In yesterday’s post, I wrote about Mark Bittman and Ted Danson, both of whom are committed to the environment and to the well-being of our planet. Danson has no patience for pessimism, and Bittman noted that “[T]here is always plenty of good work to do.” I’d like to expand on this a bit, both, in general, with the environment, and in specific, with food, which is completely twined with the environment.
Within the environmental movement, there is, as a rule, an enthusiasm for action and projects, which can include gardening, cooking, buying locally, composting, and any other number of green activities. But sometimes “Sir Doubt” comes calling, causing environmentalists to wonder just how worthwhile personal action really is as Earth continues to heat up, plastic pollutes our seas, and the fish population plummets. It really is hard to argue that things are improving overall. (The local food movement is the bright exception.) Then comes the nagging question: What good can one person do?
What difference does it make if one middle-aged woman hangs her laundry, cooks from scratch, recycles, buys locally, limits how much she drives, and tries very hard to control her penchant for adding more clutter to an already full house? If I bring my own cup and fork to the Red Barn, a very casual local restaurant, how much, really, am I doing for the environment when everyone else is using plastic forks and cups, which get tossed into the trash? I will admit that at times I feel as though I am a lone salmon swimming upstream in a culture of carelessness and waste. And, yes, sometimes it can get discouraging.
But the other night, my husband, Clif, and I watched a documentary called Escape from Suburbia, a mostly mediocre movie with a few very good flashes, one of them being Guy Dauncey, a writer, speaker, and activist whose books have been endorsed by Bill McKibben and Jane Goodall. If Sir Doubt has visited Guy Dauncey, then he has been roundly vanquished by this ebullient environmentalist. In the film, Dauncey spoke of the “layering of solutions” that must be put together, that we need all kinds of people, with many different talents, to work on the vast problems that climate change and peak oil are bringing to this planet. Then he said something that really caught my attention. That is, “action encourages optimism.”
Dauncey is right. Doing things, however small, that are good for the planet can bring a feeling of optimism, a feeling of hope that maybe, just maybe, enough people doing the right thing will actually make a difference. And what’s the alternative, really? Giving in to pessimism? Saying, oh the hell with it, let’s just trash the planet and make it unlivable for our children and grandchildren?
No, this I refuse to do. Danson, Bittman, and Dauncey words and actions are examples for the rest of us to follow. On this advent of Earth Day, I will take their messages into my heart as I continue to hang out my laundry, recycle, and do all the other myriad of little actions that are not only good for Earth but also help spread optimism, something we will especially need as the planet continues to get warmer.
So readers, I hope you have a very optimistic Earth Day filled with environmental action that extends throughout the year.