When I was teaching a class in 2001, one of our hot topics was genetically modified organisms and world trade. No one could predict what might befall agriculture if food crops were dependent on seed restricted by trade secrets, if farmers were suddenly liable to prosecution for GMO seed mingling with crops in the field next door, or what unintended effects on organisms might result. I was teaching in the Sacramento valley, a breadbasket of “Big Ag.” in California, at a university doing genetic research.

Then, that September, the World Trade Center was kamikazed on the East Coast 3,000 miles away, and the world stopped, everything changed. The semester topic seemed meaningless at the sight of the Twin Towers’ collapse. Afghanistan happened, Iraq happened and decades happened. We got tired of putting out fires, as we tired of lighting them.

S.E. Gilman, who lives in Monroe Township, has worked in social services, publishing, at booksellers, in kitchens, and academia.

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