to just ignore the gay part, and enjoy the fact that he was helping their team win. Now that he is no longer providing those extra base hits or shagging those ground balls he is back to being just a “fag”. George Carlin has the best explanation. 

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” George Carlin

Emily meets Robert Drake. He does PR for Bell Motors and their fleet of SUVs. He thinks reading fiction is an absolute waste of time. He dresses in khaki. He is a Republican. 

Sparks fly. 

He challenges every belief Emily has ever held dear. They accuse each other of cocooning themselves with people of similar ideology.They are the Mary Matalin *shudder* and James Carville of North Prospect, Massachusetts. 

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”Is it just me or does Mary Matalin always look PISSED OFF?

There is hope for Robert when he starts talking about astronomy, a passion that he put aside to join the villainous corporate culture. He becomes more fanciful and almost dreamy when discussing the cosmos. His hero is Carl Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot is his pin up poster. 

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The Pale Blue Dot we all call home. Photo is from the Voyager 1 mission.

”Why Pale Blue Dot?”
“That’s how Sagan described the Earth in this famous picture the Voyager spacecraft took as it was leaving our solar system. When you know that picture is just as true as the ground you’re standing on, when you have that perspective, then you can get the syndrome. You realize that while you’re a six-foot person here, you’re also a speck on a pale blue dot. And you’re a miniscule part of a whitish blob--that’s what our galaxy probably looks like to other galaxies. If you keep going out farther, you just aren’t there. To the majority of the universe, you aren’t there.”

The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.Wikipedia. 

And there is the book title. 

So who are these people that are buying these huge SUVs that are a danger to other vehicles and also helping to imperil our precious Pale Blue Dot?

They are people that might make statements like:

”They will get my SUV the same time they get my guns---from my cold dead hands.”

I have moments on the road when I can’t see around one of these monsters where I have thoughts of making that a real possibility. Man, they have big ass ends. 

So who thinks they MUST HAVE a gigantic vehicle? Robert in a moment of candor provides that information. 

”The research says they tend to be insecure and care a lot about the way other people perceive them…They are also, on average, self-centered. They tend to care a lot about their own safety and their family’s safety, but not other people’s…So you have people with low self-esteem--and God knows our society provides us all with plenty of reasons to have low self-esteem. An SUV can compensate for those insecurities by providing instant power.”

So it isn’t a need issue, families are getting smaller, it is a want issue. For at least the time they are behind the wheel of one of these vehicles, regardless of how small they are in stature or enfeebled they are mentally, they can be empowered road bullies. 

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is discussed in this novel.

I don’t see BIG ASS SUV anywhere on this pyramid. 

I don’t have the privilege of insulating myself with people who agree with me. I live in a red state. (They haven’t voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson ran in 1964.) In San Francisco they thought it was a minor miracle that a hayseed like myself climbed out of the primordial swamp of rednecks, trailer trash, and rustic rubes. In Dodge City they think it is a minor miracle that I didn’t emerge from my time in San Francisco as a pinko commie liberal fag. Because after all you can catch being gay like a cold or the flu. 

The repartee between Emily and Robert was entertaining and don’t think the author didn’t let Drake win a few points. I have discussions with people who don’t agree with me politically all the time. I have to pick those people selectively because most Republicans start showing me the Mary Matalin face very quickly, usually with the first WORD STILETTO I leave sticking in their ribs, but those that are willing to discuss politics with me, without getting angry, help me solidify my own thoughts and feelings about an issue. It is the only way to tighten up my arguments and develop those crisp one liners that can be so effective in the presentation of my point of view. 

I have to say I really enjoyed this book. Heather Walsh made me realize how much I wish I could work for an environmental group. She made me feel really good that I don’t own a monstrosity of an SUV. We do not have recycling pickup at the curb in Dodge City Kansas. I still do recycle, but we have to load it all up and haul it down to the recycling center. (Not very many people are going to do that.) Heather had me thinking maybe I need to do something about changing city policy because curb pickup would mean more recycling and less garbage being sent to the landfill. Crap, she’s got me thinking.