Sunday, August 3, 2008

The High Price of Dirt

So, we just got back a few days ago from a trip to Spokane (home of MERPcon 08), returning by way of Kennewick and the Columbia River gorge, with stop-offs at Fake Stonehenge nr Maryhill and the Mt Adams area on the way. About 875 miles all told, averaging about 41 miles per gallon in our Honda Hybrid and costing us about $70 in gas, at prices ranging from $4.10 a gallon up to $4.27.

That's a lot to pay for a gallon of gas. Somewhere in the back of mind, the right price for gas is 33 cents per gallon, the price it was in Arkansas throughout most of my youth (unless you did that weird new pump-it-yourself thing down at the Road Runner, in which case it was 29 cents). So while I know four or five dollars per gallon is here to stay, it feels unreal to me, and I can pay it with a horrified fascination to see the total for filling up a tank, yet with a sort of detachment.

If that detachment were suddenly to desert me --say, if gas were to get really expensive--I'd have to remind myself of how good we still have it in this country. It's hard to be philosophical when you're feeling pain at the pump, but the next time I fill up I'll be thinking of a news item I saw recently:*

The Price of Dirt just went up 40% in Haiti.

Why dirt? Because the price of rice doubled. And a lot of Haitians are so poor they couldn't afford enough rice before, so they would take dirt, mix it with baking soda and some shortning, bake it, and eat the resulting 'dirt cookies'. As all little kids know, dirt is technically edible, so it helps fill them up. And apparently the Haitian dirt had a little calcium in it, so they actually got some minimum nourishment from it.

Except now, with the price of rice going so high, too many people have been forced to fall back on dirt, and our old enemy the law of supply and demand has forced up the price of dirt.

Food for thought.


*source: Chuck Shepherd's NEWS OF THE WEIRD, reprinted in the June '08 issue of THE FUNNY TIMES. A little quick checking shows that Shepherd originally reported it the week of March 30th, taking the news item from a January MSNBC piece; National Geographic also reported it back in January.

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