LONDON (Daily Prophet) Is carbon dioxide in overabundance these days and warming the earth?
Among Muggles, this is a subject for much heated discussion. At times, it would seem their windmill arrays could be run by the verbal wind expended by politicians, pro and con alike, in arguing the subject.
Perhaps they could relax a bit, if a North Yorkshire wizard is correct. He believes the major source of CO2 is well beyond Muggle control.
“Magic is the culprit,” he says assuredly. “If anyone is at fault, it’s the world’s wizards and witches.”
It’s all simple chemistry, states self-styled scientist Ottenham (“Ottie”) Woodford, during a recent Daily Prophet interview in his home at Wigglesworth-on-Ribble.
Ottie greets us at the door, bare-footed and garbed in a shepherd’s robes. His eyes have a certain wildness in them; his white hair looks as though he had recently been struck by lightning.
His home is quite the unique place. There is no bedroom; he sleeps outdoors, year-round, in an improvised sleeping bag, to breathe fresh air. The laboratory, so-called, is rather chilly and dark, aside from one shaft of warm sunlight which reaches a central desk by an arrangement of clock-driven mirrors. We walk toward the light and take a seat. Around us, nearly every flat surface is buried in piles of parchments and books. The stony walls have no diplomas to enlighten and impress the visitor.
His hair glows in a halo as he leans forward into the light beam, proselytising. “Witches and wizards, as we all know, are ordinary human beings born with a rare genetic ability called magic. Whilst we pretend to ourselves that we are operating beyond Nature’s confining rules, all our magic can only manipulate the world in accordance with standard scientific principles ... albeit in marvellous ways.”
How, we ask, can our magic be in accordance with standard principles, yet at fault for global warming?
“Transfiguration is a good example. When a pig is transformed into a desk, a carbon-based life form is being changed—via the wand flash—into a silica-based object. Magic or not, a chemical process has to take place. Do we ever ask ourselves where the pig’s carbon goes, or the desk’s silica comes from?”
Never really thought about it, we answer. Is that important?
“Yes!” he exclaims, rather wide-eyed and agitated now. “That’s the whole point! The pig’s carbon molecules are dispersed into the air, and are ignited by the energy of the wand flash. The result is the creation of carbon dioxide. Voila, ergo, and Q.E.D.!”
But in the typical school demonstration, we argue, the desk is then transfigured back into a pig. Doesn’t it all cancel out in the end—zero gain, zero loss?
“No, no, not at all! Flamel’s Law of Conservation of Portkey Matter demands carbon expenditure and carbon recovery. Equal amounts of carbon are used, true. But the pig reforms by drawing carbon molecules from the earth—C, not CO2. The CO2, once created, is in the atmosphere to stay, until inhaled by plants. They inhale, y’know.”
Transfiguration, we observe, is not that common a spell.
“It was one simple example. I daresay you travel every day by Portkey, Apparation, or the Floo Network. The same thing happens as in Transfiguration.”
Really, we ask? Doesn’t the traveller physically move from one place to another, intact?
“That’s what the books say, and that’s the standard impression of wizards. I question it! Tell me how a Splinch happens. Is there some monster in the Apparation world, hacking body parts off travellers passing through?”
We can’t answer except with a question. How, then, does a witch or wizard travel?
“By scientific principles. Travelling as an intact body is merely an illusion! When the very complicated makeup of a human body and mind is transported, the carbon-based creature is changed to energy, and the CO2 disperses. If all goes well, the energy is transmitted properly, then reforms as a carbon-based creature. If the traveller fails to concentrate, the energy wavers, and a Splinch takes place. In any event, a huge amount of CO2 results.”
Isn’t that good, then, since the CO2 we’re creating is food for trees?
“You might think so, but where will the 2 parts of oxygen, the O2 in CO2, come from? Out of the atmosphere, my dear boy! It’s the air that flows into the space vacated by the traveller. Using oxygen means more work for the plant kingdom, and less oxygen for you and me!”
So, we should either stop breathing, or—
“Or do less wand waving! Even the wand flash itself causes an oxygen inrush and carbon dispersal, meaning a bit of CO2 from any use of a wand. There it is, don’t you see? Look at your own living habits. We don’t wash pots; we take out a wand and Scourgify them. Result: CO2 from the wand flash. We Portkey the whole family to visit grandmum; there’s another huge amount of CO2! Think of all this gas, clogging the atmosphere! Think, man! Oh, and don’t even ask about prolonged spells!”
That begged further inquiry, so of course, we ask. What about prolonged spells?
He moans. Obviously it’s not his favourite subject. “A profligate waste! We hide whole buildings! We have a disguising spell over several square miles for Hogwarts! We carpool to work with a half-dozen friends in a charmed Austin Mini! We find all these ways to stuff ten pounds in a five-pound bag, and of course, they take energy to maintain, including an ongoing creation of CO2. Don’t even mention the Hogwarts Express to me! Ooh! Not only is it a prolonged spell to cloak it, but it burns coal to run the steam engine! And now, there are wizards in the Ministry working with the Muggle bigwigs to use that same charm to make British Army vehicles invisible on the battlefield. Foolish, foolish, foolish!”
But if we must belt-tighten on prolonged spells to limit CO2, wouldn’t the Wizarding Wireless Network have to be shuttered at some point?
“Not really. Yes, the WWN requires a tremendous expenditure of continuous charm in transmission, but since it uses a negative wavelength to avoid Muggle detection, the charm’s generating beneficial negative carbon ions (C-), thus cleaning the atmosphere. Besides, they’re powering it from essentially free energy; they draw it out of the air from BBC Radio 4 … which no one was listening to anyway.”
How can we offset whatever damage our wand-waving has already caused?
“For that, we should borrow a Muggle idea and consider the ‘carbon wandprint’ that our magic impresses on the atmosphere. If your wandprint is exceedingly large, you can offset it with ‘charm credits,’ as it were, by planting trees.”
City dwellers, we note, might find that impossible.
“You can pay others to do it for you in the countryside, y’know.”
That sounds almost like the sale of indulgences in medieval times.
“Oh, there may be charlatans in the business, but not all are. For instance, I offer my services in that regard, and for a few galleons...”
We refer him to our advertisement manager.
However, not everyone agrees with Woodford’s dire forecast. We asked the witch we remember for changing tortoises into teapots and vice versa: Headmistress Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts, recent author of Advanced Transfiguration.
“Oh, I believe ‘codswallop’ would be the technical term for that,” she contends. “To label a wand as a major source of carbon dioxide seems quite a stretch. A wizard exhales more of it while speaking the charm, and we don’t advocate less exhaling by wizards now, do we?”
Nevertheless, some say the global temperature is rising at a dangerous rate. Do you believe, we ask, that CO2 from magic might be a factor?
“If you predict at dawn that the sun is going to continue to rise in the sky, you’ll be considered right brilliant — until noon, after which you’d be dead wrong, because these things go in cycles! The earth has boiled before, and has frozen over before, without any help from us. I’d daresay it might do it again sometime, if it’s in the mood.”
But can we minimise our CO2 and turn the tide on greenhouse emissions?
“If Mr. Woodford believes that he can make a noticeable difference, he’s welcome to try,” she sniffs. “In Gryffindor’s day, King Canute’s most dedicated followers believed he could control the tides; he couldn’t, obviously, and he knew that, but he had to prove a negative to them. How do I prove to Ottie Woodford that magic folk can’t raise or lower the global temperature, for heaven’s sake?”
Mr. Woodford is just as adamant.
“Magicians, conserve your magic for a better world. Waste not, want not — wand not!”