Pollan Count

“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.


Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago

Eric thanks

Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you.

William P.
Past Member 8 years ago

How did I get from the England game to Beatles night on BBC2 TO listening to this tune for the first time in 10 years?I know I've had 8 cans of Magners but there must bea rational explanation.
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Rebecca Haden
Rebecca Haden9 years ago

I think the situation with green choices is like the classic math problem called "The Prisoner's Dilemma." Basically, if everyone joins in, it will be valuable, but if just a few of us make changes, we experience some inconvenience or discomfort without actually improving our situation. It is this, I think, that causes so many people not to bother.
The more of us who do bother, the more others will feel that the level of cooperation is rising to the point at which it may be worth their while to make those choices as well. When there is a perception that lots of us are on board, those who have been choosing not to on the grounds that it won't help anyway will begin to see the value of joining in.
So I think that it is essential that those of us who are willing to make changes should do so, not only for our own self-respect, but to get more quickly to the point at which those with higher thresholds for participation will join in.

Marykay L.
Marykay L9 years ago

I agree its about numbers but also momentum. I think we are part of a wave -- and by the time kids in high school now are in their 30s, there will be that many more people acting responsibly. We're on a roll!

Lia Robb
Past Member 9 years ago

I believe it's a question of numbers. True, one or two people doing what they can, when everyone else is quickly cancelling out their actions with multiple times the negative action, doesn't do much good. But if enough people can make the conscious decision to do what they can... a significant difference CAN be made!!