- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

Global warming is not caused by greenhouse gases, gamma rays, fossil fuels or aerosol sprays. The planet is heating up because much of humankind is either in love or looking for love. All those hand-wringing, finger-pointing climatologists are right. Global warming is man-made. We’re now in the Oh Zone.

Hallelujah.

Love, romance, adoration, affection, passion, rhapsody — all that stuff — continues to make the world go around — and heat things up, too. Even the climatologists better hasten to the florist, as this collective incandescence will peak about 72 hours from now.

Valentine’s Day will dawn in all its lacy glory on Wednesday, sending the populace racing for roses, doilies, candy hearts, chocolate-covered anything and greeting cards that begin, “Oh, my darling…” Hallmark, in fact, should consider a whole global-warming line now that we know what’s really causing Earth to be toastier than usual.

Yes, of course. Hallmark’s new “Oh, my darling ozone…” collection.

And though the White House may not issue an official Valentine’s Day proclamation beginning, “Greetings, Schmoopy,” the act might bear some consideration. Certainly can’t hurt. Americans are, well, very sentimental. According to a new Ipsos survey, 79 percent of us consider ourselves to be romantic and 86 percent expect to celebrate V-Day, this according to 518 men and 507 women.

Aw-w-w.

According to the 2007 Harlequin Romance Report — conducted by the world’s leading publisher of romantic novels, which ought to know — 71 percent of us said that “finding true love” was the most important thing we would ever do. Like, in our whole lives. Love trumped money, achievement and career success, the study found. This one was based on the responses of more than 2,200 adults.

When asked if traditional romantic flourishes such as chocolate and flowers were “outdated,” three quarters of the men and eight out of 10 women said no.

Rosie Amodio, editor of the Nest, a new magazine for married couples, reports that the most-wanted Valentine’s Day gift among hubbies and wives is not diamond earrings or fancy electronics, but “time together,” this according to a survey of 600 readers.

Three quarters of the respondents said they planned to stay home Wednesday night rather than race off to a swanky restaurant.

Hm-m-m. Maybe the White House should break into prime-time programming and issue that proclamation, come to think of it.

It may give Cupid himself pause to discover that the nation’s youth are not quite as preoccupied with the tawdry life as Hollywood producers would like us to believe. According to a survey of 1,900 younger Americans from 14 to 29 conducted by the Boston-based research group Youthography, 78 percent said that finding a lifelong partner was “totally important.”

Oh, and (close Junior’s ears) “having sex” was cited by 46 percent.

Oddly enough, two geezers — well, relative geezers, anyway — ended up at the top of a new list identifying the nation’s biggest flirts. NBC morning hostess Meredith Viera and actor William Shatner were deemed the most flirtatious by Jill Spiegel, author of “Flirting for Success,” among other things.

“Why not?” asked Mr. Shatner, 75 and veteran of outer space, police and legal shows, not to mention the Price Line.

And while flirting may not be recognized as a vital office skill by most employers, many of us value a certain innocence in our romance. We have yet to outgrow diminutive candy hearts, which are sweet, chalky, 8 calories each — and old. They have been around since 1860, invented by one Daniel Chase, who was intent on making commemorative lozenges printed with “humorously foreboding” messages for wedding guests, according to manufacturer Necco.

Along with “Be mine” and “Sweet talk,” the company has printed more than 100 little love mottos since then, introducing 10 new phrases each year, says spokeswoman Lory Zimbalatti.

Last year, the little candy hearts were emblazoned with the stuff of text messaging. This year, they offer animal-inspired sayings: “Puppy Love,” “Top Dog” and “Take a Walk,” perhaps for also-rans.

Yeah, well. There is room for some innovation, and certainly for the pet factor this Wednesday. A survey of 1,000 pet owners by Purina revealed that 61 percent planned to include their kitty or dog in their Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Americans indeed put their money where their hearts are: Valentine’s Day spending is expected to grow by 20 percent this year, according to the National Retail Foundation, which found the average, albeit mushy, consumer plans to spend $120 on romantic sundries this year — up from $101 last year. The grand total? We’ll spend $17 billion on our honey-bunnies — and that includes 189 million roses, 8 billion candy hearts and 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates

Think of it: 189 million, 8 billion, 36 million. Surely that contributes to global warming just as much fossil fuels.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and candy hearts for the Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@washington times.com, or 202/636-3085.

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