Once upon a time there were no farms. People ate fruit off the vine and killed animals as they ran. They roasted things when it suited them but just as often ate them raw. The world was like this for thousands of years, a place of arrows and nuts where everything that was necessary could be found. One might imagine many reasons for giving up on those old, superficially idyllic, ways. Perhaps it was hunger, that ultimate mother of invention, or maybe it was just invention itself, unmotivated by need. […]
Viruses can make you fat — and your dirty-fingered friends can give these viruses to you.
That is the punch line — a known truth about the world. The set-up, though, is longer in the telling. It begins with a boy named Nikhil living in India.
When Nikhil Dhurandhar was young, his father directed a large obesity clinic in Bombay. Throughout his childhood, Nikhil saw thousands of his father’s obese patients. They came in for some cure, whether salve or salvation. Instead, they received, again and again, the same advice: “Move more. Eat less.” […]
“Bedbugs sure is evil, they don’t mean me no good. Yeah, bedbug sure is evil, they don’t mean me no good. Thinks he’s a woodpecker and I’m a chunk of wood.” — Bessie Smith (“Mean Old Bedbug Blues”)
Bedbugs are small and sneaky. Bedbugs do nasty things. Bedbugs are also becoming more common, a trend likely to expand and worsen this spring. But none of this is new, not really. The story of the bedbugs in our lives begins no less than 4,000 years ago. It is a kind of parable about the difference between what we want and what we make. We wanted a realm inside our houses, where we would always be happy and might live forever.
Instead, we made the bedbug, a modern chimera we seem unlikely to ever really escape. […]