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Climate change threatens one of Oprah's favorite things

Rob Perks

Posted November 29, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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I don't think I've eaten a truffle. Or if I have I never knew it. That's because I'm not even sure what a truffle is. But I do know that Oprah Winfrey is a big fan of this delicacy. And perhaps her love of this fruiting body of a subterranean mushroom (hat tip: Wikdepedia) will coax one of the planet's most iconic and influential people to rally her fans to fight the planet's biggest crisis: climate change.

Let me back up. How do I know about Oprah's obsession over all things truffley? (Yeah, let's just say that's a real word.) Well, my lovely wife Karen is a long-time fan of "O" and a loyal viewer of her television show. Even though Oprah has stopped broadcasting her top-rated talk show, she still gets lots of exposure on her new network OWN. (Did you know that stands for "Oprah Winfrey Network" -- I didn't, until my wife told me. Very clever.) Anyway, Karen sometimes DVR's Oprah's specials, including a recent one recapping the "best of" Oprah's popular "favorite things" episodes which she airs every year.

I sat down and watched a bit of the episode, mostly to see the female audience members shreik in delight with each spectacular item showcased for the viewers. (Wow, remember when "flat screen" TVs were so fat back in 2004?) Considering that everyone in the audience gets every fabulous item featured on the show, the shrieking kinda makes sense. Anyway, all of a sudden out came the truffles -- all chocolate covered and adorned in elegant wrapping paper. Then came a quick flashback of previous shows when truffles also made the list. Turns out truffles are practically always on Oprah's "favorite things" show because...wait for it...they are really and truly among her most favorite things! Want proof? Just Google "Oprah truffles" and see what shows up. They top this year's list too, of course, as noted in the headline of the news story about her highly anticipated choices: 'Oprah's Favorite Things 2012' special: Military spouses get a $5,000 TV, a trip to Fiji, and a lot of truffles.

Yes indeed, Oprah loves her some truffles. So what? Well, it turns out truffle crops have been declining at an alarming rate of late and scientists suspect the culprit is a warming planet. I read an article about this the other day. Apparently, truffles thrive in wet and cold conditions and hate dryness and heat. The story noted that:

"Swiss scientists said they now had clear data that drier summers were to blame, as this affected the oak and hazelnut trees on which the prized fungi grows, a process known as symbiosis. The team found that harvests in France's Perigord and in Spain's Aragon region fell at roughly the same pace from 1970-2006, and this trend was in line with an overall decline in summer rainfall."

So there you have it. As if rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and extreme storms aren't enough, now we may soon live in a world without truffles. And I haven't even eaten one yet! (As far as I know, that is.) This would mean a truffle-less "favorite things" list for Oprah, something I don't think she'll be happy about given her long-lasting love affair with the tasty little fungi.

So I'm appealing to Oprah, for the love of truffles if nothing else, to please use her powerful media platform and mega-celebrity status to spread awareness about climate change and the need to act now to stem its destruction for present and future generations.

That would be my favorite thing. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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