Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reading the Geographic

Keeping Brigitte company at the doctor’s office, I fell to reading what must be a recent copy of the National Geographic. I’ve always been neutral toward this publication and, as in the case of the Readers Digest, I only look at it in circumstances when there is nothing else on offer. The experience thus has a similarity to being thrust into environments I’d just as soon avoid, e.g., airports, truck stops, cocktail parties. But I do learn from the shocks I get at such venues; those are the places where what people call “real life” proceeds. Yesterday I learned of a fundamentalist branch of Mormonism where some men have as many as 80 wives. They get around the law by simply cohabiting with multiple women; and these days who can prosecute anyone for cohabitation? I learned that industrial salmon fisheries in Patagonia are ruining the ocean environments there, some of the last pristine waters on earth. I was reminded of the horse latitudes (Brigitte and I talked about that subject just the other day), thus the New Jersey-sized (or bigger) region in the middle of the ocean where a horrid mass of plastic and textile debris has cumulated. The ocean currents keep it slowly circling. Another article in the Geographic featured poor migratory inhabitants of India. People admire India’s new digital cities and soaring GDP, but India and the rest of the world ignore the slow spreading of alienation, neglect, and beggary. The Geographic tried to console its readers by reprinting some stunning photos taken by the recently fixed 20-year-old Hubble telescope. The photos teach the color of suns: they’re blue and red and orange and seem infinite in number.

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