Flowers, birds, babies, bridges, and Bittman
by Rob Tiller
Spring really showed up in Raleigh this week, with lots of flowers. It’s always cheering, even though we know the pine pollen will soon be causing sneezes. With several new buildings going up downtown, there are fewer trees for the birds to sing in, but there are still some singers. I recognized several, including cardinals, robins, mockingbirds, song sparrows, and Carolina wrens. I hope they all find mates, and have happy nests with bouncing chicks.
Jocelyn and Kyle visited here last week, and proudly announced that they were expecting a baby girl in the fall. I was thrilled! It is so exciting to be having a grandbaby, which I intend to spoil rotten. Being a parent the first time round was stressful for me. But especially with mature and loving parents taking care of the difficult things, like food, baths, diapers, and bedtime, babies are cute and fun to play with. I’ve even started putting together a little songbook of children’s songs to play on the piano for my grandbaby and her friends, some of which I learned from my mom. I’m also trying to decide what I’d like the new one to call me. Poppy might be good.
I got hit by a brutal stomach flu bug early in the week, which left me weak and shaken. For a whole day, I couldn’t do anything but lie on my back, and the day after that, all I could manage was some reading.
But I enjoyed reading about the roll out of several projects of our new president, including the big initiatives addressing our bridges, dams, roads, water systems, electric grids, and other infrastructure problems. After years of extreme polarization, it now seems that a lot of people are in agreement as to this reality: we’ve neglected basic operating needs for decades and unless we want more disasters, we’ve got to get to work. Just weeks after the defeat of that big-mouthed lying loser, it feels like we might be starting to make real progress on some of our big problems, including climate change and racial justice. The President’s proposal to have wealthy corporations start paying their fair share of the bills seems like it could work.
Apropos of reading and trying to patch up our system, I strongly recommend a new book: Animal, Vegetable, Junk, by Mark Bittman. It is about food, and asks the seemingly simple question: what is food for? If you said nutrition, then you will get some new perspectives from this book. Bittman shows that food practices explain a lot about the rise and fall of human civilizations, including our own.
Bittman urges us to rethink some basic assumptions, such as treating the earth as an inexhaustible resource for human consumption, and treating food as an industry entitled to seek nothing other than more money. Animal, Vegetable, Junk tells a gripping, severely under-reported story, which urgently needs our attention.