I didn’t hear much cheering the other day when someone on social media suggested that Guerneville’s quality of life would be greatly improved if there were a McDonald’s in town.

Frank Robertson column photo

Frank Robertson

“Oh, brother,” I could hear people saying or words to that effect. The sentiment was like, “What planet is this dingbat from?”

I hope it’s a testament to the lower river’s sense of place that people seem to like it here without a McDonald’s or any other fast-food franchise (except for the lonely Main Street Subway outlet).

I don’t have anything against a McDonald’s or Burger King; we stop at them sometimes when we’re on the road, usually ordering from the drive-up window to get a breakfast McMuffin or split a Big Mac for lunch. I’m familiar with a double Whopper because it was my father’s favorite food. I often bought him one at the Sebastopol Burger King after he’d stopped driving and was home alone. But I don’t miss it or feel culturally deprived if there’s not one around.

I only bring this up because I know that cruising for burgers is right up there with motherhood and apple pie as far as what this country believes are vital necessities. For many Americans, easy access to an affordable cheeseburger is not only a convenience, it’s almost like a moral imperative.

And now they’re saying beef is killing the planet. Reasonable people are making a strong case that rising U.S. and global meat consumption is helping to raise Earth’s atmospheric temperature enough to render the planet uninhabitable for life as we know it.

We also know that blaming global warming and crazy cataclysmic weather such as California’s recent wind-driven wildfires on humanity’s love for a juicy cheeseburger will be a hard sell.

If humanity’s appetite for a burger is causing weather-related calamities like last month’s Kincade Fire, what should we do about it? Stop eating them?

Maybe. Or we could make better burgers that don’t use beef. That’s the strategy at Impossible Foods, the company created by Pat Brown, a Stanford University biochemistry professor, who hopes to put the global beef industry out of business within the next 15 years and save civilization in the process.

“The use of animals in food production is by far the most destructive technology on Earth,” Brown told New Yorker magazine last month in a good story by Tad Friend about climate change, the meat industry and the Impossible Foods marketing challenge.

“We see our mission as the last chance to save the planet from environmental catastrophe,” Brown said.

The company’s key product, the Impossible Burger, contains no meat. Of course burger purists consider a meatless hamburger anathema, but sometimes even they can’t tell the difference between an Impossible Burger and one made from beef. Sometimes they even think it’s better.

The Impossible Burger’s not-so-secret ingredient is heme, a molecule that occurs in all plants and animals, according to Wikipedia, and is “an essential building block of life.”

It’s also what makes meat taste delicious, according to Impossible Foods. Maybe the big question for mankind now is whether we can find a way to consume our way out of climate change. The Impossible Whopper, which Burger King started serving this year, costs $6.19, compared with a regular Whopper for around $3.50.

They’re working on getting the price down, but it’s complicated and will take time. The Impossible Foods people say we’ve only got about 30 years left to halt global warming. After that it’s probably all over for human life on Earth.

In 2050 I’d be more than 100 years old. If there’s any lighter side to the impending end of civilization it may be that I’m old enough to know I’m probably not going to be around no matter what the greenhouse gas index looks like.

Nevertheless I want to do my part. So I stopped at a Burger King in Santa Rosa the other day and ordered an Impossible Whopper.

“It sure looks like a real hamburger,” I thought.

“And it chews like a real hamburger,” my wife agreed.

“I would say the whole package is pretty darn good,” I said.

“It’s good,” she said. “I hate to say it, but it is. It’s impossible.”

Frank Robertson is a member of the Sonoma West Publishers staff.

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