George P. Mitchell Wins The Al

Left, my nominee; right, the winner in all his glory

Two weeks ago I introduced HT to the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award. This year I nominated Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, who invented bubble wrap:

What makes popping bubble wrap so fun? Is it about power – the thrill of destruction? Maybe for some, but I doubt that’s the main attraction. Is it the excitement of steadily building the pressure, not knowing when the threshold will be crossed, until suddenly pop! – essentially a hand-held roller coaster or scary movie. That’s more plausible. But people who don’t care for roller coasters or scary movies – me, for example – seem to get as much out of bubble wrap as everyone else. In the end, I think it’s a mystery. Why do lots of people like chocholate and few people like anchovies? They just do.

So in addition to sheer quality and quantity of enjoyment, there’s another reason bubble wrap embodies The Al. It’s an improvement to the human condition that no central planner or philosopher could ever have dreamed up. It reminds us that at the deepest level, the universe is the way it is simply because it is that way. That doesn’t mean the universe is irrational or amoral at its core; it means that the deepest mind and morality of the universe are what they are independent of whether we understand or approve. And so also with beauty, which is the third of the three classical Aristotelian transcendent experiences (the good, the true and the beautiful) – including the beauty of popping bubble wrap.

But I’m not disappointed to see my nominee lose to George P. Mitchell, who commercialized fracking. From Mitchell’s nomination, submitted by Matt Ladner:

George P. Mitchell’s was both a deliberate and perhaps an inadvertent environmentalist. A philanthropic supporter of environmental causes, Mitchell ironically made a far greater positive impact on the environment through his market activities. More ironic still, many environmentalists somewhere on the ya-hoo to yay-hoo spectrum (a man from Wyoming once tried to explain the difference to me- but it is awfully complex) hate Mitchell’s fantastic environmental triumph….

The United States is going to meet Kyoto carbon emission goals despite the fact that we never signed the treaty. As it turns out, George P. Mitchell took care of things for us….

George P. Mitchell’s influence on the world is set to grow ever larger. With the new technologies for instance, Israel now has recoverable fuel reserves comparable to Saudi Arabia. Foreign Policy attempted to forecast the winners and losers of the new energy abundance and on balance, it is looking very good overall.

Also nominated were street artist Banksy, automotive innovator Ransom Olds (as in “Oldsmobile”), and digital-first-down-line inventor Stan Honey. Congratulations to all!