Every year at Christmas my father gives me a subscription to National Geographic. This year I’m thinking that perhaps I should ask him to stop.
Don’t get me wrong. I love National Geographic. Where else could I find articles on the effects of a Carrington-level solar storm on the northern hemispheric power grid? (All right, I’m sure there's one somewhere, but that’s in some geeky, solar-storm-nerd publication that has a circulation of, say, three. Bet they don’t have a cool solar-flare photo on the cover, either.) National Geographic has sold more magazines than McDonald’s has sold hamburgers. It should say “Gazillions and gazillions sold!” on the cover.
All the same, I should ask Dad to stop my subscription this year for the sake of continental stability. I’ve been thinking about it for years, ever since sometime in the eighties, when I lived in a rented house in Toronto. One year a new housemate moved in with the complete National Geographic.
It was a heritage subscription, passed down from the days when our ancestors were still living in trees, and the articles had titles like “A Revolution with Legs” and discussed the schism between traditional four-legged walking and the new sect of upright ambulators. (In case you’re wondering, that National Geographic Yellow was the first colour we learned to see, and to produce.)
To say it weighed a ton would be an understatement. It was a good thing she was taking the basement flat, because I don’t think either of the other floors would have taken the weight. I once saw a paved road shift and ripple under the weight of a hundred-ton crane. I’m pretty sure that the street did something similar outside our house. It was either the weight or some kind of gravitational shift.
For curiosity’s sake, I weighed a random issue of National Geographic on my kitchen scale. I was expecting five or six ounces. It was way worse than that. A single National Geographic-the one with the solar-storm article, as it happened—weighs ten ounces.
No biggie, you say? All right, let’s do the arithmetic. One year, one subscription, one hundred twenty ounces, or seven and a half pounds. One thousand subscriptions, one year, seven and a half tons.
Now think about how many subscribers reside in places like Vancouver, Victoria, Portland or Edmonds-by-the-Sea, not to mention Burbank. We’re talking a fragile part of the planet where tectonic plates are all a-quiver, waiting for the opportunity to drop the west coast into the ocean and make Calgary the new Pacific playground of Canada. And every month, every tree-hugging household with a subscription to NG is adding its paltry ten ounces to that weight. Yikes!
On the other hand, living as I do in the eastern part of Canada, perhaps it’s my social duty to continue getting National Geographic, just to balance the tectonic shift. Who knows whether or not there are enough subscriptions on this end of the continent for that yet?
Maybe I should ask Dad to get the dog a subscription, too. Just in case.
Elizabeth Creith is a biblioholic and incurable librocubicularist. Not only does she buy, read, shelve and stack books, but she also writes them and on occasion makes them by hand. Elizabeth lives and writes in Wharncliffe, Northern Ontario, distracted occasionally by her husband, dog, and cat. The Scriptorium is where she blogs about writing and life. Contact Elizabeth.