tomatoes: an ethical minefield.

I find modern tomatoes incredibly upsetting. This isn’t because fruit, vegetable, what? Or because they’re from the poisonous nightshade family, have poisonous leaves, and yes I’ve been accidentally served poisonous pieces before that I had to pick out….no, it’s because of the tomato’s prevalence and complete corruption.

Similar to maize, tomatoes are a New World food the immigrants spread all over the planet and botched up. Once thought poisonous, tomatoes were golden orange and the size of grape tomatoes or smaller, held sacred in some ways by the Pueblo, and native in South and Central Americas. And, also like maize, it is everywhere. Think of a food and it’s likely in it. Tomatoes dice, a tomato slice, ketchup, salsa, spaghetti or pizza sauce, hot sauce,…

Tomatoes belong in Mexican cuisine, but Italian? It drives me crazy how the tomato builds the backbone of modern Italian cuisine. A restaurant in Uniontown, PA advertises the tomato as some holy grail of Italy and I simp laugh because it’s only been there since the 1500s. The Italian use of the tomato is like a slap in the face to natives and the effects of colonization, and now we have these bastard tomatoes to attest to that.

I love small, grape, tiny tomatoes. I hate big, grainy, gooey, pale tomatoes. I love Full English breakfasts with tomatoes roasted on the vine like I had at the White Cliffs of Dover one morning, courtesy of my gracious British host. Like maize, modern genetics have destroyed a once valuable, nutrient-rich native plant. Now, we buy tomatoes to serve our purpose – or more like we are sold tomatoes that maximize profit under the name of ideal cooking ingredients.

Not only are tomatoes an ethical minefield for how they’ve transformed, arrived, altered cultures, and been modified, they’re also a source of environmental ethics questions. It’s more environmentally friendly to grow tomatoes in Spain and ship them to England than to grow them in British greenhouses. The pizza sauce supplier for Dominos, as documented in Bet the Farm, dehydrates tomatoes to ship from California to the Ohio River for rehydration not for saving gas or whatever else but for making more money. Where has the value of a tomato even gone? And when was the last time you saw a ripe one anywhere but in a garden?

The tomato is in my opinion symbolic of American culture, and I wish the original tomatl could be widely revived.

insurgent.

“But it is difficult to persuade [him] to do something he doesn’t want to do, and even more difficult to justify my feelings with no evidence except my intuition.  So I agree.  But I do not change my mind.”

How do you fight for something you’re convinced is right when someone else stands up against you, convinced you’re wrong?  When their assuredness makes your assuredness feel questionable?  When you start to go back on your logic and figure out how two opinions could diverge so suddenly, when, and where?

I’ve been feeling that way about a lot of things lately.  Little things as well as huge life things.  From small opinions to huge topics.  It makes me uncomfortable trying to understand why there can be such disparages in vantage points.  How can people have such varying opinions?  I’m definitely more favorable of fact-based arguments.  But if they’re based on facts, then shouldn’t the interpretation be the same?

I think the worst disparages have to do with people and relationships, whether it’s what rights someone should have or if it’s about whether or not someone is “meant” for someone else.  What defines those lines?  Morals?  Factual evidence?  Grey lines whose only definitions exist in the mind, through opinions, and by defining a set law of ethics and sticking to them.

My quote comes from Tris in the book Insurgent, second to Divergent.  And it’s basically how I feel about a lot of things right now: Concede but don’t relent.  In fact, don’t really concede.  And, at the same time, question yourself thoroughly.  Am I crazy?

What is crazy?

I’m just confused.

The Unprecedented Reverse Psychological Effect of Earth Day

Earth Day was created in 1970 to increase environmental awareness and spark interest in the population to heal the world’s health problems. It is one of my least favorite celebrations because I believe it is ineffective and almost counterproductive.

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Picture on my run in Cleveland this weekend.

To me, every day is Earth Day. Every choice I make has been done with preconceived intention and consequence. I operate on a level of mutual respect for my surroundings and nature. I ethically cannot violate this respect; thus I have no need for a celebratory day with events within driving distance or farther for me to demonstrate my good intentions. Each breath I take resonates my purpose.

I do not doubt that Earth Day had held its significance in environmental education; but with the turning of the tide in this new ages Green Revolution, dedicating a sole day to volunteering, clean-up, environmental education, and vegan potlucks seem to miss the point and enable us to accept this “holiday” as our only “work day”. The same things demonstrated on Earth Day should, in reality, be incorporated in every intention of our daily lives and in every classroom within the American education system. Instead, we drive ourselves to an Earth Day event, commit a few lazy hours to picking up litter (which is more of an aesthetic concern than environmental), and then indulge in bowls of food that 9 times out of 10 contain imported, genetically modified, or otherwise unnatural ingredients somewhere within the depths of the dish. Then April 23rd comes around and it’s back to factory beef, taking out the trash, and watching sports on our televisions.

Earth Day should be more of a day of reflexion. “Look how far we have come since last Earth Day” with numbers ensuing for proof. Rather, local events I see for Earth Day fail to carry this message. The unprecedented result has thus been to instill in the minds of the youth that today we remember the planet, and then tomorrow they will remember their video games. In dedicating one day of the year to our cause, we have dedicated 364 to 365 of the off-days to ordinary lifestyles. This doesn’t mean we should make the Anti-Earth Day and dedicate one day to slacking…or should we? Talk about reverse psychology.

So, rather than ask what you will be doing for Earth Day, what will you be doing 6 months from now for your planet? What about every other day in between?

Land Ethics – Something Not To Be Underrug Swept

I am studying Civil Engineering, but I am specializing in the “Environmental Geotechnical” subdivision of the broad CivE field.  For this reason, one of my classes this semester is Environmental Geology.  I thought it would be a boring class about rocks, but it really isn’t.  Despite my preconceived notions, I ordered all of my text books months in advance and have since kept up on the reading.  I wish more students could delve into these materials as seriously because I am surprised by how relevant every topic really is.  I keep recalling these Indian proverbs recited in my family (Native American, albeit in French) about how life is one fragile web; what happens to one thread happens to all.  The expression fits this class perfectly.

Just within the first chapter, I was pummeled with scientifical points and pointed fingers.  The author of my “Introduction to Environmental Geology” book, Edward A. Keller, begins his book with “Concept One: Human Population Growth… The number-one environmental problem is the increase in human population”.  True or not true?  It is clearly his opinion, but he supports it well.  He talks about the “population bomb”, where exponential growth in our population explodes our numbers… and how our flocking to concentrated areas rather than pioneering and exploring has cornered us and subjected us to natural disasters.  My mother would argue that disasters, famine, disease, etc. are all mechanisms of the planet to balance itself out.  Now that we have improved technologies, agriculture, and medicine that extends our lifetimes significantly (and thereby affecting our population numbers in one stillframe), these disasters are merely keeping us in order.

But Keller takes this to another level.  He argues that “some studies suggest that the present population is already above a comfortable carrying capacity for the planet” (16), just pages before he explains the likelihood that Earth will outlive us by billions of years.  He constantly reiterates how short our time on this planet has been relative to the Earth’s age, and it’s a matter of hours around New Year’s after a whole year has passed before our arrival.  By page 18, Keller is essentially arguing that the Earth is not in danger.  We are in danger, some of the wildlife is likely affected by us and therefore in danger, but the planet keeps on apathetically turning.  Remember, this is a geology book, so plate techtonics, physical and chemical composition – none of that will change.  However, if we keep feeding the gases into the atmosphere that cause changes in the climate and the cold front patterns, the planet will naturally balance that with its ever-changing topography and natural disasters.  What Keller is trying to say is as simple as this: Don’t fix the planet, because it will balance itself out regardless; instead, view environmentalism as monitoring the Earth for the sole purpose of saving ourselves.

This brings me to “land ethics”, introduced on page 33.  It’s interesting how many people I know will go through their lives not thinking a second about the environment.  They’ll buy what they want to buy, drive where they want to drive, and not blink at all at the looming threat of a planetary disaster.  It’s people like these who do not invest in the vavlues of land ethics.  These ethics declare humans responsible, through their actions as citizens to this planet, for all other humans as well as the flora, the fauna, the ground, the water, and the air.  Believing in a land ethic means you agree that “we are the land’s citizens and protectors, not its conquerors”, that “this role change requires us to rever, love, and protect our land rather than allow economics to determine land use” (33), which it so often does.  This is no “hippie” notion – this is purely being responsible.

It sickens me that notions such as land ethics have such a classy, hippie, cool appeal.  Trigger words should instead include survival, necessity, and catastrophe prevention.  We are “blessed” enough to live in this era which teeters on the brink of some serious global crises.  Granted, these crises may only exist for our race, for our species, because the Earth will move on without us.  But, if we want to invest in the safe future of our offspring, we should concern ourselves less with economic survival and acknowledge the big picture.  We might all have our internal disputes, even those between nations, but what are those really to the planet as a whole?  They’re petty things.  The ONE THING that this entire planet should be able to agree on in the IMMEDIATE NEED to preserve a place for our children to live.  Other planets may not be a solution, and if we can’t fix our problems here then we will be certainly ill-equipped to take on an entirely new and foreign system.

The planet really is a fragile web.  However, it can rebuild itself.  Mother Earth a.k.a. Gaia is one crafty spider, and we are merely insects she’s got saved aside for later in her web.  It’s about time every human realizes he cannot live here for free, that he is indebted to his environment for eternity.  We might have fancy technology, but Mother Earth’s power will always overcome us in the end.  What makes us any different than the dinosaurs or any other mammal subjected to the same environment as we?  Have a conscience – it just might save your life.

P.S. Did you know?  Not only does the Earth’s techtonic plates, through their convergence, divergence, subduction, etc. dictate our living conditions on the surface, but the planet’s shape controls our climate.  Ever wondered why the equitorial jungles are surrounded by deserts?  It has to do with hot air collecting and dumping its burdening water content at the Equator, then its recycling away from the Equator in arid gusts that steal away any moisture in the deserts.  This is one of the many ways Mother Earth balances herself out and decides how we live.