“Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.”
–Wendell Berry, author and environmentalist
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, is everywhere. His name and esteemed reputation is now ubiquitous in virtually all media forms, and his message of consumer and environmental awareness has spread across the landscape like a foray of dandelions. I say this not as a detractor, but in celebration (with a pinch of envy thrown in) of the man and his campaign to cultivate an authentic dialog about how and what we eat.
This past Earth Day, Pollan published an essay entitled “Why Bother?” for “The Green Issue” of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, calling into question the lasting impact we have as conscientious and activist consumers, and more importantly if our (re)actions make a bit of difference towards the looming climate change. In essence, Pollan asserts the belief that despite our lead-footed carbon-crunching neighbors, it is our moral imperative to make the honest gesture towards change (do yourself a favor and read the essay).
I feel that the question of why make the effort, if the action will not stave off the inevitable, is an excellent and prescient inquiry and informs everything we do as parents, consumers and citizens. Everyone likely has their own answer, or maybe even their own reason why they avoid a change in behavior that will ideally improve matters for generations to come.
So, is it all worth it? Our compost heaps, our carbon credits, our cloth diapers, our recycling bins, and solar panels–do they deliver us to where we want to go, or is it the momentum and the journey that serve as our reason for being?
Feel free to sound off.
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.