The ever-eloquent Michael Pollan strikes again. Check out the interview with him on Yale Environment 360: “Michael Pollan on What’s Wrong With Environmentalism.” There are a lot of good take-home messages here, including more encouragement to get out in the garden:
I don’t know exactly what percentage of greenhouse gas we would reduce if everybody planted a garden, but it would be a percentage and it would be a help. If you go back to the victory garden moment in American history during World War II when the government strongly encouraged us all to plant gardens because we were reserving the output of our agricultural system for the troops and for starving Europeans — within a year or two, we actually got up to producing forty percent of our produce from home gardens. No food is more local, no food requires less fossil fuel, and no food is more tasty or nutritious than food you grow yourself. So it’s not a trivial contribution.
The process of growing your own food also teaches you things that are very, very important to combating this problem. One source of our sense of powerlessness and frustration around climate change is that we are so accustomed to outsourcing so much of our lives to specialists of one kind or another, that the idea that we could reinvent the way we live, change our lifestyles, is absolutely daunting to people. We don’t know how to do it. We’ve lost the skills to do it. One of the things gardening teaches is that you can actually feed yourself. How amazing, you’re not dependent on a huge, global system to feed yourself. I think where climate change is taking us is to a point where many of us will need to take care of ourselves a little better than we do now. We will be less able to depend on distant experts and distant markets. We will need to re-localize economies all over the world because we won’t be able to waste fossil fuel, like having our salmon filleted in China before we bring it to the United States from Alaska. These long supply chains are going to have to get shorter.
The writer Wendell Berry was right a long time ago when he said the environmental crisis is a crisis of character. It’s really about how we live. The thought that we can swap out the fuel we’re putting in our cars to ethanol, and swap out the electricity to nuclear and everything else can stay the same, I think, is really a pipe dream. We’re going to have to change, and the beginning of knowing how to change is learning how to provide for yourself a little bit more.
Before I quote the whole thing, go read it yourself. It’s definitely worth it.
Our garden is bursting. I have been harvesting and eating fresh herbs all week: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavender and sage. There are green tomatoes on most of our bushes, and teeny-tiny eggplants and cucumbers. There are also a couple of volunteers, either squash or melon, from the compost. Watching your garden grow and produce over the summer really is a lot of fun.
If you want some help getting your garden started, check out Food Not Lawns. They provide lots of resources for turning “your yard into a garden and your neighborhood into a community.”