By Larry Floersch

I just saw an item in my favorite science magazine that global barley crop yields could drop by 17 percent in this century. According to the article, barley is particularly sensitive to warmer temperatures and drought, which are likely to increase because of global warming. The decline in yields could lead to a doubling of barley prices by 2099 according to one of the authors.

“Big deal,” I thought, “less beef and barley soup in the world is a good thing.” I always disliked Campbell’s beef and barley soup, which is the first thing I think of when I hear the word “barley.” There is just something about those little grayish-brown cubes of “beef” and those mushy waterlogged grains of barley with flecks of bran still attached.

Barley, of course, is used in more dishes than beef and barley soup, and that I blame on Scotland, which is a place where the men wear plaid skirts and knee socks and something called a sporran that covers their crotch area and everyone talks like Sean Connery. I suspect it was the Scots who first made beef and barley soup because they have a penchant for mixing barley with meat byproducts. I’m talking about the national dish of Scotland, the delightful and nutritious dinner treat from the highlands called “haggis,” in which barley is mixed with other vegetable matter and the internal organs of a sheep and then stuffed into the sheep’s stomach and roasted. You don’t have to be Sean Connery or a member of the Black Watch to say “Yum” to that!  

But the article went on to fill my heart with dread. The authors pointed out that a shortage of barley could be disastrous because barley is used to make beer. That’s right, no barley, NO BEER! 

That could cause the economy of Vermont to collapse. Whereas in olden days we boasted of having more cows than people in the state, we now have more microbreweries than artisanal bakers, and the number of artisanal bakers in the state far surpassed the number of cows long ago. And the state’s human population would continue to become more elderly because, regardless of Governor Scott’s policies and programs, young people would shun moving into the state if they can’t get beer. 

Imagine if the price of barley doubled. Instead of $8 for a pint of your favorite microbrew from Hill Farmstead or von Trapp’s or the Shed or the Alchemist or Lawson’s Finest, think of $16 or more! It is obvious that something needs to be done, and fast.

We can’t count on the current administration to do anything. They think global warming is a hoax. Besides, he (you know who I mean) is only worried about the price of kola nuts because, unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t drink beer and only drinks Pepsi, and anyone who knows anything knows that Coca Cola is the way to go and therefore that guy (you know who I mean) has his taste buds in his…But I digress.

Those of us who know global warming is real see the huge risk here and know we must do something to protect the barley supply. But there are many of you who are not convinced. 

So for those of you who love beer but think global warming is not real, what I propose is a variation on Pascal’s Wager. As you may remember from freshman philosophy class, Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist who lived back in the 1600s, got a programming language named after him, and tried to build calculators, but he couldn’t get them to fit in your hand because there was a severe shortage of microprocessors in the 1600s. In fact, you needed a forklift to move his calculators, so they didn’t sell well because there was also a shortage of forklifts back in the 1600s.

Pascal’s Wager was based on his thoughts about the existence of God, which is an important subject, but the logic can be applied here because, as the writer Jean Shepherd once said, “BEER! The Mother of Us All!” 

According to the Wager’s logic in this instance, global warming is either real or it is not real. If global warming is not real and we do something to combat it, we’ve wasted our time.  But if global warming is real and we do nothing, the Scots may hoard barley so they can continue to make haggis, and the price of beer will DOUBLE. 

So if you’re not convinced global warming is real but you love beer, join us other beer lovers and take the risk of wasting your time. Work with us to reverse global warming. Then in 2099 we can all continue to waste time at our local taverns, raise our glasses of $8 beer in success, and have a bowl of beef and barley soup—or some haggis. Yum!



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