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May 24th, 2008 - Musings of Captain Peleg [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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May 24th, 2008

the quest for placelessness [May. 24th, 2008|04:51 pm]
I'm still recovering from removal of the tooth of evil and a couple of its neighbors, but I just successfully drank coffee and ate baked ziti, so things are looking up. Meanwhile, I've been playing around discovering a fascinating account of 19th century ornithological controversy over the taxonomy of the piping plover in the archival dust of Early Canadiana Online (see my entry at The Plover Warden Diaries), reading about how it is that failure in the American quest for placelessness made the Monadnock Region what it is today, and cruising the web discovering the Greatest Software Ever Written.

Where the Mountain Stands Alone is a collection of "stories of place" edited by Howard Mansfield. It features all kinds of writers from Thoreau to Tom Wessels (whose Reading the Forested Landscape is a fave of mine), and Jane Brox. I'd read a lot of it back when I bought it a couple of years ago. Today, on re-reading the introductory essay on the pursuit of placelessness I was struck by how long the tension between making America all one big same place with the same stores and the same food shipped for miles versus local identity, local products, local everything has been going on Lately, many family conversations have revolved around "eat local" while devouring lamb on Easter or salmon on Mother's Day when local ewes don't give birth 'til almost May and we all know nobody caught those salmon burgers in the Atlantic. Of course, if we really ate local we would not have coffee or tea and that would be intolerable. Anyway, what I realized is that today's problems with fuel and food have their roots deep in early ideas of what America is.

I'm all for supporting local agriculture, but I want my coffee too -- preferably shade-grown organic coffee for the sake of the birds. And as a vegetarian, I wholeheartedly disagree with Barbara Kingsolver's thesis that we have to eat meat, and as long as they're locally grown and slaughtered they don't have as much impact on the environment as tofu does. All those acres of soybeans destroying the ecosystems of the Midwest and consuming fossil fuels are not going to feed vegetarians tofu. They're going to feed factory-farmed cattle. Feeding beans and grains to cattle is not the most efficient way to feed people. Oh, and each member of Kingsolver's family got to pick something non-local that they didn't have to give up and one of them picked coffee. Oh, darn, I've digressed from placelessness to my deep discomfort with my family's contention that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle proves I should not be vegetarian if I care about the planet.

Meanwhile, I must go ice my jaw and ruminate about how we will outsource oral surgery to India any day now. I think I'm deranged by eating only soft foods, whether or not they're locally grown.
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