I really enjoyed that both of this week’s lectures caused me to think about things I normally don’t contemplate. For instance, like most people, I take the concept of refrigeration for granted. While I am tangentially aware of the changes in diet that refrigeration caused, I have never considered the impact refrigeration had on our idea of freshness. I don’t think of fruit and vegetables that have been refrigerated for extended periods as old; I consider them fresh because refrigeration has preserved them in their just-picked state. Similarly, I have never considered that we have created a sort of third arctic zone that resides within our fridges and freezers. Thinking of refrigeration in this way makes sense—I work in a grocery store and have on multiple occasions compared the walk in fridge to some wintery locale after being in there for too long during the summer. Whole rooms, even entire buildings, are contained sources of cold. Refrigeration has a cultural as well as mechanical significance, changing the way we deal with our food.
The concept of eating smog in a meringue was also something I never contemplated. I was familiar with the different smog that is present in different areas, such as the photochemical smog in LA and the sootier smog in London, and I think tasting them side by side would be fascinating. One especially interesting facet of this project is the reaction that some people had when faced with eating smog. It sounds really gross, but smog is present in the air we breathe in all the time. I wonder if this experiment will lead to individuals caring more about pollution and its effects in the atmosphere when they taste a concentrated sample of it. I also appreciated that this project combined the culinary arts with the scientific categorization and creation of smog, blending something artistic with something more chemical.
The second lecture caused me to think about the impact humans have had on the earth, some so old that they are covered up by seemingly natural things, such as hills in South America that are actually ancient temples covered by plants. This lecture made me question the definition of natural, taking into account what looks natural and how “natural” phenomena are actually created. Humans have probably had a greater impact on these so-called “natural” landscapes than most people imagine. If this is the case, the Anthropocene is likely much older than our previous discussions suggested. I like that this angle on the Anthropocene can lead to a rabbit-holey sort of discussion regarding what counts as natural on earth, and even if earth itself is natural.
Both of these lectures were exciting because they dealt with topics that are not traditionally academic, at least in the sense of the word “academic” that I am used to. They were both quite thought provoking, in a fun way. I appreciate that I was able to gain new perspectives on refrigeration, the way we can interact with our atmosphere, and the nature of certain landscapes.