Friday, December 04, 2009

"Mommy, I'm scared," says a small voice beside me as I peruse websites. She's supposed to be doing her own homework, namely reading the book in her hand. Instead? She's reading over my shoulder.

I'm not reading about nuclear weapons, American troops being deployed, violent crimes or even natural disasters. The terrifying topic of my research?


Number 5 plastic, specifically. And the fact that it can be bonded with corn polymers, and coated with corny residues.

"Corn's taking over the world," she whispers. "What's going to happen to you?"

I haven't gotten that far. I joke about it of course. "There's corn in that. There's corn in that, too." But the reality...well, the reality is just too big. I know that the problem is bigger than corn. And yet, corn also makes a pretty good summary of the problem. It's everywhere, we (society) almost fail to see it even when clearly listed.  We think of it as a necessary evil or a beneficial addition or a useful but benign filler. It's environmentally "friendly", at least compared to petrochemicals.  And it's simply there, ready to be used.  So of course certain sectors seek new and ingenious ways for our throw-away society to use more corn. 

Not everyone thinks corn is all it's cracked up to be.  And it's not just the uncornies of the world who are disillusioned.  Although corn plastic is biodegradable, there's not enough space in the landfills to allow it to properly degrade.  Which taxes our resources, however allows us to think that by using a surplus of corn we're somehow doing something good.  Oh, and of course, the process of producing corn plastic and transporting it around takes it's toll on the Earth's resources, too.

Then there are Michael Pollan's followers.  These are the people who see the inherent dangers on depending on one single crop for so many uses.  The same people are concerned about the lack of variery in our apparently diverse diets (Here in CA, it's not uncommon to eat a meal from a different country every day of the week.  What do Chow Mein, linguini, Pho, Miso Soup, Pad Thai, and Hamburger Helper have in common?  Corn and wheat and soy...depending on the ingredients used, of course, there are ways to make them safe.  But chemically, commercial dishes all look pretty much the same to your body.  Regardless of what your eyes and tastebuds think.)

I'm not sure what the best course of action is.  Do we fight it?  Do we all boycott corn?  We can't simply accept it and wait for "someone, somewhere, to do something."

For now, I hugged her, and told her that corn is not taking over the world.  Good always wins, doesn't it?  Even when it's not really a battle.  And when the "evil" is an amber wave of grain. 

No comments: