Why Bother? Here’s Why

Welcome writer and mama Amy, an online pal from way back when our summer 04 babies were newborns and we were in the same attachment parenting email group. Amy was one of the first bloggers I “knew” and has been a great encouragement to me since the beginning of Hank & Willie—I’m delighted to have her posting here today.

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Hi Hank & Willie readers. 🙂 My name is Amy Gates. I’ve been blogging about attachment parenting, green living, photography and activism over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess for the past three-plus years. Thanks to Anna for allowing me to post here. “Why Bother?” was originally posted on my blog on April 28, 2008.

This evening as my husband Jody and daughter Ava were out running an errand for me, I attempted to cook dinner while balancing a miserable Julian (due to his four canine teeth coming in at the same time) on my hip. After much fussing (on Julian’s part, not mine), I took a break from cooking, sat down on the couch, flipped on the TV and, hoping to make the poor boy feel a bit better, nursed him.

In skipping through the channels it became clear to me why I rarely watch TV (with the exception of The Office, LOST and occasionally Oprah). There was nothing on. I stopped on the local public access channel long enough to hear someone talking about global warming. My interest was piqued so I lingered.

It turns out it was a woman reading Michael Pollan’s recent New York Times article Why Bother? For those of you unfamiliar with Pollan, he is the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, neither of which I have read yet, but I’ve heard great things about both.

“Why Bother?” is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m nowhere near the point of throwing in the towel with regard to the things I do to help the environment, but after reading an article like Enjoy life while you can by climate science maverick James Lovelock, who believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam and watching a YouTube video (which has since been taken down) about Monsanto, you might start to get a little jaded and wonder if all of your efforts are in vain. At least that’s where I’ve been at.

Pollan’s article, Why Bother?, was exactly what I needed to hear (and then read in full on the web since I missed the first half of it on TV) to help lift me out of my funk and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Here’s just a bit of it.

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. 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.

Pollan goes on to suggest “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. Maybe you decide to give up meat, an act that would reduce your carbon footprint by as much as a quarter. Or … for one day a week, abstain completely from economic activity: no shopping, no driving, no electronics.”

He also discusses how doing something as basic as planting a garden to grow even a little of your own food could make a big difference.

This is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. As the price of food goes higher and higher and we worry more and more about where our food comes from, organic vs. conventional (pesticide-laden), genetically-modified organisms, carbon emissions and climate change, it makes sense to me to try to grow some of our own food.

Pollan says, “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.”  Yikes.

I don’t have a lot of experience in gardening, but I did help my mom in our family garden as a child and, three years ago, some friends and I had our own plot in a community garden.

As I embark on growing my own garden for the first time this year, I’m thankful for my friends like Julie of Chez Artz and Green Artz, Melissa at Nature Deva, Heather at A Mama’s Blog, and Woman With A Hatchet, who all have more gardening experience than me (and will hopefully help me out if I need it – hint, hint). I’m planting a small garden not only for the food it will provide to me and my family and to reduce our carbon footprint, but for the experience it will provide us all.

Someday in the hopefully not too distant future (like next few years) once we move into a different house with a larger (and sunnier) yard, I’d love to have a much bigger garden. I’d like to know that if push came to shove and we needed to grow some of our own food, that I could do it.

I am concerned that that day might not be too far off and Pollan agrees. “If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these (growing our own food) are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need.”

But Pollan doesn’t end his article on a downer. Rather he is hopeful and his message is uplifting.

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if
we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”

So, why bother? Because the future of humankind depends on it.

Even if by some stroke of luck climate change doesn’t affect us during our lifetime (wishful thinking), I would hate to leave this huge burden and mess for our children to clean up. After all, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I think Pollan answers the question of “why bother?” best when he says, “Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off
aren’t great. Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will.”
Here, here.

That is why I will keep on bothering. And I hope you will too.


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5 Responses to “Why Bother? Here’s Why”

  1. amy Flood Says:

    it gets harder to bother once children enter your life (more tired, even busier), but it also helps to keep me honest. i want my kids to see me in my garden, see me adding to my compost pile and eventually help me in there too. i also love that the price of organic food is coming down and “regular” food is going up. often, the organic fruits are actually cheaper than the regular version and chicken and beef too. maybe the high price of gas is not such a bad thing after all!

  2. JenBun Says:

    Wow, this is an amazing post.

    Thank you for sharing such strong, smart, relevant thoughts with all of us!

  3. Sarah Says:

    We just enjoyed a pasta salad tonight featuring grape tomatoes that we grew ourselves. That was lovely, on a number of levels. 🙂

  4. Julie Says:

    I am a huge Michael Pollan fan (found Omnivore’s Dilemma to be a life-changing book, actually), so I love this post.

    The cool thing is that growing your food doesn’t just protect you from the possibility of a food crisis when the end of oil occurs, but it offers you a natural classroom for your children, an activity that you can do with them that doesn’t involve spending money or sitting in front of the television, a lot of possibilities for variety and experimentation in the kitchen, a great way to exercise without leaving the house or paying gym memberships, an inexpensive way to beautify and add value to your home (tomatoes as curb appeal!), and community building opportunities because you’ll always have something to talk to the neighbors about when you’re all out in your backyards trying to figure out what the heck to do with all the zucchinis!!!

    I just really don’t see the downside to growing your own food, even if you only have enough space for a pot of herbs on the windowsill, it’s an exercise in connection to the Earth and ourselves that is worth the effort.

    🙂 Julie

  5. crunchy domestic goddess Says:

    thank you all for the comments. 🙂
    i’m happy to say that the two little gardens i planted this year are doing really well. we’ve already enjoyed a few tomatoes and have some strawberries ready to pick this weekend (which the kids will gobble up in no time flat). i’ve also sprouted some plants from seed – carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, beans and mixed greens – which i was over the moon excited about. i’m enjoying my gardening venture so far. 🙂

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