Monday, May 12, 2008

Plant a garden, save the world

Ever since Will’s birth I’ve been a wanna-be gardener. Even back when I was writing about other people’s stunning gardens every week for the Ledger-Enquirer, I never found much time to stop writing and mothering and actually garden myself. So Rob’s become the green-thumbed master of the outdoor landscape while I wind up catching up on laundry and dishes and cooking and other interior domestic chores, including attending to crawling Owen who would love to swallow grass and acorns and pollen cones if we all tried to garden outside.

But I WANT to be in the garden. So last week I was telling Will about my plan to become a big gardener next year and to finally start gardening together as a family (this year Will and Rob did the honors in our tiny vegetable garden – which we shifted from the center of our lawn to some border plantings along the fence after the original garden became our cat's giant litter box). But next year surely toddling Owen will be a little less likely to inhale every chokable object in sight while I’m distracted with seeds and soil and such.

And the same day after I'd announced my mid-year resolution to Will, I read -- thanks to links in the blogs of my cousin April and the always inspiring Soule Mama -- this article by Michael Pollan (author of The Botany of Desire and Omnivore’s Dilemma) and I got exponentially inspired to have a big vegetable garden in the not-too-distant future. Now I think that next year’s vegetable garden is going to be a much more ambitious whole-family project.

If you’ve been looking for a little nudge toward planting a vegetable garden (which is surely a great activity to involve the kids in) here it is. If you’re already a gardener, you’ll just be all the more inspired. Pollan starts by posing the question “Why bother” trying to play a personal role in solving a problem as humungous and daunting as global climate change – and then he comes back with a powerful answer that’s too multi-faceted for a quick synopsis – but it does center on growing your own food in a backyard garden as a key step individuals can take.

Here are a few out-of-context quotes to whet your appetite for the whole article:

“…the climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle — of character, even. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”

“Planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.”

“...If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. (Just look at the market for hybrid cars.) Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries. All of this could, theoretically, happen. What I’m describing (imagining would probably be more accurate) is a process of viral social change, and change of this kind, which is nonlinear, is never something anyone can plan or predict or count on.”

So here’s to viral social change. Read Pollan and pass it on (to your friends via e-mail; to your kids outside in the dirt). Happy gardening.

1 comment:

eredux said...

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.