I was in the middle of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when I got distracted by a featured post on Xanga. I read all 700 + comments—thus breaking my New Year’s resolution already. The post told me that even though I’m a nice person who works in human services, pays my taxes, loves my children, and looks after my neighbors, I’m definitely, positively going to hell. Sheez, I’m not even gay! I don’t even kick the dog. Heck, I don’t even HAVE a dog.
The whole thing, including the many, many comments concurring with the blogger’s assessment of my afterlife, reminded me of the Roman Emperor Caligula. Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about Roman Emperors, but recently my husband and I have been watching the old miniseries, I, Claudius. Anyway, Caligula declared himself a god, and not just any god, but Jupiter, the Big Daddy of the gods. People believed him because…I don’t know why anyone would believe him, but there are a lot of things people believe that I don’t understand.
Caligula/Jupiter rather capriciously killed anyone who displeased him, and he was so very easy to displease. If you kissed his butt and he was happy with you, it was party time, but everyone around him lived in fear, because no matter how upright, kind, productive, pleasant, helpful, or anything else you might be, Caligula would have you whacked on a dime.
But it’s the book I wanted to talk about.
I was kind of bummed about going to hell when I went back to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which Kingsolver discusses her family’s experience with living for a whole year on only locally grown food, much of which they grew themselves. She also weaves in a great deal of essay/commentary about food, especially about the intensely negative effects of relying on Big Agribusiness for our food supply.
And there I was, going to hell again! I think my diet is pretty good, especially by American standards. I limit my saturated fats and I consume more vegetables than anyone I know. But it seems I’ve been eating the wrong vegetables! Some were trucked to me with gallons of fossil fuels from the far corners of the earth!
I’m making light, of course, but I am far more sympathetic to Kingsolver’s argument than to the featured post I mentioned. (Also, she didn’t actually threaten me.) Consider: a small number of giant corporations produce the majority of our food, even the fresh produce. They are not interested in providing us with the best tasting food. They do not concern themselves with the nutritional quality of our food. They are motivated by one thing and one thing only: maximizing their profits.
The profit motive leads to such travesties as the production of plants that cannot reproduce themselves, so farmers can’t save seeds for the next crop (forcing them to buy more seeds from the company). And the “Round-Up Ready” plants that can survive being hosed with herbicides that kill all the weeds around them. Do you want to eat food that’s been hosed with Round Up?
We can now buy only one variety of wheat. Every turkey available to you for your holiday meal is of one breed. The bio-diversity of our food supply shrinks and shrinks—courting disaster, like an undiversified portfolio. And of course, buying food produced far away burns fuel, creates pollution, and oh, the list goes on. It’s enough to make you want to pull on your hemp clothes and visit your p-patch right now.
Of course, a piece of my brain is reminding me that the ability to transport resources is one of the things that makes humans so successful as a species. And how many things would you have to live without if you adhered to a local food only rule? Do bananas grow in your state? Mine neither.
January is the wrong time to read this book. Even the crunchy organic food delivery service I recently subscribed to is hard-pressed to find much local food to send me now. But a little more mindfulness about my purchases, over the course of a year, adds up to a significant impact, especially if other people are a little more mindful too.
Our planet is our responsibility while we’re on it. What happens after, I don’t pretend to know.