Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quote for the day

Songs are thoughts sung out with breath when people are moved by great forces and ordinary speech is no longer enough.
-- Orpingalik, recorded by Knud Rasmussen

Monday, October 10, 2011

Heureux d'action de grâces!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kitsilano Beach Park, Vancouver

UBC Farm harvest; image source here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Haida canoe: living icon of 10,000 year-old culture

'The Everything Canoe'
The Tyee: Dug out of a single log, carved into a distinctive shape and steamed open to become a seaworthy vessel, the Haida canoe is connected to the forests, the ocean, supernatural beings, great voyages, war, trade, feasts and potlatches of the island archipelago of Haida Gwaii.. The Haida Gwaii Museum's recent publication, Gina Waadluxan Tluu: the Everything Canoe, was designed as a resource... bringing the rich history of Haida culture into school curriculums...

From the elders: "Canoes were part of everyday life... Everywhere they went was by canoe -- from the winter village to the different gathering grounds... They would follow the seasons... The islands' goods were bought and sold by canoe... The canoe shaped Haida expressions of welcome and agreement: "In Old Haida, when they said 'I agree with you,' they [used the word meaning] 'crew.'...One might say, 'I'm going to be your crew, get on with you.'"

Guujaaw, master carver and current Haida Nation president, worked on one of three canoes commissioned by the Skidegate Band Council in 2006... Guujaaw was also instrumental in helping Bill Reid create the initial 24-foot canoe that led to the creation of the Loo Taas... "It is important to know that the supernatural world is not in the past, but with us today. The more you experience the action and the way [the canoe] handles in the water, then the more you start to believe it."..

Several journeys have been made by Haida canoe in recent memory, including the return to Loo Taas to Haida Gwaii after Expo 86. But as Captain Gold explains... "Making that craft and that skill had to be relearned all over again."
Image: Torch relay in the Loo Taas ('water eater'); source here.

Feast day of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis preaching to the birds and animals.
Image source here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Quote for the day

The Inuit word meaning 'to make poetry' is the same as the word for 'to breathe,' and both derive from the word for 'the soul.'

-- Jonathan A. Vance, A History of Canadian Culture

Thursday, September 29, 2011

for Michaelmas

Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, honours the greatest of all the archangels, the principal angelic warrior, who defeated Lucifer in the war in heaven. In some traditions this day is the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, including Gabriel, the messenger and Raphael, the healer. Michael is protector against the dark of night, administrator of cosmic intelligence, guardian of souls.

Saint Michael, protect us.
Image source here.

Today also is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, first of the High Holy 'Days of Awe,' representing the creation of the world. The Day of Judgment and remembrance, it begins the time of our repentance, to be sealed on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, holiest day of the year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and sealed to live.
Image source here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Canada's reputation #1

Canada has best reputation in the world

Vancouver Sun: Canada has the best reputation in the world, says a study measuring public perceptions of 50 countries around the world... The Reputation Institute study measures the trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings the public holds towards 50 countries, as well as perceptions of peoples' quality of life, safety and attention to the environment.

Results from 42,000 respondents worldwide ranked Sweden next, followed by Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand... The countries scored high for their steady democracies, high economic output per capita, focus on active lifestyles, well developed political systems and perceived neutrality to international political upheavals.
Image source here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Poem for the day

for Terence Brown
Seeing the bags of meal passed hand to hand
In close-up by the aid workers, and soldiers
Firing over the mob, I was braced again

With a grip on two sack corners,
Two packed wads of grain I'd worked to lugs
To give me purchase, ready for the heave --

The eye-to-eye, one-two, one-two upswing
On to the trailer, then the stoop and drag and drain
Of the next lift. Nothing surpassed

That quick unburdening, backbreak's truest payback;
A letting go which will not come again.
Or it will once. And for all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toward the Equinox

Spring and Fall
to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed;
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Books are our friends VI

Pie de Amigo (Foot of Friend) by Miler Lagos: 'An arc of stacked architecture books with one pencil placed in the leaves of each book that, if removed, would cause the whole piece to tumble.'

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Feathers in amber: birds and dinosaurs

Amber cache reveals feathered dinosaurs, birds shared habitat

The Canadian Press: An ancient deposit of amber from southern Alberta has revealed that birds with feathers not that different from their modern descendants shared habitat with dinosaurs still sporting the most primitive of plumages.

'We've got two ends of the evolutionary-developmental model co-occuring,' said University of Alberta paleontolgist Ryan McKellar, co-author of a paper on the Medicine Hat amber deposit in the journal Science... The amber deposit is from the last days of the dinosaurs [the Cretaceous period] between 78 and 79 million years ago.

Scientists have long known that some dinosaurs had simple feathers. Most of the evidence for that comes from fossils discovered in China. But those proto-feathers have been crushed into a thin film by the weight of millennia. In Alberta, however, the tiny filaments from both dinosaur and bird feathers... are so well-preserved that researchers can even guess what colour they were.

More images here:
Wired Science: 'These simple feathers clearly had nothing to do with flight, and probably had everything to do with thermal regulation. They were essentially a feather homologue of fur,' said paleontologist Alex Wolfe of the University of Alberta, a co-author of the new study.
Image source here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coral reefs signal mass extinction

Coral reefs 'will be gone by end of the century'
They will be the first entire ecosystem to be destroyed by human activity, says top UN scientist

The Independent: Professor Peter Sale studied the Great Barrier Reef for 20 years at the University of Sydney. He currently leads a team at the United Nations University for Water, Environment and Health.

The predicted decline is mainly down to climate change and ocean acidification. [Sale's] book, Our Dying Planet... contains further alarming predictions, such as the prospect that 'we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years...'

Coral reefs... contain a quarter of all marine species, despite covering only 0.1 per cent of the world's oceans by area, and are more diverse than the rainforests... About 180 million people live within 100km of a reef, of which some 275 million are likely to depend on the reef ecosystems for nutrition or livelihood. Fringing reefs can also help to protect low-lying islands and coastal regions from extreme weather, absorbing waves before they reach vulnerable populations.

Carbon emissions generated by human activity, especially our heavy use of fossil fuels, are the biggest cause of the anticipated rapid decline... Climate change increases ocean surface temperatures... and leads to coral bleaching, where the photosynthesising algae on which the reef-building creatures depend for energy disappear. Deprived of these for even a few weeks, the corals die. On top of this comes ocean acidification. Roughly one-third of the extra carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is absorbed through the ocean surface... The imbalance created makes it harder for reef organisms to retrieve the minerals needed to build their carbonaceous skeletons...

If past mass extinctions are anything to go by... reef disappearance has tended to precede wider mass extinction events... 'The losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past,' Professor Sale says... About 20 per cent of global coral reefs have already been lost in the past few decades... 'If we can keep CO2 concentrations below 450 parts per million we could be able to save something resembling coral reefs.'... The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is about 390 parts per million, but few experts believe it will remain below 500 for long.
Image: Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the planet's largest reef system and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but it may not survive the century. Source here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Taken for a pipeline ride

Overheard: Asia's View of Alberta, Tar Sands and Pipelines
If this insider is right, Gateway is purely a ploy and Canadians are rubes.

Michael Byers, The Tyee.ca: As I listen in, I hear from a consultant a startling analysis of what Asia really thinks... 'The Gulf of Mexico coast is the only place in the world with any significant capacity for handling bitumen... If the Asians buy any bitumen from Canada, they'll insist on a very steep discount, because they'll have to ship it to the Gulf of Mexico too.'... He chuckles. 'But we don't tell the Canadians this straight-out.'...

'But what about the Northern Gateway,' I ask,... the proposed 1,200-kilometre-long twin pipelines between Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Kitimat, B.C. 'Enbridge is a major player. Surely they would realize that there's no market in Asia?'

'Enbridge is a pipeline company, not an oil company,' he replies... 'They've promised to find a market, and nothing more. They don't care if it's at a discount.'... 'If the Canadians were smart, they'd build the capacity to refine all their bitumen at source, so as to ship a much more valuable product to Asia and elsewhere.'...

'But surely Northern Gateway isn't just about Canadian oil companies being taken for a ride? I thought that Northern Gateway was designed, at least in part, to put pressure on the U.S. State Department to approve Keystone XL.'... a proposed 3,190 kilometre-long pipeline that would transport bitumen from Fort McMurray direct to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast...

'You're absolutely right,' the consultant nods. 'And not just in part. Gateway is all about putting pressure on the State Department.'

'But the people at the State Department aren't stupid,' I protest. 'Surely they can see right through this?' 'Don't count on it,' he laughs derisively. 'They're focused on the Middle East. They don't understand the Asian energy market. They really don't.' He leans over and whispers: 'And even if they did realize that Gateway is an empty threat, they'd still approve Keystone XL, eventually. No matter what the EPA says, the State Department isn't about to depart from its practice of approving pipelines from Canada. It'll just spin out the decision as long as it can, hoping the project dies for other reasons.'
Image: tar sand; source here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quote for the day

Costica Bradatan:
There is a point beyond which philosophy, if it is not to lose face, must turn into something else: performance. It has to pass a test in a foreign land, a territory that's not its own. For the ultimate testing of our philosophy takes place not in the sphere of strictly rational procedures... but elsewhere: in the fierce confrontation with death of the animal that we are. The worthiness of one's philosophy reveals itself, if anywhere, in the live performance of one's encounter with one's own death; that's how we find out whether it is of some substance or it is all futility. Tell me how you deal with your fear of annihilation, and I will tell you about your philosophy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adrian Gray, stone balancer

The weird art of stone balancing
The Independent: Adrian Gray is a professional stone balancer. He started placing different shaped rocks precariously on top of each other one day because he wanted 'to make a beautiful family group of stones.' That was more than eight years ago, and he has since constructed all manner of impossible looking sculptures on the Dorset shoreline near his home.

'I realised that stones would balance in a really strange way,' he explained. 'People come up to me and ask if I've stuck the stones down with blue tack or glue. Then I simply lift off the top stone and they look astonished.'

To see examples of Gray's sculptures, go here.
Image source here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plants breathing

Global Garden

Earth Observatory: Plants breathe. They take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into the sugars that become leaves, stems, roots, and woody trunks. What carbon dioxide they don't use, they exhale, releasing the leftover gas with oxygen. And after plants die, they decay, releasing the carbon to the atmosphere. The difference between the amount of carbon plants absorb and what they release is called net primary productivity. It is a direct measurement of how much plant matter -- from crops to forests or ocean phytoplankton -- Earth produces.
Image source here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pacific sea life moving east via NW Passage

Pacific species migrating through warmer Northwest Passage

National Post: Set loose by an ice-free Northwest Passage, an invasion force of Pacific sea creatures are moving east to Atlantic waters... Last summer, European scientists were baffled when a grey whale appeared off Israel...

Killer whales have been capitalizing on the melting Arctic... Wary of the ferocious newcomers, bowhead whales, narwhal and beluga have all been spotted staying near shore and swimming in unnaturally tight formations. The Humboldt squid, a creature once seen only off the South American coast, has gradually worked its way north into ice-filled waters off Alaska...

The invasion is already bad news for Newfoundland's ravaged Atlantic cod. While the decimated cod stock may no longer be threatened by fishing nets, they are 'facing a potentially mutating ecosystem.. Arctic char are already facing tough competition for food by schools of east-moving capelin, a small forage fish...

An Arctic shipping traffic ramps up, the migration of sea life will only increase as crustaceans and plankton hitch rides east on Europe-bound freighters. Following the construction of the Suez Canal... the Mediterranean Sea became overcome with invasive species swimming over from the Red Sea... Species used to move freely between the Atlantic and Pacific, but they were isolated by the introduction of polar ice. Pacific and Atlantic counterparts are now poised for their first meeting in several million years.
Image source here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Warmer water causing migration of species

Scientists say warming waters reshuffling location of marine species

The Canadian Press: Some marine species are migrating to oceans where they were once extinct because of warming temperatures and polar melt, according to scientists who say the shakeup poses risks to entire ecosystems...

Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the University of Plymouth in England, said they discovered the presence of a microscopic plankton in the North Atlantic 800,000 years after it had disappeared from that area. It would be the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration for plankton in modern times and one of the first times in tens of thousands of years that water has flown freely between the two oceans after ice retreated from the Alaska coastline... 'They are a marker of a major transition because the last time we had an opening between the Pacific and the Atlantic was about two to three million years ago,' Reid said. 'This could have big impacts on living marine resources as well as fisheries and aquaculture.'...

He said the species shuffle could shake up the marine food web and transform the biodiversity of the Arctic and North Atlantic ecosystems... Some changes in plankton life have been linked to the collapse of some fish stocks, as well as declines in fish-eating North Sea birds, the researchers report. Changes in tiny animals called copepods are threatening the food supply for fish such as cod, herring and mackerel... Some of the tiny creatures, which are rich in oil, are being replaced by smaller and less nutritious varieties because of warming waters...

Reid said species will extend their ranges if water continues to warm and could flourish, increasing the risk of algal blooms that involve harmful phytoplankton or species like jellyfish overtaking other marine life. 'Most of the impacts are so clearly negative and the scope of change so potentially huge that, taken together, they constitute brightly flashing warning signals,' said Carlo Help, director general of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research...

Researchers predict that by 2060, as the Mediterranean warms, one-third of its 75 fish species will be threatened and six will be extinct. The findings also raise alarms about chemical cycling in the Atlantic, one of the most crucial oceans in the world for climate change and the absorption of carbon dioxide.
Image source here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quote for the day

Reihold Niebuhr:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope... Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flying lanterns over Poznań

Citizens of Poznań, Poland, celebrated the Summer Solstice by releasing more than 11,000 paper lanterns into the twilight. They were carried away by the wind. Watch the video here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Petermann ice island now off Labrador

Ice Island off Labrador

Earth Observatory: Nearly 11 months after calving off of the northwest coast of Greenland, a massive ice island is now caught up in ocean currents off the coast of Labrador. The ice island was formed when a 251-square-kilometre chunk of ice broke off the Petermann Glacier on August 5, 2010. The Canadian Ice Service has since been tracking the ice island, dubbed PII-A, via satellite and radio beacon...

The island has been slowly breaking up and melting... but it could eventually post a hazard to offshore oil platforms and shipping lanes off Newfoundland. Canadian fishermen captured this close-up video of the ice island. Environment Canada dropped a beacon on PII-A, which can be tracked by going here. Satellite images of the area around Newfoundland are available twice daily from the MODIS Rapid Response System.
Image source here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Amazon flow reversed by continental tilt

Amazon River Once Flowed Other Way
National Geographic News: The entire Amazon Basin, the world's largest river drainage system, once flowed in the opposite direction... Geologists in the United States and Brazil say the discovery that the river previously flowed east-to-west was accidental. The team was studying how swiftly sediment travels in the Amazon Basin from its headwaters in the Andes Mountains of Peru to the Atlantic Ocean...

'All the current indicators in the ancient sediments' -- including ripple marks and telltale mineral traces -- 'showed that the current, the river flow, was from the east to the west,' said study author Drew Coleman, a geologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill...

The Amazon was flowing west-to-east, as it does now, when the shift occurred. That reversal is 'almost certainly tied' to the breakup of the South American and African continents, which began about 130 million years ago, Coleman said. 'When that happened, the east coast [of South America] was uplifted -- and the whole river flowed the other way.'..

When the Andes Mountains started growing at about the end of the Cretaceous period (around 65 million years ago), the geologic tide began to shift again in favor of the Amazon's current west-to-east course... 'It flip-flopped pretty quickly,' he said, adding that the study reveals these shifts can occur on a 'continental scale.'... The study's findings highlight that 'the surface of the Earth is very transient.' [said] study co-author Russell Mapes, a UNC graduate student.
Image source here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oceans face 'mass extinction'

Oceans on brink of catastrophe
Marine life facing mass extinction 'within one human generation'
State of seas 'much worse than we thought' says global panel of scientists

The Indepedent: The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests... The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The coming together of these factors is now threatening the marine environment with a catastrophe 'unprecedented in human history,' according to the report, from a panel of leading marine scientists brought together... by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The stark suggestion made by the panel is that the potential extinction of species, from large fish on one end of the scale to tiny corals at the other, is directly comparable to the five great mass extinctions in the geological record, during each of which much of the world's life died out... The panel of 27 scientists... also concluded:
  • The speed and rate of degeneration of the oceans is far faster than anyone has predicted;
  • Many of the negative impacts identified are greater than the worst predictions;
  • The first steps to globally significant extinction may have already begun.
BBC News: The findings are 'shocking,' said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director...IPSO's immediate recommendations include:
  • Stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation;
  • Mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste;
  • Making sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently -- but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans. 'We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years,' Professor Hoegh-Guildberg told BBC News. 'If we don't do that... we'll see a very different ocean.'
Image: millions of dead anchovies floating at a marina in Redondo Beach, California, in March; source here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Atlantic fish stocks in 1900 and 2000

Plenty More Fish In The Sea?
What were the oceans like before over-fishing?

The Guardian: This image shows the biomass of popularly-eaten fish in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1900 and in 2000. Popularly eaten fish include bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, pollock, salmon, sea trout, striped bass, sturgeon, turbot. Many of which are now vulnerable or endangered.

Dr. Villy Chistensen and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia used ecosystem models, underwater terrain maps, fish catch records and statistical analysis to render the biomass of Atlantic fish at various points this century (see the study here)... Professor Callum Roberts' harrowing book, The Unnatural History of the Sea... uses historical accounts of the ocean to depict the sheer fecundity of the sea in the times before industrialized fishing...

Each generation views the environment they remember from their youth as 'natural' and normal. Today that means our fishing policies and environmental activism is geared to restoring the oceans to the state we remember they were. That's considered the environmental baseline... This is a kind of collective social amnesia that allows over-exploitation to creep up and increase decade-by-decade.
Image source here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The world's states: failed to stable

The Failed States Index
A seventh annual collaboration between Foreign Policy and The Fund for Peace. Interactive maps here and here.

Most stable:
Finland 19.7
Norway 20.4
Sweden 22.8
Switzerland 23.2
Denmark 23.8
New Zealand 24.8
Ireland 25.3
Luxembourg 26.1
Austria 27.3
Canada 27.7
Australia 28.1
Netherlands 28.3

Monday, June 20, 2011

To CHAT with dolphins

Experts develop tools to talk to dolphins
The Independent: Off the Bahamas a dolphinologist and an artificial intelligence specialist thrown together on board The Stenella are this summer developing a piece of hi-tech gadgetry that will, if it works, fulfill the 1960's vision of talking to dolphins...

The Cetacean Hearing and Telemtry, or CHAT, interface... is an iPhone-sized device with two hydrophones attached and a unique one-handed keyboard... which, when combined, is designed to be worn around a diver's neck while swimming with wild dolphins. Inside this box is a processor that contains a complex algorithm or pattern detector that, it is hoped, will learn to identify the fundamental units of dolphin communication to enable humans to decode dolphin and then reply.

'CHAT is more more a potential interface than a translator as it is supplying us humans with an acoustic bridge to allow exchanges between two acoustic species,' says Dr Denise Herzing, of the Department of Biological and Psychological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University and founder of the Wild Dolphin Project... 'Most scientists create a system of communication and expect the dolphins -- especially those in captivity -- to learn it by using fish as a reward, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans.'...

With the summer a 'resounding success' so far for CHAT, Dr Herzing is confident that this only the start of a journey in two-way communication. After all, it 'would be nice if we'd had some practice with both etiquette and the ethics of interacting, as well as establishing some potential universal protocols.' Glimpses of which, she believes, she has seen already in the mimicry, imitation and synchrony dolphins have initiated to engage with humans.
Image source here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Canadian immigrants #1 in assimilation

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research:

Jacob L. Vigdor, Adjunct Fellow: This report... introduces a series of comparisons among countries, using data from the United States and ten other countries drawn from the period 1999-2001. Although these international data are slightly dated, they are the most recent comparative data available, and few major changes are likely to have taken place since. The study's focus is the comparative progress individual ethnic groups, particularly immigrants from nations with predominantly Muslim populations, have made in the destination countries where they have chosen to reside...
  • Immigrants from Canada rank first in terms of overall assimilation, largely as a consequence of their high rate of naturalization...
  • Muslim immigrants, identified by data on religion in some nations and by country of birth in others, are most integrated in Canada...
Two facets of Canadian immigration policy may help explain the rapid integration of foreigners into Canadian society. First, the path to citizenship in Canada is short and easily traveled. Foreigners face a three-year residency requirement (it is five for legal permanent residents in the United States and as many as twelve in some European countries), and the nation has taken a liberal stance toward dual citizenship since 1977.

Second, Canadian immigration policy places a distinct emphasis on attracting skilled migrants. Thirty percent of foreign-born adults in Canada have college degrees, while the rate is 23 percent in the United States and 10 percent in Spain and Italy. Educational attainment is not a factor in the international version of the assimilation index, but the link between immigrants' level of education and their degree of assimilation is strong.

Full report, with graphs, is here.
Image source here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eating money

The Midas Touch
Stomachs Too Big to Fail?

Lewis H. Lapham, at TomDispatch (from the summer 'Food' issue of Lapham's Quarterly):

The history of food reaches across a span of four thousand years, during most of which time the global economy is agrarian. Prior to the twentieth century, the changes were relatively slow in coming. Humankind is the tenant of nature, food the measure of both humanity's wealth and wellbeing. The earliest metal currencies (the shekel, the talent, and mina) represent weights and units of grain. Allowing for cultural difference and regional availability, the human family sits down to meals made of what it finds in the forest or grows in the field, the tables set from one generation to the next in accordance with the changing of the seasons and the benevolence of Ashnan or Ceres.

The contract between humankind and nature remains in force for as long as it is understood which one is the tenant and which the landlord. Over the course of millennia human beings discover numerous ways of upgrading their lot -- cooking with fire, domesticating animals and plants, bringing the tomato from Mexico to Spain, pepper from Sumatra to Salem, constructing the chopstick, the seine net, and the salad fork -- but the world's population stays more or less in balance with the world's agriculture because the landlord is careful about matching supply and demand...

The contract between landlord and tenant doesn't come up for review until the seventeenth-century plantings of capitalist finance give rise to the Industrial Revolution. Human beings come to imagine that they hold the deed to nature, persuaded that if soundly managed as a commercial real-estate venture, the property can be made to recruit larger armies, gather more votes, yield more cash. Add to the mechanical staples (John Deere's cast-steel plow, Cyrus McCormick's reaper) the twentieth century's flavorings of laboratory science (chemical pesticides, synthetic gene sequences), and food becomes an industrial product subsumed into the body of a corporation.
Image source here.