I had an epiphany a couple of days ago. An uncomfortable one. Namely, that I care more about the environment in theory than in practice.
It dawned on me partway through Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I’ve taken to reading in bed at night before I drift off. Gently, yet firmly, Barbara and her husband Steven Hopp build a case for eating local based on food miles and ecological footprints and petroleum reserves and such.
While I’ve been aware of these arguments, I’ve been buying more local food because it tastes good. Because I like shopping at the farmer’s market. Because I enjoy the challenge of designing meals around what is in season. As I’ve said in previous posts, eating well is fun.
But I’ve been realizing lately that the path that begins with eating more sustainably is a slippery slope that invites one into an ever-expanding awareness about choices, and the effect individual choices have on the world at large.
Doggone it, eating local is making me think!
It’s made me realize that for years, I’ve been paying lip service to environmental stewardship. I’ve blamed the woes of the planet on the “other guy,” the one who drives around in a Hummer, tossing Styrofoam cartons out the window as he peels out of a McParking lot. I’ve assumed that my small virtues put me in the Good Camp: I’m a fastidious recycler; I pull on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat; I use organic cleaners instead of bleach; I make a (small) monthly contribution to an environmental group that does wonderful things.
But let’s be honest: “all that” doesn’t amount to much. I would guess that my ecological footprint, if measured, would be almost identical to that of my neighbor, who makes no such concessions, and only negligibly different than the guy in the Hummer. With the exception of food, I usually buy what I want, when I want, without a lot of thought about where it came from or what was involved in the making of it. I put thousands of miles on my car every year, usually driving solo. I like fresh towels and long, hot showers and green lawns and air conditioning.
And bottled water. I like bottled water a lot.