Sunday, April 20, 2008

Viral Social Change

Yesterday I commented on Gail Collins's op ed piece by asking if all we can do in the face of global climate change is cultivate our gardens, as Voltaire advised. This morning Michael Pollan says yes.

Check out his excellent article in the New York Times Magazine's Green Issue: "Why Bother?" (Pollan is the author of two of my favorite books: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.)

Pollan, acknowledging our apparent helplessness in the face of a huge problem, offers no simplistic solutions. Instead, he writes about morality and virtue--not personal priggishness, but rather a kind of viral virtue that might start at the grassroots (literally) and work its way up and out.

I just reread the article, looking for a sentence or two to quote. Trouble is, the entire article is so well conceived and so well written that to present just a few words of it would be to distort its overall effect. But OK, here's one of many striking paragraphs. I hope it will motivate you to read the whole article:

For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives suggests we’re not really serious about changing — something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it.

I am not a gardener. Green plants bow down before me--and die. But Pollan has almost persuaded me . . .

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