The Way We Live Now: Feeding Frenzy

Gazing nervously across the Atlantic at European outrage over genetically modified food, industry and government leaders have been quick to reach for words like “hysteria” and “madness.” How else to explain the uprooting of biotech crops in English fields? Or naked protesters in Rome pelting American cabinet secretaries with genetically engineered (“G.E.”) soybeans? It’s irrational, surely, to reject out of hand such a shiny new technology, especially one that comes with the seal of approval of American regulators (the vaunted Food and Drug Administration, no less).

Our Time

A wide gulf of time separates this issue’s two intended audiences. It is addressed to those reading it today, on a Sunday on the verge of the year 2000, and also to those reading it—assuming that quaint practice survives—on a distant today in the year 3000. Every time capsule is a kind of mirror. An

The Way We Live Now: A Very Fine Line

The same week that a Republican candidate for President spent struggling to compose ever more tortuous nondenials of his drug use as a young man, a former Republican Presidential candidate could be seen in full-page advertisements forthrightly acknowledging his own use of another drug. Oh, I know: two completely different and incomparable situations; how unfair

The Way We Live Now: Land of the Free Market

I live just beyond the dilating fringe of the New York metropolitan area, in the kind of place that was called “the country” until a few years ago. That’s when the ratio of urban refugees to farmers shifted in a way that made that designation feel self-conscious, so people began calling it “the exurbs,” a

The Human Habitat: The Real World of Interiors

The twilight struggle between Life and Design surely counts as one of the great long-running stories of the century now ending. This clash of terms has given us battles drenched in both tragedy and farce, on fronts as different as the Iron Curtain and the curtain wall, Soviet collective farms and Corbusian villas, American urban-renewal

Breaking Ground: The Call of the Wild Apple

ALL the way in the back of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’s orchard here stand several jumbled rows of the oddest apple trees you’ve ever seen. No two are alike, not in form or leaf or fruit: this one could pass for a linden tree, that one for a demented forsythia. Maybe a

Playing God in the Garden

Planting Today I planted something new in my vegetable garden — something very new, as a matter of fact. It’s a potato called the New Leaf Superior, which has been genetically engineered — by Monsanto, the chemical giant recently turned ”life sciences” giant — to produce its own insecticide. This it can do in every

Breaking Ground; Seed. Reseed. Secede.

WHERE do you go to shoot a movie about a perfectly ordinary American whose whole life, unbeknownst to him, is a scripted show for television? Ideally, you’d find a place that looked so stereotypically small-town America, so thoroughly front-porched and picket-fenced, that it could pass for a movie set. This is what the producers of


Reading along in THE INVITING GARDEN: Gardening for the Senses, Mind, and Spirit (Holt, $40), I suddenly came upon this provocative sentence: “Gardening is not a hobby, and only nongardeners would describe it as such.” For a writer as genial as Allen Lacy, this qualifies as a shot across the wheelbarrow. “There is nothing wrong

Breaking Ground; The Chain Saws of Salvation

ON a bright, chilly morning last month, I joined a small group of my neighbors who had gathered just south of Kent, Conn., chain saws and loppers in hand, to face down a threat to one of the prettiest landscapes in New England. Known locally as the “southern gateway” to the Berkshires, this particular stretch