Sunday, September 09, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 9-16-07
Jeff Gill

Looking For an Apple

Some local orchards have signs up saying “Due to frost, there will be no apples this fall.”

The frost they speak of was back in April.

That’s how growing things works – a frost in the spring leaves you apple-free in the fall, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Our current mindset balks at such an idea. Of course we can do something about it! We can order up a load of apples from New Zealand and dump ‘em in the produce department to pick through, and throw out the culls a week later (with the good Lord alone knowing how many were pitched earlier in the process for lack of cosmetic appeal).

True, the April frost will not cut into our stock of pie filling and applesauce and stuff for bobbing after come Hallowe’en. We will have our apples . . . this year. Probably the next, too.

Meanwhile, apples from New York state will go to Iowa and West Virginia apples will go to Minnesota, and we’ll see Galas and Golden Delicious (ick, personal opinion) with little stickers for Ecuador and down where people stand upside down on the earth.

Does this not seem a bit odd to you? And as energy prices increase, will the silliness become outright irrationality?
If the market has the wisdom I think it is capable of when driven to common sense, usually by price increases, we will see a bit less of perishable foodstuff from across the International Date Line in years to come.

Others will joke “Global warming, huh? Then we should have longer growing seasons in Ohio, not less. Sign me up for a leased landyacht, paid for out of my home equity loan.”

For the record, it’s “global climate change.” The trends, as measured and hypothesized by climate scientists, mean more rainfall some places and less others; reduced snow pack and glacial growth in the Rockies may be part of colder springs, but warmer falls.

If the world mean temperature is going up due to greenhouse gases, or sunspots; if increased particulate matter in the atmosphere is reflecting sunlight back into space to cool other stretches of the planet; if the Great Lakes don’t freeze over anymore during the winter (and they haven’t) – then down-wind of the lakes we may see more snow as a result of the mis-labeled “global warming.”

But there are aspects of what’s going on with temperatures, current and historic, and how we measure that which I grant are not as well understood as some with political agendas would like to say.

To be perfectly candid, I’m much more worried about aquifer depletion, groundwater contamination, and oceanic dead zones. Those are fearfully measurable, and the numbers aren’t good. From numbers to concrete phenomena . . . did you know that there is something, slowly spinning around in the northern Pacific Ocean called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is the size of Texas? Oceanic scientists call it, ironically, “the world’s largest landfill.” Precise measurements were last taken six years ago, but it’s estimated that the ratio of plastic to living organisms in that water is 10-to-1 by now, or more.

Plastic breaks down on exposure to light, over time, but only into smaller pieces, still floating, very tiny. All those disposable water bottles you saw spinning through an eddy in the creek the other day? There’s a good chance that their fragmentary little selves could add someday to that continent of consumed consumer-ness floating in the Pacific.

That’s in seawater; our own freshwater right here in Licking County is steadily under suspicion, with septic fields and agricultural runoff pushing the entire county closer and closer to across the board sewer and water treatment systems just to preserve drinking water here in Ohio.

Go to Las Vegas, let alone Los Angeles, and figure out where the water for golf courses and green lawns is coming from. Did you know that the Colorado River, the watercourse what carved the Grand Canyon, essentially stops parts of the year, never making it to the Gulf of California? (That was a big hint.)

We’ll figure out what to do about all this short of major disaster. We’ve reduced the hole in the ozone layer with a ban on certain aerosols, and we may well outlaw Kentucky bluegrass and other thirsty transplants as a ground cover in parts of the country. But we’ll need water, fresh, drinkable water, no matter what, and as oil becomes pricier, the means to desalinate and purify water resources will need to change. Grey-water management will not be a specialist term and rain barrels will go from history lesson to everyday housekeeping.

Somehow, just becoming aware of our own local ecosystem seems to be an important part of whatever those changes will be, as you and I are either a conscious, or an unconscious part of being the change. Cheap apples from New Zealand don’t really plug a hole in a local economy, they just fill up a line in a recipe.

Whatever we’re gonna be doing with the oil and gasoline we still have available in another generation, it isn’t going to be that. However it is we get pure water in another generation, we’re not going to be using an apple skin and cargo ship as the delivery method of choice.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he reads that passage about “dominion over the earth” as a two-way proposition. Contact him at

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