Oil Futures, Goo Goo Clusters and Judgment Day

Some 150 new candy bars hit the shelves every year, but 65 per cent of U.S. brands have been around for more than six decades.

September 15, 2008 | | Autumn 2008 | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment

Test tube steak

“The way we produce livestock is not sustainable. If we’re not willing to reduce consumption, isn’t it time to bring non-animal alternatives into a serious discussion of how to produce the meat we eat?

“Growing organs from cells is already high on the biomedical research agenda. Bioengineers are finding it difficult to grow chunks of muscle in the lab, but meat to eat may be much easier to produce than the vascularized tissue needed for medical implantation.

“Frankly, if the end product is to be the white meat of a month-old broiler chicken or the minced meat of a hamburger, prepared without care and eaten absent-mindedly, why make the detour through a sentient vertebrate which needs kilos of grain just to keep upright and has a brain that may feel fear and frustration?” From “Grow meat, but off the bone,” by Anna Olsson, in New Scientist, July 5/08.

Candy Racket

“Some 150 new candy bars hit the shelves every year, but 65 per cent of U.S. brands have been around for more than six decades. The first composite bar, the Goo Goo Cluster, debuted in 1912, luring buyers with its mix of milk chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, and nuts. The 1920s were the heyday of candy bars, with the emergence of brands like Three Musketeers, Baby Ruth, and Snickers – still the best-selling bar of all time. (More short-lived were the Chicken Dinner and Tummy Full, touted as cheap meal substitutes during the Great Depression.)

“Mars and Hershey control 75 per cent of the U.S. candy rack. Switzerland’s Nestlé is the world’s largest chocolate producer, and British candy bars, like the Cadbury Crunchie maintain a strong following worldwide.”  From Worldwatch, May-June/08.

Forever Youngi

“‘With regard to Neil Young, I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice,’ says biologist Jason Bond of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, who has discovered a new species of trapdoor spider. He opted to name the spider Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi after his favourite musician.” From Reuters inNew Scientist, May 17/08.

Dark Day

“To poet John Greenleaf Whittier, it was ‘A horror of great darkness’ when ‘Men prayed, and women wept.’ By noon of 19 May 1780, the pall cast over coastal New England was so deep that citizens of Portland, Boston, and Providence had to eat their midday meals by candlelight. Many thought the Day of Judgment was at hand.

“After darkness lifted the next day, all manner of explanations came forth, including volcanic outpourings and celestial machinations. Now, researchers say they have traced the source of the darkness to forest fires 600 kilometres to the northwest.

“New England’s noontime darkness, they found, most likely resulted from the smoke of fires that spanned at least 2,000 square kilometers in southern Ontario. From Science, June 20/08.

Unsettling

“In my boyhood, Henry County, Kentucky, was not just a rural county, as it still is – it was a farming county. The farms were generally small. They were farmed by families who lived not only upon them, but within and from them. These families grew gardens. They produced their own meat, milk, and eggs. The farms were highly diversified. The main money crop was tobacco. But the farmers also grew corn, wheat, barley, oats, hay, and sorghum. Cattle, hogs, and sheep were all characteristically raised on the same farms.

“This was by no means a perfect society. Its people had often been violent and wasteful in their use of the land and of each other. Its present ills had already taken root in it. But I have spoken of its agricultural economy of a generation ago to suggest that there were also good qualities indigenous to it that might have been cultivated and built upon.

“That they were not cultivated and built upon – that they were repudiated as the stuff of a hopelessly outmoded, unscientific way of life – is a tragic error on the part of the people themselves; and it is a work of monstrous ignorance and irresponsibility on the part of the experts and politicians, who have prescribed, encouraged, and applauded the disintegration of such farming communities all over the country.

“I remember, during the fifties, the outrage with which our political leaders spoke of the forced removal of the populations of villages in communist countries. I also remember that at the same time, in Washington, the word on farming was ‘Get big or get out’ – a policy which is still in effect and which has taken an enormous toll. The only difference is that of method: the force used by the communists was military; with us, it has been economic – a ‘free market’ in which the freest were the richest. The attitudes are equally cruel, and I believe that the results will prove equally damaging, not just to the concerns and values of the human spirit, but to the practicalities of survival.” From The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, by Wendell Berry, Sierra Club Books, 1986 (first published 1977).

Don’t Stampede

“‘To whom it may concern: Attention having been directed from many parts of the world to the reported discovery of crude petroleum in the vicinity of Calgary, it seems expedient that some announcement should be made on the subject with the purpose of preventing false or harmful statement or statements being circulated with respect to the result of the oil-boring operations in this territory.

“‘It is impossible to state whether the oil found merely came from a seepage or indicates the existence of a large deposit at a greater or lesser distance of depth. Meanwhile boring continues with some promise of ultimate success, but until oil has been struck in volume, the public is warned against placing too great confidence in circulated reports, and particularly urged to exercise care in investments in oil leases, or in the stocks of companies or syndicates which have been or may be formed for oil exploitations.’

“The warning was signed by Mayor Sinnot for the city and J.A. Campbell for the Board of Trade.” From The Shelburne Economist, Oct 23/1913.

Can Do

“The transition to a carbon-free economy is eminently achievable because we have all the technology we need to do so. It is only a lack of understanding and the pessimism and confusion generated by special interest groups that is stopping us from going forward.” From The Weather Makers, by Tim Flannery, HarperCollins, 2005.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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