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Chapter 6
Alternate Economics

Last Tree Standing

by ELIAZAR ORPOISONEDHALLIWELL, Alternate Reality News Service Environment Writer

The Supreme Court of Montana has issued an injunction against ZeeCorp, halting the cutting down of the last tree standing in the United States.

“This is an outrage!” cried Slobodan McWhirter, President of International Chemical, a wholly owned subsidiary of ZeeCorp. “The longer it takes to cut down that [expletive deleted] tree, the longer it takes for us to mine the absaludium underneath it! And nobody in the State House seems to understand that!”

The injunction came at the request of American Pulp, a wholly owned subsidiary of EhCorp. “Call me sentimental,” commented Sandra “BlueHair” Fenestrate, Vice President Public Relations of AP, “but the last tree in the United States – the very last one – should be cut down by a pulp and paper company.”

There was a quick response to the ruling by the environmental movement. “Beatrice and I are thrilled, thrilled, I tell you,” commented H. Lamont Hunsecker, the last card-carrying member of Greenpeace, as his wife, Beatrice, made whirling motions with her finger against her head behind his back. “It shows that one determined person can make a difference in the world…”

There is some speculation as to why AP would want the tree. It isn’t large enough to make a sheet of single ply toilet paper, let alone a page of a book or newspaper. “Not that anybody would want to read off of…paper these days,” commented noted medialogist H. Bauhaus McLuhan. “It’s too dark. People would have to shine a very bright light on the paper to simulate reading off screens, which, of course, we’re all more used to.”

McLuhan believes that AP intends to turn the wood into as many as half a dozen gun stalks. “That would be way American in and of itself,” McLuhan pontificated, “but, add in that these collectors items could go for millions of dollars, and you can see why that tree is so attractive.”

One alternative theory has it that the tree would make as many as nine spice racks. Although not as attractive as gun stalks, there are more of them, which would mean more profit for the company. “Spice racks? How French!” McLuhan scoffed. “Following this line of reasoning, American Pulp would make the most money if they turned the tree into toothpicks!”

Wooden toothpicks have, of course, been illegal in the United States for many years, but there is still a market for them in Asia.

Analysts had expected that the price of EhCorp stock would plummet as the primary resource of its major subsidiary was used up. However, thanks to astute planning, and perhaps forewarned of looming ecological disaster, 20 years ago EhCorp started another subsidiary, American Oxygen. Of course, today, American Oxygen stands are a common sight in most cities, but many people scoffed at the concept when the company opened its first franchise.

And, indeed, the ascendancy of American Oxygen has not been without problems. There was the out of court settlement 14 years ago with the families of people who died when their AO filters reversed polarization, filling their masks with carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. Then, there were the protests nine years ago by the environmental movement – all six of them.

“Good times,” Hunsecker commented, a dreamy look in his eye.

The disputed tree – a spruce…or maybe a maple – it’s been so long since anybody has seen one it’s hard to tell any more – stands in the Ronald Reagan Nature Preserve in southwest Montana. Asphalt Jungle Rangers who patrol the 37,000 square miles of tourist attractions shrugged at the news of the tree’s reprieve.

“People don’t really come to the Nature Preserve to see…well…nature any more,” Ranger Bob explained. “The big draw for the last couple of years has been the two and a half mile long Killer Coaster. So, really, the sooner the tree is gone, the sooner we can concentrate on what nature preserves do best: giving customers the thrill of a lifetime!”

“Yeah, it’s too bad about the National Parks,” Hunsecker stated (while his wife whispered, “No, it isn’t, nobody cares anymore,” in the background). “I mean, nature, it’s what we live in. If we destroy that, what do we have left?”

The trial date has been set for September 27. Observers feel that, whichever side wins, the case will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court of the United States.

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