Meteorites, Terroir and a Not So Bella Italia

Friday’s linkfest happens on Saturday this week. Oh, the holidays. Busy anyone?

The sky is falling. And falling into my glass. At first glance this Wired article about meteorite impacts on the ancient Earth might not seem to have much to do with the concept of terroir. However, as I thought more about it, and of the natural forces and energies unleashed by such an impact–and, as inferred here, of the minerals and microbes delivered by those forces–I couldn’t help but wonder how meteor impacts might have influenced the geology of Earth today. And, by extension, the soils and rocks in which we grow our food: talk about cosmic forces! And if the meteor idea seems like a stretch, then certainly the biomass buildup after the extinctions resulting from the more massive impacts of the Cretaceous, has had a significant influence on our lives today. They ain’t called fossil fuels for nothing.

(Click here for the Wired article)

The fossilization of Italian culture? This excellent New York Times article about the general sense of malessere sweeping contemporary Italian society made the blog rounds this past week (e.g., here at On the Wine Trail in Itlay and here at Do Bianchi), but it’s a topic that I feel worthy bringing up again for those who haven’t read it. Today, much of what we in the United States understand about Italy and Italians comes directly from a consumerist experience, one driven as much by marketing as anything else. Indeed, the Italian brand is a powerful icon supported even by specialized guides.

But a bigger point lies beneath the surface of this article, one that I’ve seen both while living in Italy and traveling there regularly for work. To put it directly, Italian society is not adapting well to globalization. You could say that about many countries, but in Italy the challenges presented by globalization feel more acute than most modern western nations. Rapidly rising costs, backwards technology, stifling bureaucracy and an astonishing number of young people living with their parents well into their 30s are but the most obvious symptoms. The resurgence of the fascist and nationalist parties of the political right are a darker reaction that many foreign visitors miss entirely.

A couple more links on this theme, then on to the humor, I promise. Salon’s awesome blog, How the World Works, had this post about the shift of populations in the developed world to urban centers, as well the general decrease in overall populations of several Western nations. These are two of the major demographic issues faced by Italy today, and I’ve witnessed them play out in the suburban sprawl of Rome to the winding alleyways of wine towns like Avellino and Alba.

Then there’s this totally awesome Flash movie about Italy and its fellow European nations. I know, it plays with stereotypes, but it’s produced by the animator-humorist Bruno Bozzetto. I find his sharp wit and sense of satire to be quite indicative of a particularly Italian response to the challenges facing the country today.

Sweeney Todd–I can’t wait! NY Times review here.

And then, Friday’s Dinosaur Comics summed up my Christmas shopping thus far:



5 thoughts on “Meteorites, Terroir and a Not So Bella Italia

  1. Wolfgang, I think that you’re very right when you point out that “Italian society is not adapting well to globalization.” There was a piece in the Times yesterday about how rising temperatures and globalized markets have brought about the first occurrence of a tropical disease in Italy… the first time in all of Europe. Great post…

    Have a great holiday… J

  2. Your comments on Italy are very interesting. As a sort of Italo-phile I am used to being simultaneously frustrated and charmed by Italy’s strong-willed anachronism. I had hoped that “Europe-ization” would help their economic reform and give them even more power of free will. It’s sad to read about their possible decay of tradition at the uncaring, seemingly whimsical hands of globalization. The only thing I think disagree with in your brief analysis of the problem is that the “stifling bureaucracy” has often been a major player in Italy’s culture, especially in the world of wine, if simply because it gives unflaggingly independent winemakers something to rail against. If Italian winemakers had it easy, I don’t think they’d know what to do with themselves.

  3. Great linkfest this week. Especially as a resident of France, I love this gem of a sentence from the Times: “Because [Italy] is the place in a hyper-regulated Europe where people still debate with perfect intelligence what, really, the red in a stoplight might mean.”

    I agree with you about the problems of adapting to globalization being more acutely prominent in Italy. Unfortunately much of what you say can be applied to France as well, if manifested in slightly different ways.

  4. Wolfgang, I do agree with your post. It’s true, unfortunately.
    And I think that our digital divide doesn’t help us to accept globalization, too.

    Happy New Year!


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