Monday, May 5, 2008

Michael Pollan

I recently got a book by Michael Pollan, and decided to look up some of his other writings. I came across and article he wrote after watching, "An Inconvenient Truth." Here's a clip:

"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.

Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another--our meals to agribusiness, health to the doctor, education to the teacher, entertainment to the media, care for the environment to the environmentalist, political action to the politician.

As Adam Smith and many others have pointed out, this division of labor has given us many of the blessings of civilization. Specialization is what allows me to sit at a computer thinking about climate change. Yet this same division of labor obscures the lines of connection--and responsibility--linking our everyday acts to their real-world consequences, making it easy for me to overlook the coal-fired power plant that is lighting my screen, or the mountaintop in Kentucky that had to be destroyed to provide the coal to that plant, or the streams running crimson with heavy metals as a result."

Basically, he's asking us to take more responsibility for our lives and the way we live. I agree about the division of labor obscuring our lines of connection, and the reason I'm writing about it now is because I've been feeling it a lot lately. When I go to a restaurant and order something, I don't feel guilty anymore about my server having to bring me food. Because if they come to the library, I'll serve them there. We all serve each other, whether we're dealing directly with each other or not. I just think that we forget that sometimes.

I guess that Pollan was talking more about our direct influence on the environment around us, but I think that obscurity is more than an eco-footprint. I think we would be less resentful of each other - the disgruntled server, the loud businessman, the child in public school, if we thought more about those connections.

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