Purple rubber bands are sometimes wrapped around bunches of asparagus in my supermarket. They have written on them — in English — Made in Peru.
I love Peruvian purple rubber bands as much as I love Peruvian purple potatoes and Peruvian purple corn, and — come to think of it — even the tips of my asparagus are purplish. It befits my stalks of Peruvian asparagus to be embraced by purple rubber bands.
I spent three months climbing the Peruvian Andes long before purple rubber bands were needed — before the glaciers turned to water and before asparagus sprouted from the desert below the mountains.
This is a case of tragedy turned into fecundity: The glaciers I so carefully traversed years ago are melting and disappearing. Peru’s melting glaciers are irrigating a previously arid terrain now populated by asparagus growers. Climate change has created a temporarily lush environment for spectacular asparagus. It can take several years for an asparagus seed to produce pickable asparagus stalks. Crops of spears can then appear for up to thirty years. Will those unknowing asparagus spears outlive the glaciers that make their existence possible? How long will it take for Peruvian glacial ice to melt away and reveal another dry mountain? How long for lush farms to return to barren desert land?
It’s incredible to see such sweeping ecological changes happen within the span of my adulthood. Asparagus farmers are like the real estate investors of Miami: They grab the money while they can — they harvest their crops and condos before climate change spoils their party. They hope to cash out before global warming makes their condos too wet and their asparagus too dry.
Purple rubber bands are beautiful. They hold their stalks of asparagus with certainty; not a single stalk will escape. But just as purple rubber bands eventually lose their stretch, so will Miami real estate and Peruvian asparagus become mold and dust.