How's the weather?
Questions about food and the environment
By Ramin Takloo-Bighash
June 21, 2004
I do not know what it means to be a liberal; all
I know is that nowadays it’s a curse to be one. Somehow worrying
about the environment is labeled liberal; giving a damn about international
treaties is tool; caring about anything that is, to my opinion,
worth caring about is considered liberal. I guess, as Chris Rock
once said, there are things we are liberal about and there are
things we are conservative about. And somehow being conservative
about food and weather is liberal.
A couple of weeks ago that new movie came out “The day after
tomorrow.” It reminded me a small piece that I had written
about a year ago:
Today is April 7th, 2003 and last night we got two
inches of snow in Princeton. Today it felt like winter, and from
the window of my office in the Fine Hall
I didn’t see nothing but winter. I wonder if this is the beginning of
another ice age. Another ice age? Hmm I hadn't thought about that, but if you
I'd say it's the early effects of the green house age.
Somebody should explain
it to our beloved president that this is as serious as taking over the world,
if not more. A while back, they had somebody on Fox News. I never
watch that channel unless when I'm too happy and I know I shouldn't be; watching
that channel replaces the sense of euphoria with such disgusting madness
that I feel is more apt for our times.
Anyway, that particular time they had a weather-channel
professor from some mid-west state university who happened to be - I don’t
know exactly what but maybe - president's weather adviser. So the interviewer
asks her, "What do you think about the green-house effect? Is it really
as serious as some people say it is?"
She says, in her expert opinion,
that, after a very serious pause and moving her glasses back with fingers
attached to manicured nails that didn't go too well with her academic status, "Well,
there are always changes in weather patterns that are somewhat beyond our
control," - true - "but
really let's think about it. Last year in Siberia the lowest temp reported
was -60 c. Now I want you to realize that that's really cold."
says: "Yeah, it certainly is; even thinking about that number makes me
want to put on more clothes." The expert goes on "Now wouldn't it
be better if the lowest temp reported in Siberia would be -40 instead of -60.
that be a much more comfortable winter?"... I'm thinking - scratching
my head -... here, insert a moment of awe... "Damn! Why didn't I think
And then I wonder if anybody really buys
what she's selling? The sad realization is that most do. The
of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are living witnesses of
what's about to happen to us. Some smart comedian once said, "It's
not earth that is in danger. Earth will be ok. It's us who will
get screwed," and I believe
next piece, written a couple of months ago, is concerned with food.
day we discovered a head of lettuce in our fridge; an early settler
of our icebox after moving to the new house back in August. That makes this
piece of lettuce about six months old; I wonder how many lettuce years is that.
lettuce had aged quite well, especially considering the fact that the passing
of time had left no scars on this mammoth; apparently even the blackout of
the last season following Isabel had not affected the green smile of the lettuce.
Even now, while I write these lines, the veggie Noah
is well and alive and is
planning to reside in the refrigerator for the remaining months of
2004, as a volunteer in a survival study led by my wife. Back home
in Iran, where
the grocer personally knew the farmer who had grown the vegetables, greens
did go bad; they didn’t have the life-expectancy of Japanese women.
besides, things were seasonal. Get this: Orange trees do not produce
in winter, nor do apple trees in summer. Back home, specific seasons
meant specific fruits; no! it was the other way: it would not be
summer until the arrival
of water-melons, sweet juicy ones with crimson flesh. Surprised? I thought
Where do our vegetables come from? If vegetables
could speak, I wonder how many
languages and dialects we would hear in the vegetable isles of Super Fresh;
what stories of ancient grape civilizations destroyed by gamma
radiation; what folk
songs describing gruesome details of experiments by white-coat wearing creatures
who did not look like farmers.
I am writing all of this to bring you to this
point: What we feed our cows just spreads the mad-cow disease; there the solution
is simple: we kill the psycho cows, the rest of them will learn to behave.
On the vegetable side, however, things are potentially a lot more
the extent that maybe well beyond our modest, couple of thousands year old,
understanding of nature. The warning signs are everywhere and I
don’t think it is wise
for us to wait for our frozen carrots to do the moon-dance to declare them mad.
goodbye to spam!