I've spent the last three days surrounded by organic farmers, policy geeks, political agitators, CSA owners, biodynamic growers, soil experts, and a smattering more of folks from various vocations and passions. The common goal could be stated simply: change the world.
Not the easiest nor precisely defined goal out there, but an admirable one and it poses a challenge that I want to rise up to meet. It's one that I'm going to wager most of us have at least fantasized about taking on and there are so many of us out there who do it on a daily basis whether it's working with villages in Africa to ensure they have clean drinking water or petitioning local schools to serve healthy food in their cafeterias.
Here's the first of many confessions: I don't do either of these. I also don't collect rain water or protest outside of nuclear power stations or know how to work with cob or use public transportation that often or sue Monsanto or have my own garden or even donate to NPR on a regular basis. Up until about a month ago I was a frequent Target shopper. I am often seduced by the pure, joyful convenience of grocery stores like Safeway or Food 4 Less, and even that saucy Starbucks temptress lures me in for a latte now and again (and living in Portland this is considered a whole different kind of sin).
I understand the importance of localism and organic food and supporting your neighborhood shops instead of box stores but, like many Americans, I get lazy. Isn't it just plain easier sometimes to go to Trader Joe's and get a week's worth of meals that don't even require taking a pot off the shelf? Isn't it quicker just to pop into Target and kill ten birds with one stone and a credit card? And the biggest one, and often my and my partner's biggest excuse, isn't it cheaper to not buy organic/local/seasonal/environmentally safe products?
The answer is generally, yes. There's a reason big box stores crop up everywhere and why there's going to be a McDonalds inside the Wal Mart and one in the parking lot too.
Let's get to the heart of this which is the simply stated goal. I want to change the world. I am by nature a very trusting person. I always assumed that people (this includes my government and corporations) really did have my best interests at heart. Even typing that I can't believe how naive I could be. I still generally assume that individuals that I meet aren't "out to get me" but I'm no longer under any delusion that big business isn't screwing me and my community and the world over every chance they get. I'm sick of feeling like a cog in the nice little consumption machine. I'm sick of my money going to companies like Tyson and Cargill and Monsanto who treat farmers and the animals they raise like an insignificant part of the assembly line, not to mention the atrocities inflicted on their factory workers. I'm sick of waking up and knowing that I'm not doing much of anything to change the system. I mean, I've read Michael Pollan, I've watched Food Inc, I listen to OPB, I volunteered with a CSA, and when I can, I support local businesses. But truthfully, it is nowhere even near the starting line of change.
So here's what I propose: I'm taking myself out of the loop. This will, of course, be an ever evolving challenge and it may be years (or maybe never) before I'm able to reach all of my goals. I have to define what I consider to be "the loop" and then I have to determine what exactly I'm going to do. I'm going to slip. I'm probably going to cry and then console myself with a Snickers or a cinnamon dolce latte. I am going to get angry at apathetic people, and probably jealous of their ignorant bliss. But I am going to change the world in my own little way, and that is going to be the gift I give back to a planet I love.