Would you like some tea with your climate change?

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One of the authors of Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery (John) himself, Shackleton himself, and Emiliani himself were ushered into the building past the graduate students, the guards, and the members of the public who wandered the halls of the museum blissfully unaware that the powerhouses of paleoclimate research were brushing past them. They were Glynn Isaac’s guests (and friends and colleagues) and were meeting with Glynn in preparation for an impromptu public conference that would be held the next day in the Geology Lecture Hall downstairs. These were the people who had put the climatic theory of Milutin Milankovic together with the sea core data and nailed down, once and for all, the cause of the basic mode and tempo of Earth climate for the last two or three million years, and at some level, certainly, for all time.

[A modified repost in honor of Christopher Hitchens, as per the suggestion of Desiree Schell.]

It turns out that the orbital geometry of the Earth in relation the Sun is the most consistent single factor in determining whether or not we experience an ice age. You can find more details here.

So there they were, now sequestered, in Glynn Isaac’s office. The dons of climate change research. I was Glynn’s student, but I had only been his student for a few hours. Suddenly, Glynn, a decidedly energetic person of modest stature and elven appearance, appeared in the lab, caught my eye, and said in his thick Undifferentiated British Colonial Accent (always delivered with a big smile) “Greg! Make us tea, would you?” and turned on his heel and headed back to the private meeting.

Tea. … Tea?

How does that work?

This was the mid 1980s. I was to spend the next several years more often than not in Africa, and when in the US, more often than not in the company of an Australian, a Canadian, a Brit, an Israeli or a South African. In other words, tea would become part of my life, by and by. I would become expert at making it, and drinking it was to become a habit that I would relish. But in the mid 1980s …

Tea? That stuff in bags? What?

As I stood there, starting to sweat, a woman whom I barely knew but who was to become a good friend, and in fact, in about five seconds was to earn my unending love and devotion for an act she was about to commit, an Australian woman named Nikki, came barreling out of her nearby office, and took my arm as she passed to drag me across the room to the Lab kitchen, muttering “You Americans. Follow me and pay close attention. I’m only going to show you this once, but you’ll probably get it.”

So Nikki Stern taught me how to make tea using … a tea pot and tea and stuff (no bags). In less than 10 minutes we had a tray with tea cups, tea, sugar, milk, hot water, the whole nine yards. We threw on a box of bisquits (cookies to you ignorant Americans) and I carried it down the hall to Glynn’s office, knocked him up, and delivered the goods.

“You know how to make tea?” Glynn noted, quizzically.

“I do now, thanks to Nikki,” I replied.

“Lucky you!” said Glynn, as I backed clumsily out of the room, returning to the hallway.

And now …. well, actually, I was just thinking of having a spot of tea. Care to join me?

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8 thoughts on “Would you like some tea with your climate change?

  1. I’ve just finished my morning cup (my preference is for Chinese or Japanese green teas, which one can drink without adding milk or sugar). I, too, acquired a taste for tea as an adult. When I was growing up, what passed for tea was Lipton, which Douglas Adams aptly described as “a substance almost but not quite entirely unlike tea.” The first time I visited Berkeley, one of the people in the group (an American of Chinese ancestry) invited me to try some of his tea, and the rest is history.

    I’m still cautious about ordering hot tea in restaurants, because too many Americans still mistake Lipton for tea. And I consider iced tea to be an abomination. But offer me a good hot tea, and I will try it.

  2. I mainly drink Roibos these days.

    And what’s this about milk and sugar? The POINT of tea is to be a place where you put your milk and sugar!

    (As I say, I mainly learned to drink tea in Africa.)

  3. This reminds me of the anecdote surrounding Feynman learning how to drink tea. He was asked whether he wanted milk or lemon, and because he didn’t know, he said both.

  4. “Greg! Make us tea, would you?” … “You know how to make tea?” Glynn noted, quizzically.

    So basically, he asked you to do something he expected you to be unable to do?

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