Friday, October 5, 2012

2009 School Project - Duct Tape and the Wealth of Nations (by Sam Sournois)

In English 12 -- the last English class I had to take before graduating high school -- our final project was to create something of our own choosing.  I chose to write a satirical essay on using duct tape to solve the world's problems.  The character who "wrote" the essay was named Sam Sournois, a character I used in more than one school project.  I've corrected two typos, but otherwise, all the text and images in this essay are exactly as they were in 2009.


            The world, as it is today, is a deplorable place in which life could be described as nasty, brutish and short.  There are times when one wishes to express one’s anger at said world, perhaps by going on a rampage and murdering his or her friends and/or family.  Truly, there are times when it seems as if our humble planet is plagued by so many social, political and environmental problems that society is hopeless, we are all doomed, and we all might as well live in trees, eating each other alive.
            It is this author’s goal to prove that this is not the case: humanity is not, in fact, doomed by all or any of these problems.  There is, in fact, one simple tool that will surely bring forth a new era to the world, an era of wealth, health and happiness.  Ladies and gentlemen, I write to tell you that that tool is me.  And I propose to the reader that the cure to all these social diseases can be found in drawers and toolboxes the civilized world over.  The solution, of course, is duct tape.
            Now, most of you are probably aware that duct tape can be used to fix a wide variety of problems, ranging from broken eyeglass frames, constructing a large truck out of two smaller trucks, or to quickly reattach severed limbs.  But, I hear you pondering, how can duct tape possibly be used to solve major world problems?  The answers might surprise you.

            Duct tape is inherently an instrument of social change.  In fact, as seen in Fig. 1,  anecdotal evidence shows that duct tape usage in any given society roughly correlates with that society’s quality of life (the one exception being Denmark, which has a high Human Development Index, but where everything is built out of Lego bricks, or so I’m told).  Some economists speculate that this phenomenon only occurs because such countries have the resources to make and purchase duct tape, with their affluence leading to the presence of duct tape, not the other way around.  This author, however, sees through such rhetoric, and concludes without question that duct tape is the cause of these high standards of living.
            Given this information, however, the scientific and political complexes can and must work together to find new, innovative and practical ways to use duct tape to the advantage of humanity at large.  Over the past few years of my life, I have gathered all the information necessary to theorize specific uses for duct tape in solving issues all over the world.  If any readers find themselves captivated by my brilliant ideas, please, write a letter to your local elected official.  Alternatively, if you live in a tyrannical monarchy, a Slavonic feudal state, or a theocratic system, please write a letter to your local king, Tsar, or deity, respectively.

Religious Wars

            Religion has always been central in human conflict, from the greatest crusades and Jihads, to a traditional holiday fistfight over a Furby™ on Christmas Eve.  People and societies make their beliefs a part of their identity, and criticisms of their ideologies are interpreted as personal attacks.  But until everyone in the world learns to worship the one true God (Lord Xenu) the various governments of the world shall have to intervene to solve these problems.
            A survey by the Sournois Institute of Technology shows that 90% of wars, religious or otherwise, are at least tangentally involved with a cute little country called Israel.  Israel might even be considered the Kevin Bacon of modern military conflicts.  The many conflicting groups living in the surrounding area can’t seem to decide exactly to whom this small nation belongs.  I propose that the country of Israel be covered with duct tape, in full.  This will be no small job: Israel is approximately 22,770 square kilometres, and we will require as much duct tape to cover up the nation (Fig. 2).  However, as this will misplace approximately 7,282,000 people, it seems only fair to give them each a few hundred shekels for their trouble.  All in all, this project, including the cost of duct tape, will cost upwards of 9.6 billion dollars, or 36 billion Israeli shekels.  However, once the various factions have decided to get along, the duct tape may be taken off of Israel, and the Israelis may continue with their daily lives.

            But of course, merely preventing the two factions from taking the other side’s land won’t, in itself, end such wars.  The leaders of their respective sides must be put together in a room and given time to work out their differences.  I propose that any two leaders of opposing armies or ideologies be put in a room and taped together with—you guessed it—duct tape, until they are forced into working out their problems peacefully.
Starvation and Poverty

            Poverty and starvation are problems that exist all over the world, even in our own back yards.  I mean that literally: my own back yard is home to a small community of homeless individuals.  Sometimes we play Euchre.  It’s great fun, but it serves only to hide the true suffering behind the poverty in the world.
            In many cases, poverty is a matter of not having a house.  For this reason, it is my opinion that new homes be built to accommodate the poor individuals who can’t afford to buy homes on their own resources.  Furthermore, I propose that these homes be insulated with duct tape.
            You may think that this sounds impractical, even absurd.  But bear in mind that duct tape is often used in engineering for its resistance to the elements.  In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that duct tape can withstand temperatures up to 2.3 zillion degrees Kelvin.  This would, indeed, be a large project to undertake: in North America, the average Habitat for Humanity house is approximately 1,000 square feet in floor area, and costs about 60,000 dollars to build.  With the use of duct tape insulation, however, these costs could easily be cut to a mere 59,900 dollars per house, probably.
            But what shall these people eat, you may ask?  Let us consider the facts: Duct Tape is made up of a cotton mesh, coated with a layer of polyethylene coating and smothered with a thick coat of rubber adhesive.  For all this nutritional value, duct tape, when purchased in bulk, can cost less than ten dollars per roll.  Theoretically, duct tape could feed every impoverished person in the world for a lower cost than the United States’ annual military expenses.
            As an added bonus, this boom in the duct tape industry would create many new jobs, from duct tape machinery worker, to duct tape executive.  Perhap someday, you might even become the CEO of the Sournois Tape Company, the fifth largest duct tape manufacturing company in the Inland Northwest and BC Interior.

Global Warming

            The debate is over, and the scientific method is no longer necessary: Global Warming is happening, and it will inevitibly doom us all do complete societal chaos.  We know that global warming will be catastrophic and harmful to humanity, because former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, showed the world some scary-looking graphs that said so.  I, for one, take all my scientific advice from former vice presidents, and have found myself asking in the process of many a scientific study, “What would Dan Quayle do?”
            Many politicians and Green activists all over the world have put together plans to end this climate change by a complete reform of government policies worldwide.  Admittedly, a complete worldwide political revolution is a start, but this author proposes something bigger.
            You’ve probably caught onto my thinking by now, and you probably think that I propose making a duct tape shield around the Earth to protect us from the sun’s rays.  While this is a good idea, it is, both figuratively and literally, a band-aid solution, and might in fact end up exacerbating the greenhouse effect, making the world even more of a fiery Hellhole than Al Gore predicts.  As an alternative, I propose placing a duct tape shield around the sun.
            According to some scientists, the Earth’s temperature will rise approximately six degrees Kelvin over the next one hundred years.  By calculations I performed in my head just now, that’s approximately two percent higher than it is now.  So, logically, the shield around the sun will have to be approximately two percent of the Sun’s total surface area, or 1.2*10^17 metres squared (Fig. 3), in order to counteract the warming here on Earth.  This translates to over 46 quintillion rolls of duct tape, which would cost approximately 690 quintillion dollars, excluding taxes.  This is 10,781 times more than the total amount of money in the entire world.  However, I think it would be completely worth this little bit of extra effort to know that we’ll be safe from any unwanted heat.

            Of course, there will be some speaking out against my plan, claiming that I don’t entirely understand how our climate works, saying that the Solar Duct Tape Shield would be financially impractical, and insisting that if global warming is caused by humans, it could easily be solved by the use of existing alternatives such as solar or hydrogen power.  In response, I say that anyone who supports hydrogen power is clearly working for one of the big hydrogen conglomerates, and must be silenced.
            But how, you ask, will they be silenced?  One word: duct tape.  Anyone who speaks out against our cause, whether or not they have scientific evidence to back up their theses, will be censored with the use of duct tape.  We will spread it over their protest signs, tie them up and tape their mouths shut.  Censorship: it worked for the Soviets, and it can work for us.

Racial Discrimination

            Racial discrimination has been around as long as man has had the ability to distinguish one colour from another.  It has torn apart societies, and become the fountainhead of a multitude of politically incorrect jokes which, while hysterically funny, should not be allowed to continue, and do not accurately represent the zeitgeist of our time (or “zeit”).
            This is an issue that particularly hits home for me.  I, myself, was once denied the opportunity to play the titular character in “Rosa Parks: The Musical” based solely on the colour of my skin.  Although the producers claimed it was because of my age, gender, and complete inability to sing or perform in any skillful way, I could see through their cunning lies.  It’s an incident that still haunts me to this very day.
            Nonetheless, we must look at the problem rationally.  What is the problem?  People judge each other because of their different appearances.  But what is the solution?  Some say the solution is to create an environment of social change in which people of different cultures and ethnicities are celebrated for their differences.  But would this really have a long term effect?  In this author’s opinion, “God no”.  The only viable solution is to eliminate the differences between people by making everyone the same colour: say, the silvery, shiny colour of duct tape?
            Anecdotal evidence shows that, when people look the same, they’re more likely to identify with each other.  And if everybody is covered with duct tape, then everyone will look exactly the same, eliminating any need or desire for racism.  From birth, children will be covered with a layer of thick duct tape.  As they grow up, the duct tape will wear out, but we will learn to get into the habit of recovering our skin with duct tape every day.  It will become a part of our daily routines, like brushing your teeth, showering, or moistening your pet manatee.
            Statistics show that the average body surface area of a human adult is approximately 1.73 square metres.  This means that approximately 4,270,000,000 rolls of duct tape will have to be used to cover the entire human population with duct tape.  However, for sanitary reasons, I recommend adding a new layer of duct tape once a week.  As this would be a compulsory policy, it would cost the governments of the world a total annual cost of 23.4 trillion dollars to supply this duct tape, or approximately 3,600 dollars per person per year.  This will be expensive and will probably crush the economies of developing and newly industrialized countries, as well as permanently damaging the economies of the developed countries.  However, this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  And, to those who disagree with me, I ask: why do you like racism so much?  I rest my case.


            In conclusion, it is obvious that duct tape is the solution to all of the world’s major problems.  However, there are skeptics in the world who would go to any length to prove this statement incorrect.  They will claim that the solutions duct tape offers are impractical, costly, physically impossible, and ineffectual.  But I shall take it upon myself to point out that most of these skeptics are “scientists” with “degrees” who deal with “theories” and “experiments”.  These ivory-tower folk have no bearing on what happens in the real world, and as such, cannot be trusted to slow the Duct Tape political movement any more than a doctor should be trusted to practice medicine.  In this author’s opinion, science is far too important to be left to scientists.
            As I sincerely hope I have proven to you by now, the one and only way to ensure that the world does not continue its spiral into doom is for all the governments of the world to get come together, forget their differences, and invest in the Duct Tape solution.  As a society, I believe we’ll find that we can afford to execute this solution, because we can’t afford not to.

About the Author
             Sournois received his PhDs in sociology, economics, and socioeconomics from  He is a professor of Applications of Duct Tape 101 at the Sournois Institute of Technology, and the author of the bestselling book, “The World is Doomed and it’s All Your Fault: An Optimistic Guide to Social Change”.  Sam is also an executive at the Sournois Tape Company.  In his spare time, Sam enjoys eating, sleeping, and auditioning for Broadway musicals.

Finally, a video which originally accompanied my presentation of my essay:

Creative Commons License
It Seemed Funny at the Time by Ben Buckley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.