Something to thinking about …


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

There are certain things in this universe I have a hard time understanding.

I’m not talking about black holes or string theory or weather patterns or what lives in the depths of the ocean. Those things are way out of my pay grade. Smarter people than me have all that stuff figured out – or at least, they think they do.

I’m not talking about the political world and how people can thoroughly hate each other. I figure ego and greed pretty much explain that.

No, I’m talking about much more fundamental things.

Like potatoes.

I want you to stop and think for a moment. McDonald’s sells 9 million pounds of French fries every day. That’s 3.29 billion pounds of French fries a year. And that’s just McDonald’s.

Add to that everyone else who sells French fries and everyone who makes mashed potatoes, au grautin potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, potato pancakes, pierogis, potato bread, potato salad, Hasselback potatoes (those are cool), and it makes me wonder: where are all those potatoes coming from? How can there be enough space on the Earth to grow enough potatoes to make all those potato things? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Just so you know, the world’s largest producer of potatoes is China (naturally). I didn’t realize they even ate potatoes. I guess a real Chinese diet isn’t exactly like the menu at your local Chinese carryout.

The United States is only fifth in world in potato production, behind India, Ukraine and Russia – you have to grow a lot of potatoes to make a lot of vodka. Peru, where potatoes come from, is down there in 12th place.

Total potato production around the world is more than 376 million tons of potatoes, which is a far bigger number than I can comprehend. Why, if you stacked them all in one place they would probably knock the Earth off its axis and send us hurtling into outer space, where there are no potatoes.

Maybe you don’t worry about these kinds of things. Maybe you should.

Take oil and natural gas, for instance.

We have been pumping that stuff out of the ground like there’s no tomorrow for around 175 years. Don’t you ever wonder what happens to all that empty space down there below the surface? Oil comes from ancient life forms buried below the surface of the Earth for millions of years. It takes a long time to make oil, and we don’t have any dinosaurs left to decay and speed up the process. So, that makes for a lot of holes in the ground that weren’t there a few hundred years ago. It doesn’t sound very stable to me. Maybe we should fill them with potatoes.

Then there’s cats. I’m a cat person myself and have two cats that are the bosses of my house. They are not alone. There are probably around 600 million cats in the world, although I have no idea how they’re counting them. Add that to 900 million dogs and you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed (and they don’t eat potatoes). Our country is worried about a couple million people sneaking across the border, but I’m telling you it’s time we started worrying about all those cats and dogs. Well, except for the two in my house, because they’re great and I personally know them so they’re not like all the rest of those immigrants.

Just so you know, the country with the highest percentage of cat ownership is Russia. That surprised me, too. Fifty-nine percent. One of my cats is part Russian Blue, and she has told me she’s not going back. I will fight for her right to stay here in the U.S.

So you can worry about things like nuclear bombs, but there are only a few thousand of those in the world and hardly anyone ever drops one. I’m more concerned with the everyday things that sneak up and get you while you’re not looking.

It almost makes me want to go out and get a burger and fries to make myself feel better. Except … have you ever read about how many resources it takes to produce a pound of ground beef and how all those cows contribute to climate change? You can look it up. It’s almost too much to be believed …

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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