Thinking: Don't Dispute the Messengers

Don't Dispute the Messenger
By Jim Sherwin 

Deep Throat’s deadpan admonition to “follow the money” in the film All the President’s Men recurs in the new documentary Everything’s Cool. But it illuminates a different scandal: the financial collusion between the coal industry and the government—a relationship that has obscured the truth about global warming. Faced with a nation of skeptics, the film confronts viewers with the question: Do Americans care about global warming?

The reference is to a 2004 poll claiming we don’t and suggests that the film will spiral into a bleak examination of how government officials eroded the credibility of scientific evidence for warming. Instead, it addresses this unsettling development through a range of opinions that are at once scary, hopeful, and biting with wit.

The film follows seven “global warming messengers” who run a gamut of expertise, from a snowgroomer in Park City, Utah, to author and environmentalist Bill McKibben. Their transparency and earnestness allows them to be defeatist one moment, passionate the next.

The film advises following the messengers’ leads: Take initiative, learn the facts, struggle with doubt, but let even the smallest sparks of hope pull you from despair.


Pollan Account
By Kiera Butler

When I was a kid, my parents were pretty savvy about the latest nutritional trends. “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead!” my mom would cheerfully recite as I drifted toward the pale supermarket loaves. We never ate butter—only margarine. At the time, it was thought that the “old-fashioned” fats in butter were basically a heart attack waiting to happen. Modern-manufactured trans fats, health experts told us, were much better.

Whoops. Mom was right about the bread, but she totally missed the mark on the margarine. “Nutritionism”—the dubious branch of food science from whence came the margarine myth and many others (remember the low-fat diet?)—is the subject of Michael Pollan’s new book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Pollan describes how, in the past 50 years, nutritionists have transformed how we think about what we eat: If we could just figure out exactly what is healthy and unhealthy about a particular food, their reasoning goes, we could take the bad stuff out, put more good stuff in, and presto! A wonder-food! But nourishment straight from the garden, it turns out, is almost always superior to the tinkered-with “food-like substances” (think low-carb pasta and whole-grain sugar cereals) that line supermarket shelves.

Fans of Pollan’s last book take heed: In Defense of Food is not groundbreaking like The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In essence, it’s about the importance of eating foods that aren’t too heavily processed. This philosophy is by no means radical—in fact, it harkens back to a time before the organic and local movements, when labels at health food stores simply said, “all natural.” But the fun is in following Pollan to his conclusion. Perhaps the most rewarding section of the book is the last, where he offers a list of rules to eat by. This is no dull nutritional litany; Pollan’s instructions are witty, and they pithily make the point that how we eat may be just as important as what we eat. The rule “Do all your eating at a table” has only seven words of explanation: “No, a desk is not a table.” Now there’s a lesson that won’t go out of style.


Beastie Boy
By Joshua Payne

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Issue 25

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