The Omniphobia Epidemic

Let us now take counsel of our fears.

We're afraid of ozone and CO2. We're afraid of smog and cigarette smoke. We're afraid of Republicans because they are warmongers, and of Democrats because they are in utter denial of the real world. We're afraid the earth is warming -- or freezing. Our bee populations are now collapsing A new kind of voracious ant is invading. Only 20,000 polar bears are left in Alaska, way down, from, oh, about 20,000 previously. Flesh-eating bacteria are attacking people in Africa, again. According to the Daily Telegraph of London, we should be afraid of fat people because they pollute more than skinny ones -- don't ask why -- but we're also worried about millions of skinny people who are finally getting their  chance to eat better.

We're afraid of drilling for too much oil. But we're also afraid of pumping too little oil. We could switch to nuclear-powered electric energy, like the French have done, but that word "nuclear" just turns people off. Nuclear plants might just go up in a mushroom cloud some day, or so the naïve believe. We could exploit our huge coal reserves, but coal looks dirty.

See the pattern? It sounds like omniphobia to me, the fear of everything. Omniphobia was never seen before in the annals of medicine, at least not before the most media-maddened society in history. (That's us.) But you can't miss it today. Omniphobia is all around us, and it'll get us in the end.

Once upon a time, liberals listened to a man who famously said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." How times change!

Let me add a new phobia for your personal delectation. Remember, CO2 is what you breathe out. Oxygen is what you breathe in. We know that CO2 will destroy the earth through fire and ice, according to the celebrated scientist Al Gore and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. But did you know that long before we burn, a hundred years from now, innocent little oxygen will kill you? It's a fact.

Now this is frightening,  because oxygen is practically the only good chemical left, in the public's mind. Just look at all the laundry detergents that come with "cleansing oxygen!" That's a big selling point, because oxygen sounds like it's good for you. It's in the air you breathe!  In mountain resorts like Aspen the stores sell "oxygen bottles" for twenty dollars apiece to help tourists breathe at the high altitude.  Unfortunately those bottles only contain pressurized air, which is about 21 % oxygen, exactly what you get by taking a breath that's free of charge.  Some capitalist swine is taking an air pump, probably in his local garage, and pumping air into spray cans, marking it up $19.95, and getting rich because "oxygen" sounds so good.

But it's all a myth peddled by Big Air. Oxygen will kill you, because all the molecules in your body get oxidized. All the good tofu you're eating, all the vitamins, the healthy fish oil, all the cells in your body eventually get oxidized. True. 

That oxygen you breathe in falls apart into nasty killer molecules called "free radicals" (no known relation to Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, but it's the same basic idea). Free radicals latch onto the nearest good molecule and stop it from working. That's why antioxidants like Vitamin C and E are important. They hunt down the free oxygen radicals like tiny Elliot Nesses, and cart them to jail. 

Unfortunately, with every breath you take you get more oxygen, and make more free radicals. If you have wrinkly skin, you can blame free radicals. If you're getting arthritis, it's those radicals again. If your skin is peeling after a day at the beach, guess what? Yup.

Oxygen isn't the safest molecule in the world. It's practically the scariest.

So what can we do? We are not supposed to breathe out because we're polluting the planet with CO2. We're not supposed to breathe in, because we're putting killer oxygen into our bodies. We can't pass gas, because methane is a greenhouse gas. We can't eat meat because animal protein is destroying the earth. And we can't plant and eat veggies, because trillions of plants around the globe just keep on putting out ... more oxygen.

Well, excuse me for breathing, as they used to say in Brooklyn. They thought that was a big joke. But that was before the age of ecological enlightenment.

We're doomed.

Before I forget, will the last guy outta here please turn off the lights?

We do have a Planet to save, you know.

James Lewis blogs at