News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
18th May 2008

Our dilemma

posted in Books, Environment, Healthy Living |

Today’s article in the Globe about a non profit that builds and donates raised-bed gardens to low-income households along with Dick’s post on Victory Gardens got me thinking about The Omnivore’s Dilemma again. As I’ve said before, anyone who eats should read this book by Michael Pollan – it will truly change the way you think about food! Of course, whether that translates to changed behavior is a different story.  I haven’t eaten fast food for over 20 years, ever since I realized how bad it made me feel, and I avoid transfat and processed foods, but I have not become a “localvore,” the term for those who only eat locally produced food; I still buy strawberries in the winter and make salads every night, all year. The new dilemma is:  how much can one person do, and will it make a difference anyway?  A recent column by Pollan in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Why Bother,” takes on this malaise and with typical Pollan thoroughness digs down to find its cause.  He traces it to the division of labor, allowing specialization, which has given us our modern civilization with all its advantages, but which has also created, in the words of the poet, Wendell Berry, whom Pollan quotes, “a split between what we think and what we do.”  Berry was writing about this issue during the oil crisis of the seventies (remember that quaint time of lines at the gas pump, when everyone was driving smaller cars, turning their heat down and not using their automatic dishwashers or clothes dryers?)  which he called a “crisis of character” caused by our overreliance on specialists to handle our every need.  This dependence has led to a feeling of helplessness in the face of an overwhelming problem such as climate change, so we decide to “cross our fingers and talk about the promise of ethanol and nuclear power–new liquids and electrons to power the same old cars and houses and lives.”  But Pollan is not hopeless, and his point is that we can, and should, bother, that we can and should try to grow a little of the food we eat. The benefits are many and to quote Berry again, “is one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way that ’solutions’ like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do – actually beget other solutions”  (increased health and well-being for starters).  Can we really feed ourselves?  Maybe not entirely, but Pollan points out that the World War II Victory Gardens invoked by Dick Howe supplied more than 40% of our produce.  So, I second the motion, let’s get out there and plant something!

There are currently 2 responses to “Our dilemma”

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  1. 1 On May 19th, 2008, Lynne said:

    I got my ten tomato plants, 6 cuke vines, spinach and greens (a lot of them), and 6 pepper plants all ready to plant in a couple weeks (I suspect I’ll be giving away produce this summer!). It’ll also cut down on grocery costs as we eat a lot of salads in my house (well, my husband does). I started them from seeds and they’ve all thrived in my sunniest room. I’m so excited to have a plot of land to work this year.

    I just realized too, that I’ll be moved to my downtown studio/office space by the time the weekly farmer’s market starts up! I never could get down there in past years, but this year, no excuses! That can supplement what I’ve planted to add a little variety.

  2. 2 On May 19th, 2008, Margaret said:

    Lynne, you’re great – starting from seeds is the best way to do it, if you have a sunny room! I can only garden in pots, but I have self-watering tubs that will hold two tomato plants and they usually do well, except for the annoying groundhog living under my deck who thinks it’s his own salad bar. He likes petunias, too!

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