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It's a small world after all
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
July 13, 2003
I love traveling by train as much as I despise traveling by plane. On my little globe trotting adventure, the majority of travel time has been spent in the comfortable confines of various trains. From the high speed pampering of bullet trains to the clickety clack of local trains, which reminded me of the roller coaster ride usually associated with Disney's Indiana Jones ride. And let's not forget and the ever crowed subways of London's Tube and the Paris Metro.
Speaking of Indiana Jones, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I did feel the need to experience a mad dash across Paris. Considering it completely apropos we engaged a taxi for our pilgrimage to the Cimetiere Du Pére Lachaise and Jim Morrison's grave. Better than Disneyland, a Paris cab ride is not really about transportation, it is thrill seeking at it's finest, and should not be missed. As expected, a day in Paris was all I needed to discover that Paris is merely an older version of Los Angeles, but with better baguettes.
Suffice it to say automobiles were as needed as George Dubya's a missile defense system.
Part of the glamour of this trip was not being behind the wheel of a car for 40 days and 40 nights. Biblical in its implication, I was to discover that so much more is possible when mass transit is readily available. I also discovered the true wilderness is the American inability to adapt to a changing world. This trip has made me so much more aware of how the Iraqi situation is only about oil, and the Bush Administration's need to prop up a planet killing industry whose time has come and gone.
Liberated from the tyranny of the manual transmission, I have been free to ponder what ever comes to mind, in detail, while allowing others to worry about getting me where I need to go. This in turn has allowed me to contemplate agriculture, independence, and the need for some serious devolution.
Going around the world has been a major education for me. Not only am I discovering things about myself, I am also developing a deeper appreciation for the urgency in which Californians must begin to deal with the sustainability crisis looming before us. I often write about how totally dependent the people of Southern California are on multinational corporations for the food we eat.
Like beggars at a banquet we are unable to feed ourselves.
For decades Americans have suckled at the myth of their unparalleled independence, not to mention superiority and world envy. None of which is true. Sadly it has taken George W. Bush to show us that Americans are totally dependent on the resources of strangers. So much so, our government is now trying to reshape the world in our own dysfunctional image. Willing to wage war with the planet to retain the façade of control, we define insanity as patriotism and suicide as progress.
As we traveled from city to city we were a treated to the most enchanting view of the rolling countryside dominated by organic agriculture. Peering out the window I couldn't help wonder why the people of San Diego County felt the need to abandon their agricultural heritage when it was obvious thriving townships could co-exist with fields of corn, sunflowers, onions, wheat, and orchards of apples, pears, plums, grapes, chestnuts and other cash crops.
Only in the urban centers did I not see a plethora of cows, sheep and goats. Sarlat, France is world renown for its ducks and geese, basing a thriving tourist industry on dead birds. And yes, I know I am vegan, but I still couldn't notice how farming and modern life, complete with shopping malls, multiplexes and monster truck rallies was the norm rather than the exception. Think the American Midwest, but with a foreign language. Not to be left out, or reliant on fluctuations in the market, most suburban homes include extensive backyard gardens.
England, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and the Isle of Jersey all seem to manage to preserve thriving agriculture without sacrificing quality of life. Now I understand why the Europeans are so keen on rejecting the mad science of genetic engineering. To these folks food production is not some vague industry responsible for the iceberg lettuce on their Big Macs. It is culture as much as it is cuisine.
One can hardly comprehend how much as been sacrificed to the wheels of progress until they have had a chance to experience communities that understand the importance of self reliance not found in the mind numbing monoculture of modern America.
Now before anyone gets their hopes up, I assure you my spending time in France has not created a need in me to immigrate to the land of Foie Gras, nor have I completely succumbed to the many charms of Amsterdam. Instead my time in Europe has convinced to redouble my efforts to work towards California independence and restoring agriculture to its rightful place in our communities.