After four decades, our obsession with fast, cheap food hastransformed our towns and flooded the labor market with low-paying,dead-end jobs. Is this a healthy menu?
Cheyenne mountain sits on the eastern slope of Colorado's front range, rising steeplyfrom the prairie and overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. From a distance, themountain looks beautiful and serene, dotted with rocky outcroppings, scrub oak and ponderosa pine. And yet Cheyenne Mountain is hardly pristine. One of the nation's mostimportant military installations is located deep within it, housing operational units of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the United States Space Command andthe Air Force Space Command. In the mid-1950s, high-level officials at the Pentagonworried that America's air defenses were vulnerable to sabotag and attack. CheyenneMountain was chosen as the site for a top-secret underground combat-operations center.The mountain was hollowed out, and about 700,000 tons of rock were removed. Fifteen buildings, most of them three stories high, were erected amid a maze of tunnels and passageways extending for miles. The four-and-a-half-acre underground complex wasdesigned to survive a direct hit by a ten-kiloton atomic bomb. Now officially called theCheyenne Mountain Operations Center, the facility is entered through massive steel blastdoors that are three feet thick and weigh twenty tons each. Pressurized air within thecomplex prevents contamination by radioactive fallout or biological weapons. A heavilyarmed quick-response team guards against intruders. The place feels like the set of anearly James Bond movie, with men in jumpsuits driving little electric vans from one brightly lighted cavern to another.
A survey of American schoolchildren found that ninety-six percent could identifyRonald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognitionwas Santa Claus. The impact of McDonald's on the nation's culture, economy anddiet is hard to overstate. Its corporate symbol - the Golden Arches - is now morewidely recognised than the Christian cross.
Fifteen hundred people work inside the mountain every day, maintaining the facility andcollecting information from a worldwide network of radars, spy satellites, ground-basedsensors, airplanes and blimps. The Operations Center tracks every man-made object thatenters North American airspace or that orbits the earth. It provides early warning of missile attacks. It detects the firing of a long-range missile, anywhere in the world, beforethat missile has left the launch pad. Much of the work performed at the center is top-secret. The hallways of its inner sanctum are painted slate gray, the ceilings are low andthere are combination locks on every door. The complex was built to be self-sustainingfor one month. Its generators can produce enough electricity to power a medium-sizecity. Its underground reservoirs hold 6 million gallons of water; workers sometimes