A leaked report commissioned for the International Prog Rock Earth Congress (IPREC) reveals the alarming fact that our planet is almost three percent damper than it was twenty years ago. This might not seem like a significant statistic, but if the trend continues then in the course of our own lifetimes we might very well see the major land masses of our planet becoming so squishy that it will be impossible to build anything and everyone will have to go around in flippers.
These findings are the result of work carried out by Dr Robert Fripp, noted biochemist, geologist and lead singer with seventies legends King Crimson. Using a specially developed technique known as 'jabbing sticks into the ground at random' Dr Fripp was able to demonstrate that the earth beneath our feet is now considerably wetter than it ought to be. Having examined the data at some length, a panel of experts has now concluded that this is a bad thing and has officially classified the phenomenon as 'worrying'.
This, of course, is not the first time that IPREC has stepped forward with proclamations of gloom and doom. The Congress was first set up in 1981 by a consortium comprising some of the most influential progressive rock musicians in the industry. It meets twice a year - at a specially built underground conference facility on an unnamed atoll in the Indian Ocean - to discuss possible threats to the planet. They first hit the headlines in 1984 when Jon Anderson of Yes announced that the world was about to be hit by a giant meatball from space, a visitation that he claimed would either be mankind's nemesis or his salvation - resulting in either widespread devastation or a valuable source of food for the starving millions. In the end the meatball missed the Earth by several million miles, but although the meatstrike did not actually take place there were still reports of showers of faggots in parts of Nairobi and the Middle East.
It wasn't until 1996 that IPREC once more came to the attention of the media. This time it was the turn of former Genesis front man Peter Gabriel to spread the bad news - he announced that over the coming years there was a very real threat of there not being enough coffee mugs to go round. He had first become aware of the problem whilst working in his studio, sampling some of the native sounds of the indigenous people of Finland, or Iceland, or somewhere. He noticed that every time he felt like a cup of coffee he could never find a clean mug. Gabriel decided to monitor this problem and over the ensuing weeks he made careful note of mug availability in his studio. At the end of this period he produced a number of graphs and bar charts, using different coloured crayons, and was able to forecast that by the year 2020 the population of Earth would outstrip the number of available mugs by a factor of about thirty to one. Worried that this shortage would contribute to the spread of disease by forcing people to share drinking vessels, Gabriel began a vigorous campaign to persuade governments to divert some of their defence budgets into the manufacture and stockpiling of mugs. His 'make cups, not war' campaign enjoyed a brief burst of publicity, but quickly slipped from public awareness despite the moderate success of a charity single.
Which brings us to the current crisis. IPREC has treated the possibility of global moistening very seriously, and has asked the band Jethro Tull to look into the possible repercussions. Their initial findings indicate that it will radically influence almost every walk of life - from transport, architecture and industry, to leisure, fashion and the arts. In fact, it will affect everything except table tennis. They've looked into it very carefully, and they've been forced to conclude that table tennis can continue more or less as normal.
However, by far the most devastating effect will be on agriculture. Jethro Tull predict that increased dampness will make the growing of many crops impossible and force a shift to rice, which thrives in wet conditions. The consequences for livestock will be even more severe. Smaller animals such as chickens may not experience much of a problem at first, and ducks will obviously suffer no ill effects at all, but a soggier planet will mean that heavier animals, such as pigs, cows and some of the heftier sheep will rapidly sink into the encroaching mire and be dragged below the surface. Some short term measures have been proposed, including equipping cows with waders and snorkels, but eventually specially made diving suits will be necessary. This will undoubtedly prove impractical, especially at milking time. The only real solution is to breed aquatic versions of these animals. Sadly, although advances in genetic manipulation are being made all the time, the day when we can successfully cross a haddock with a pig are still some way off. Having said that, scientists in Edinburgh have recently managed to successfully fit an outboard motor to a lamb chop. At the time the experiment was considered a frivolous waste of time and resources, but in light of the current global moistening scare the true value of their work can now be seen.
But can anything be done to reverse the effects of global moistening? Well, it's no good asking me. For the answer to that question we need to turn to the good people of Hawkwind, who have been charged with the awesome task of preventing this catastrophe. Realising that they could not possibly handle such an important assignment alone, they enlisted the help of Professor Jez Moonbeam, who agreed to assist them in return for being made an honorary member of the band.
Professor Moonbeam decided that before they could fully understand the problem, they should first establish which parts of the planet were the worst affected. He and the band set about examining all the geological and meteorological information they could get hold of in order to identify which areas were damper than others. Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia all registered very high levels of ground water, as did a number of South American countries. However, for some as yet unknown reason, the wettest place on the planet turned out to be a three foot stretch of road just outside the main post office in Sutton Coldfield. It was so wet, in fact, that OAPs calling to pick up their pensions were regularly harassed by passing salmon.
Interestingly, it's not just in Sutton Coldfield that the fish are getting more militant. There's been trouble in parts of Wolverhampton as well. This has led some observers to the conclusion that fish are orchestrating the whole dampening process. The main proponent of this theory is keen angler and part time cockney drummer Phil Collins, who has voiced his fears of a future in which fish are the master race. He envisages, in his words, a 'wet planet, like in that Kevin Costner film, where man is nothing but a slave to the Fish Lords'. Phil seriously believes that there will come a time when human beings will be born solely to serve their piscine masters, made to toil day and night, building little castles for them to swim through and novelty signs that read 'No Fishing'. But it's not too late. According to Phil, we must eradicate the fish to preserve our future; we must hoist them from the seas, from the rivers, from the oceans and slap them silly until they can take no more.
Last month he organised a march on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to demand that they post machine gun nests at the mouth of every river and equip trawlers with depth charges. The fact that the only other person who turned up for his protest was a forty-eight year old car park attendant who came dressed as a chocolate Hob Nob only served to illustrate the lack of regard that is generally felt for Mr Collins' theory.
Professor Moonbeam has certainly ruled out the possibility. He has gone on record as saying that no one in their right mind could possibly believe that fish are responsible for global moistening. Crabs, yes - those crafty bastards have had it in for us for a long time. But fish, no - the slimy little bleeders just haven't got the nerve.
So where is all this water coming from? IPREC's president for life, Rick Wakeman, favours the idea that someone, somewhere, has left a bath running, but initial tests of groundwater samples have revealed no traces of bubble bath. Meanwhile, the guys from Marillion have suggested that global moistening is caused by 'the baby Jesus spitting'. Emerson, Lake and Palmer firmly believe that Antarctica is melting, due to erosion caused by the increasing number of penguins who are taking up snowboarding. And Gong have advanced the idea that the Earth is simply retaining water 'like a big fatty'.
Each of these ideas has its supporters, but until Professor Moonbeam and Hawkwind make their presentation to IPREC's next meeting in September, it's still only guesswork. But one thing is certain - the Earth is undoubtedly getting wetter and if the situation is not remedied it will become irreversibly waterlogged. Analysts predict that this will make it sluggish - enough to alter its orbit around the sun and ultimately cause it to stick to the side of the moon like a piece of wet tissue paper. Something clearly has to be done.
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