Saturday, May 24, 2008

Michael Pollan - The Voice of the Green Generation

A couple weeks ago I met Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and most recently, In Defense of Food. Ok, so in reality I heard him speak at the Times Center in New York, shook his hand, told him about this blog and he graciously said he would check it out and signed my books. The irony of course is that I’ve pretty much written nothing since, which was exactly the opposite outcome I had anticipated. Let me assure you, it is not because he wasn’t inspiring, in fact, in the days after the talk, I gushed about everything he said to anyone who would listen. I think however, that in some way, I am overwhelmed by the implications of his talk because they touch upon every aspect of my life personally, professionally and politically. In addition, there is just no way to improve upon or more clearly elucidate his message than through his own words. Nora Ephron gets it exactly right in her brief review of The Omnivore’s Dilemma in the New York Times.

“I have tried on countless occasions to convey to my friends how incredible this book is. I have gone on endlessly about Pollan’s brilliance in finding a way to write about food — but it’s not really about food, it’s about everything...and, what’s more, it’s completely charming because he has the most amazing voice ... well the point is, I have tried and failed to explain it, so I just end up giving them a copy, and sooner or later they call to say, you were right, it’s fantastic.” -Nora Ephron, The New York Times

So instead of writing a post about the talk or his recent article Why Bother? in the Green Issue of the Magazine, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are particularly inspiring, eye opening or just plain funny quotes . Enjoy!

“Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will.” (Why Bother?)

"For us we wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives, which suggest we’re not really serious about changing – something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do.” (Why Bother?)

"Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off aren’t great.” (Why Bother?)

“Banning high fructose corn syrup is an attractive idea but it is really up to us. As a journalist I still believe in the power of knowledge to help people make good decisions.” (Sunday with the Magazine Interview)

"I had pop tarts for breakfast.” (He was kidding - Sunday with the Magazine Interview)

“People are convinced cooking is terribly hard. They prefer to watch it on television. Cut out the time you spend watching cooking shows and you’ll find time to cook.” (Sunday with the Magazine Interview)

“It is one of the absurdities of the modern division of labor that, having replaced physical labor with fossil fuel, we now have to burn even more fossil fuel to keep our unemployed bodies in shape.” (Why Bother?)

“Our food culture is based around quantity not quality. We must change the cultural norm. Other countries are less tolerant to crappy foods. However France’s diet is under siege. These processed foods are engineered to satisfy.” (Sunday with the Magazine Interview)

“You get three votes a day. An all or nothing mentality is dangerous. You don’t have to get it right every time.” (Sunday with the Magazine Interview)

“The idea is find one thing in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting, that may or may not virally rock the world but is real and particular (as well as symbolic) and that, come what may, will offer its own rewards.” (Why Bother?)

“Eat Food” and “You Get Three Votes” (Inscriptions inside In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma, respectively)

Ultimately, what I find most compelling about Michael Pollan’s message is that he establishes a tangible link between the choices we make regarding food, family, the global community, the environment and politics, as Nora Ephron puts it, everything. In highlighting where we’ve gone wrong as a society, he does not point fingers at any one group, but describes the economic, societal and cultural factors that lead us down this path to begin with and in doing so empowers the individual to do better and change course.

In the last, oh I don’t know, let’s just say 8 years or so, I’ve felt somewhat disenchanted when it comes to the value of my vote, so the idea that I can vote not just once a year, but three times a day and then when you apply Pollan's message beyond food to every purchase and activity it can be incredibly empowering.

No amount of chad counting can put the corn syrup back in my cupboards. Katherine Harris can't take away my reusable grocery bags. When I eat organic carrots, the Supreme Court can not come into my home and take them back, at least not yet. So cheers to Michael Pollan…even if he never checks out my blog.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend – Vote as much as you want. Mostly plants!!!

1 comment:

Jolly Green Dad said...

Excellent quotes. They are great!