Remember that friend you haven’t seen for ages? Give them a call
We walk past homeless people every day; can you spare them 5 minutes of your time?
We rarely listen to others – ask someone about their day
Offer to help your neighbours/friends with chores
Old laptop or mobile lying around? Donate it
IN THE EARLY 17TH CENTURY, the kingdom of England was in the grip of the world’s first energy crisis. Decades of population growth, rapid urbanization, countless foreign wars, and myriad voyages of discovery to the New World under the capricious Tudors decimated the country’s forests and its timber supply.
King James I was terrified. No trees for timber meant no ships for the navy, and no navy meant leaving the country wide open and undefended against England’s enemies—which, at this time, was pretty much all of the rest of Europe. This lack of timber was nothing short of an existential threat to England itself.
A panicked Royal proclamation was swiftly issued in 1615 to stem the tide. It bemoaned the increasing dearth of good old English wood, “great and large in height and bulk” with “toughness and heart,” which is “of excellent use for shipping,” and it set out a series of drastic restrictions for its use for anything but absolutely essential purposes. In particular, the proclamation explicitly forbade that anyone should be so wasteful as to “melt, make or causeth to be melted or made, any kind, form or fashion of Glass or Glasses whatsoever, with Timber, or wood, or any Fewell made of Timber of wood.”
No timber as fuel to make glass? The country’s glass-makers were outraged. They had been burning timber for centuries to make their product: an almost alchemical process of using fearsome heat to melt a mixture of potash and sand. What on earth were they to do now?
While craftsmen around the country were up in arms about this new prohibition, the attentions of the London upper class were engrossed with a decadent new product.
English wine has long been maligned. The ancient historian Tacitus wrote that Britain was “hostile and unsuitable for the growing of grapes,” but it was his fellow Romans who brought their vines to Britain two millennia ago to sustain them in their drafty villas. A thousand years later, the Domesday Book listed 45 working vineyards in the country. And, in the 1600s, a new type of wine was being produced on the shores of England: refined and unique in character, to cater to the tastes of the affluent and upwardly mobile individuals who had flocked to the capital. And, for that, we turn to Christopher Merrett.
Sir Christopher Merrett was possessed by an insatiable curiosity. A librarian, gentleman scholar, physician and, in the terminology of the time, a ‘natural philosopher’, Merrett was one of the founding members of the Royal Society: the ‘invisible college’ where the greatest minds of the age investigated the minutiae of the known world. His output was extraordinary. He even produced an exhaustively comprehensive book attempting to list all the fauna, flora and minerals of England.
But it’s his 1662 paper, Some Observations Concerning the Ordering of Wines, that has had the longest legacy. ”Our Wine-coopers of latter times use vast quantities of Sugar and Melosses to all sorts of Wines,” he wrote, “to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them Spirits.”
What Merrett was describing was the méthode champenoise, the act of secondary fermentation where still table wines are loaded up with sugar and molasses to get the yeast going again, then sealed in a bottle to produce an effervescent, bubbling concoction. It is a method made famous, as the name suggests, by the French in the Champagne region. But here is the first known description of making ‘sparkling’ wine—and Merrett writing that British vintners had been doing this for years.
The problem with this new liquid, “brisk with spirits,” was that it generated an incredible amount of pressure. In a standard bottle of sparkling wine today, the internal pressure is at around six times that of atmospheric pressure—three times that of a car tire. That’s the equivalent to over five kilograms of weight pushing hard against every square centimeter of glass. Only an especially strong bottle could withstand this sort of pressure. Thankfully, England’s glass-makers were prepared.
After the royal proclamation a few years before, English glass-makers had reluctantly turned to coal. While wood was thought of as a noble fuel, across Europe coal was historically considered undesirable and dirty, and the act itself of mining it had been likened to to vandalism or burglary from the earth ever since Roman times. Even though it was well known that rich seams of coal ran across England, these were left largely untouched for centuries.
Nonetheless, once laborers started begrudgingly using this coal to heat their furnaces, they overcame their reservations. Sure, coal gave off fumes and toxins, but it also reached a much higher temperature than timber, creating stronger, more durable, and thicker glass. Over time, artisans honed new industrial methods to take advantage of this discovery. While European counterparts were still using wood, the Champagne bottle as we know it was born in the furnaces of England.
Not only did these new bottles help spawn an embryonic wine industry, but they became status objects themselves. Samuel Pepys, in his Diaries, writes excitedly about visiting his local vintner to see “some of my new bottles made, with my crest upon them, filled with wine, about five or six dozen.” The introduction of lead oxide later in the century made the bottles even stronger, and catapulted England’s craftsman to the pinnacle of European glass-makers.
But what of Dom Pérignon—the French Benedictine monk who, as the story goes, first created this beverage that would become known around the world as Champagne? “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” he is said to have cried out. One can imagine the other monks rushing over to make merry with this novel and effervescent liquid that had just burst from its bottle.
But that thick, stout bottle—the one memorialized in a grand statue of Dom Pérignon that now stands on the lawn at the House of Moet & Chandon on the Avenue de Champagne—could not have existed anywhere but Britain at the time. And, what’s more, Merrett’s paper on the secondary fermentation of wine was submitted to the Royal Academy in 1663, five years before Dom Pérignon even arrived at the abbey in which his famous invention was said to have been born. And decades before the famous saying could have been uttered.
The founding myth of Dom Pérignon has played a vital part in transforming Champagne into one of the richest and most fiercely protected global food and drink regions. It is a convenient, if apocryphal, ‘first-to-market’ story that has successfully given authority to the Champagne region over every other wine producing area. It was actually the infamous English sweet-tooth and the Londoner’s predilection for bubbles that first gave the wine-makers of Champagne inspiration; they just needed to work out how to create the right sort of bottle, like that of their cross-Channel cousins, in order to capitalize on the new potential market.
This, however, took some time. Replacing wood with coal in the bottle-making process was not adopted in France until after 1700, to imitate and reproduce bottles à la façon d’Angleterre (‘in the English fashion’). But change was so gradual that, as late as 1784, French entrepreneurs were after the industrial ‘secret’ of English bottle-making. And still, in 1833, when Cyrus Redding published his A History and Description of Modern Wines, anywhere between four to 40 percent of the Champagne region’s wine was lost to exploding bottles every year. The bodily danger was so great, Redding wrote that “workmen [were] obliged to enter the cellars with wire masks, to guard against the fragments of glass when the breakage is frequent.”
It was not until the Industrial Revolution reached France that bottles could be produced with enough precision and standardization to withstand the pressure. By then, Champagne’s reputation was assured. For that, we have to thank both the English bottle and the world’s first energy crisis.
Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.
Do the pseudos of NHRC, Transparency International, Amnesty International or the Indian media pseudos, Sickular, Fiberals and Prestitutes ever take note?
No. They are #LoonCans who close their ears, put wool over their eyes and fill their mouth with filth and their fingers are conditioned to spew rot against BJP and RSS.
|WORD OF THE DAY|
|Examples of Indolent in a sentence
“The snowstorm was perfect for an indolent day full of hot cocoa and movies on the couch.”
“The indolent ulcer needed to be watched, but it wasn’t causing major problems.”
What binds two people yet touches only one?
The answer is: A wedding ring.
I last forever and you might have too much or too little of me, either way you will run out of me eventually. What am I?
The answer is: Time.
Being sane or insane is relative.
A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? (Albert Einstein)
The intelligent know to belief only half of what they hear. The wise know which half.
An intelligent man believes only half of what he hears, a wise man knows which half. (Even Esar)
|WORD OF THE DAY|
|Examples of Lugubrious in a sentence
“The recent loss of their aunt cast a lugubrious shadow over the family gathering.”
“Her lugubrious attitude seemed more about getting attention than mourning any loss.”
Fly – A Haiku
A little, random fly stands
in spite of the fish
Faster, better, stronger.
Good life, good death.
Through the shadows we persevered.
Bound by nothing.
Conquered by none.
Faith grants us strength.
Serve and protect.
Alone we shall stand, alone we shall prosper.
We are and always will be.
IF YOU’RE PRONE TO ANTHROPOMORPHIZING the natural world, you’ll find a lot to love in Joshua Tree National Park. Introduce yourself to the shaggy trees that lend the park its name, and you might notice charming and distinct characters: You can imagine one talking with a baritone croak, maybe, and another in a high-pitched warble. The residents of this patch of California’s Mojave Desert are charismatic, like sedentary Muppets with root systems. It’s hard to imagine the fantastical, boulder-strewn landscape without big, goofy stands of them. But as the world warms, the trees are losing ground.
Researchers have consistently found that Joshua trees, or Yucca brevifolia, are struggling in a changing climate. For one thing, while adult trees can rely on stored water during triple-digit summer temperatures, seedlings aren’t surviving them, KQED reported. A temperature increase of 3° Celsius would curb the trees’ range by as much as 90 percent, according to the research ecologist Cameron Barrows. He has canvassed the park in search of refugia—higher, cooler spots where young trees might be able to hang on—but those aren’t a guaranteed lifeline. Joshua Tree is the southernmost edge of the plants’ range, and it’s getting too hot and too dry. The trees are often flanked by grasses that can go up in flames during wildfires, and the trees struggle to successfully spring back after burns. “It doesn’t look good for the trees,” says ecologist and artist Juniper Harrower.
Harrower, who grew up roughly 20 minutes from the park, wants people to fall in love with Joshua trees—and to get curious about interspecies relationships between the trees, moths, and underground fungi that might help keep them healthy. Harrower recently finished her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has launched a collaborative digital project called “Hey JTree,” a science-communication effort inspired by dating apps.
Sixteen trees throughout the park get the Tinder treatment, with cute portraits, location information, and coy little profiles peppered with made-up names (say hi to Jerome, Eleanor, Shorty, and Marty) and real-world data, including the local temperature; soil moisture; tree height; elevation; number of seeds; and sightings of yucca moths, which pollinate the Joshua tree and lay their eggs in its blossoms. (Harrower performed much of this field work while pregnant or with her infant son in tow, with a truck and ladder borrowed from her parents, and her mom helping out as an assistant and lunch-packer.) Atlas Obscura talked to Harrower about the project, and what the trees are up against.
What threats are the trees facing in the park right now?
It’s an issue of reproducing, but also, the trees that are standing just getting too hot, too dry, and starting to lose limbs and collapse. When we think about climate change and how it impacts Joshua trees, you also have to think about all these other players: Joshua trees and yucca moths have tightly coevolved over millions of years, and you can’t have one without the other. If the moths are responding to climate in a certain way, and it takes out the moth sooner, that’s it for Joshua trees in terms of reproduction.
Why draw inspiration from dating apps?
As a biologist, I’m interested in all kinds of species, for all kinds of reasons. But Joshua trees—people love Joshua trees. It was a way I could get people to listen to what I’m saying. Visitation rates in the park have skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and especially the last 10 and five years, and part of that is driven by Instagram culture. Joshua Tree is so photogenic.
I grew up as a really young kid hanging out in the park, and I’m just seeing the explosion of phones out—lots of people, lots of phones in the air. So I thought, this is a way I can engage with phone culture. Also, it’s catchy. I’ve given talks before, and university students are sitting in the back with headphones on. As soon as I say “dating site,” headphones are popped off. All this stuff is really heavy, so here’s a way that we can be playful with it but still have some important conversations.
How did you settle on these specific trees to profile?
I look at it across a climate gradient. Across the park, landscapes, ecosystems, temperature, and rainfall patterns vary dramatically. At the highest sites, you get snow every year. Out of the park, and even in the park at the highest elevation sites, it’s really cold and windy. As you start to go down in elevation, it changes. There are areas in a little valleys that are protected, then places that might be exposed to certain cold wind patterns. You definitely get microclimates.
When I was thinking about what trees I wanted to include in this project, I really wanted to make sure that they were accessible to people. I didn’t want people to have to be, like, tromping through cryptobiotic crusts, these amazing ancient soils that have all of this life. When you step on them, that destroys it. So I picked trees that were close to parking lots and could be accessible to people with disabilities, or really close to trails. I picked trees that looked like they had different personalities. I’ve always been really intrigued by the form an organism takes, and how it’s responding to environmental conditions and also genetic cues.
Do the trees seem to have a sweet spot in the park?
Across all of the measurements that I looked at, there was this one happy area where trees were really big and large, there were lots of them, they were reproducing, there were lots of moths. Things were just looking good. That was really interesting to see, like, “Oh yeah, everybody’s kind of happy around this mid-level elevation.” There’s a good example on out on the Cap Rock Trail, a little loop.
Why do the trees like it there?
Joshua trees need really specific patterns to be able to thrive and flower. If you don’t flower, you don’t set seed, and you don’t have the next generation of Joshua trees. They need a cold snap to get the plant to flower, and they also need enough water. The precipitation pattern needs to bring them enough water to survive through the years. I mean, it’s a desert plant; it’s evolved to be able to take a little bit of hardship.
Assuming someone does not literally go out and woo a tree, what are you aiming to accomplish?
The most basic thing is just interest in our natural world. I see a lot of kids and a lot of people so focused inward, and downward on their phone, and these kind of internal, technological worlds. It bums me out. I really hope that people can find the magic that is in our natural world.
You’ll hear scientists say, “I don’t really want to get political because we want to keep science separate from politics, to preserve its dignity or believability.” Over time, I realized we don’t have the luxury of not being political anymore. I firmly believe you can do really solid science, and when people understand how the science process works, you can recognize good science from bad science—and it’s peer-reviewed and held to high standards. And you can also be really politically outspoken and say, “We can’t continue to consume at the levels we’re consuming.” People need to understand that there’s value in our natural world outside of just, “extract all the resources you can get from it and then make as much money to buy a bunch of stuff that’s gonna destroy our environment and us.”
Do you remember the first time you saw a Joshua tree? Was it love at first sight?
I was born in the Palm Springs area, and we moved up to the High Desert when I was six or seven. We lived on five acres, down a bumpy dirt road. There are very, very few Joshua trees in this area because the elevation is too low, but we had one in the backyard, and it was totally weird. It was really special to us. My dad is a landscape architect, and so we always thought about our plant friends in the area.
I was the oldest of four kids—four kids, and lots of dogs. Every time one of our dogs would pass away, we would bury it under the Joshua tree. It became this kind of mythological place in the backyard. I think at this point there are like seven dog skeletons underneath the giant tree. I always kind of fantasize about doing a painting of what it looks like underground. Roots seek out nitrogen and carbon, so I’m sure that the roots wind along dog spines and rib cages. It’s probably really macabre, but it’s incredibly beautiful to imagine the symbiosis.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
1-Sentence-Summary: The Uninhabitable Earth explains how humanity’s complacency and negligence have put this world on a course to soon be unlivable unless we each do our small part to improve how we care for this beautiful planet we live on.
- Even enacting all the policy changes agreed to in Paris, we will still exceed the threshold where disaster begins.
- Without emissions reduction, we will see our oceans rise to fatal levels, putting major cities underwater.
- Unless we change our ways, bacteria of ancient diseases in melting Arctic ice sheets will begin a global health crisis.
If you want to know what the effects of climate change will be if we don’t change our ways, this book is for you.
I must go to the south, slippery seas, the stinky, smelly sea is lonely
, I must go to the strange, slender seas, the scary, slender sea is lonely
, I must go to the single, sad seas, spiffing, the sweaty sea is lonely
, I must go to the stupid, small seas, sparkling, soft sea is lonely
, I must go to the sweaty, scrummy seas, sunny, the small sea is lonely
, I must go to the scary, stormy seas, silent, slippery sea is lonely
, I must go to the smooth, sweet seas, the sweet, scrummy sea is lonely
, I must go to the sexy, smelly seas, south, stormy sea is lonely
, I must go to the slimy, sunny seas, the single, sexy sea is lonely
, I must go to the smart, spiffing seas, the super, southern sea is lonely
, I must go to the silent, southern seas, the silly, slow sea is lonely
, I must go to the super, slow seas, the slimy, smart sea is lonely
, I must go to the soft, silly seas, the smooth, stupid sea is lonely
, I must go to the stunning, stinky seas, stunning, sad sea is lonely
, I must go to the strong, steep seas, the strong sea is lonely
, I must go to the south, slippery seas, the stinky, smelly sea is lonely
I must go to the seas, the sea is lonely
I must go to the seas, the sea is solitary
I must be swapping lonely for solitary
Being sane or insane is relative.
A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? (Albert Einstein)
Even the best of memories are only moments long.
We do not remember days, we remember moments. (Cesare Pavese)