Monday, June 2, 2008

Why bother?

Those of us who follow environmental issues face a daily dose of big-scale bad news. The global climate crisis is worse than scientists had thought. We have less time to make big changes. The rapid development of countries like China and India make our chances of success ever more distant.

With problems this big and bad, how can anything I do really help? I'm not a CEO or a senator. For every light bulb I change, mile that I bicycle, or tomato that I grow, a new coal plant in China more than makes up for my greenhouse gas savings. Yes, my efforts yield lower electric bills, daily workouts, and tastier salads. As far as earth's climate is concerned, though, am I making a difference or merely applying a psychological salve to ease my anxieties? At least on some days, 'thinking globally' actually discourages me from 'acting locally,' as the saying goes.

In a recent New York Times Magazine editorial, Michael Pollan bluntly asks "Why bother?" Pollan's eloquent arguments invoke Wendell Berry, the vegetable garden, and even Unity College's own Jimmy Carter solar panels. His conclusion is both realistic and optimistic: "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."

Thanks Mr. Pollan ... I needed that.

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