Monday, April 28, 2008

Michael Pollan on Growing Your Own

There is a very interesting editorial from noted sustainable agriculture advocate and author Michael Pollan in the April 20 New York Times Magazine on dealing with climate change in your own life.

The piece is entitled, The Way We Live Now: Why Bother? And in it, he looks at the attitude many have: why bother to face the issue of climate change when it seems too big and hard to fathom? He goes through all of the issues and ultimately says that we should bother and that:

"The idea is to find one thing to do in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting, that may or may not virally rock the world but is real and particular (as well as symbolic) and that, come what may, will offer its own rewards.

And one act he says can do this is to grow some of your own food.

"But the act I want to talk about is growing some, even just a little, of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don't, look into getting a plot in a community garden. Measured against the problem we face, 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."

He also goes on to say, " It’s estimated that the way we feed ourselves (or rather, allow ourselves to be fed) accounts for about a fifth of the greenhouse gas for which each of us is responsible... Yet the sun still shines down on your yard, and photosynthesis still works so abundantly that in a thoughtfully organized vegetable garden (one planted from seed, nourished by compost from the kitchen and involving not too many drives to the garden center), you can grow the proverbial free lunch — CO2-free and dollar-free. This is the most-local food you can possibly eat (not to mention the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious)."

He also points out the other benefits of growing your own including the fact that it's a great workout that burns calories and doesn't involve having to use the car to go to the gym.

And, as he points out, we can learn what it's like to be self-sufficient, what we can do for ourselves:

"You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself — that your body is still good for something and may actually be enlisted in its own support. If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need. We may also need the food. Could gardens provide it? Well, during World War II, victory gardens supplied as much as 40 percent of the produce Americans ate."

Very powerful stuff and so well-written, as is everything he writes. Pollan's latest book is “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

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