Every year, farmers in France’s central region of Auvergne repeat the same process. During summer and fall, their cows graze in pastures, eating to their hearts’ content. It’s only during this time that farmers can produce salers, a highly regulated semihard cheese with the same buttery depth as a well-aged cheddar.
That seasonal cycle remained uninterrupted for over 2,000 years until last week, when salers became the latest casualty of severe heat waves wreaking havoc across Europe, where human-caused climate change has intensified temperatures. France’s severe drought shut down the cheese production that had continued through two world wars, collapsed monarchies and the fall of the Roman Empire…
The decision to halt the cheesemaking was based on two factors: the meadows’ utterly parched state and the rules that regulate salers’ production…
Salers is what’s known as an AOP good, or a product carrying the European Union’s Appellation d’Origine Protégée label. The designation signifies that a good originates from a specific region and has an officially established reputation — similar to champagne or Kalamata olive oil. But carrying the label also means the product must meet strict standards — and that’s why the drought has been such a problem.
The sophisticated world is coming to a sad end. A complete life requires cheese. Good cheese. Something with character and history.
I met a couple of these heroes when I lived in Chinle in the Navajo Nation. Modest, kind, dedicated to fighting for a better world for us all.