Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Where are the victory gardens?

This morning, as I got ready for work, I heard a commercial on the radio that still has me upset. It features two characters, a child and a "mommy". The mother character was speaking in that voice that adults use when they want to patronizingly instruct children. That voice has long been one of my pet peeves. (Apparantly at least from the age of 3 when I informed my mom that I didn't want to watch television because "they talk down to me.") In any event, the discussion revolves around which suburban development they should move into, with the child declaring "We should move into X, Mommy, because everything is included in one price there." and the "mommy" approvingly replying, "You're going to be such a good shopper one day!"

Aside from the problem of this pricing structure encouraging monster houses because essentially, everyone pays for the biggest house they build, so you might as well get all the "options", since you're paying for them anyway, I am appalled by the implication that the job of adults is to raise the next generation of consumers.

Let us presume that most people have never watched An Inconvenient Truth, as I confess I have not. Let us further acknowlege that our "leadership" has done its level best to insulate Americans from the consequences of our choices. The cost of war has been put on credit, and the bodies for that war have come from a minority of American families. Further, while complaining about the cost of public transit and energy research, our love affair with petroleum has been subsidized heavily.

Even so, I want to know where the victory gardens are. Where is the encouragement for average Americans to reduce our dependent relationship with oil producing countries by reducing our reliance on oil? One reduction could easily come from encouraging families to consider growing some of our own food. This does not require that we all move to the midwest and set up full farms, but how hard would it be to encourage folks to, say, grow a mint border next to the walk up to the porch, or allow apartment residents to have small container gardens on the roof, or a community garden on public land? Mesclun mix makes a gorgeous decorative element, and throwing some garlic in with it makes for some height and visual interest. Plus, you can pick your salad for dinner while thinning out the border.

I am reminded also of the crisis that has been going on for the last 15 years with bee hives all over the country. In the area where I live, beekeeping has been frequently NIMBYed, not just in the nearer-in suburbs, but in those which have taken over farmland for the monster houses mentioned above. (Do families really need over 1,000 square feet per person of enclosed space?) I am, however, seriously enjoying vicariously reading about the beekeeping endeavors of an author whose works I very much enjoy.

I believe true leadership right now would be asking for change. We would be encouraging people to conserve energy, consolidate trips, carpool, grow food or buy local, bring their own shopping bags (paper or plastic? How about canvas?), etc.

Hey, George, don't you know there's a war on?

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Blogger CML said...

I was watching NOVA while music lessons were going on elsewhere. The advances in solar cells are not exactly a surprise to me (it's sort of in my line of work), but the things that the Germans have done to incorporate solar power & wind power into their electrical grid have been very impressive. For all that their detractors complain of the subsidies they're paying out, I think the German lawmaker NOVA interviewed summed it up best: "We feel that paying these subsidies will be less expensive than paying for the many problems that being more dependent on fossil fuels would cause, including war & pollution." Meanwhile, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been on a bare-bones budget since the Carter Administration...

4/26/2007 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You keep these thoughts and words coming! Great stuff. You touch on so many important subjects, especially the core factor that we are being shielded, or better, that we are ignoring the heavy toll which our life styles mirroring the rich and famous are taking on the land and the critters. We use too many resources. Friends of ours just returned from New Zealand where they were visiting their daughter. The folks there live in 800 square feet of space. That is the norm. Not 4000 square feet. Homes of this size are going up all over Montana to be lived in only a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the time they are empty but they still have to be maintained. We are a country of excess but not all of us live like this. Thanks for posting this.

4/27/2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Well, my year-round home is an 800 square foot apartment with a 12 square foot balcony and the occasional escape into a tent, so I'm well aware that not everyone lives in the monster houses that have sprung up like a fungus around here (though admittedly, not as vacation homes. Nobody in their right mind would choose to spend the summer living in this swamp if they didn't also get the mild winters and gorgeous springs.)

While I confess that I would prefer to have a detached house in some ways, I don't want a big one. I want a tiny one, with other tiny ones nearby and some shared resources, like a communal grilling patio (and possibly a communal pizza oven. Who wouldn't want to be able to get brick oven pizza from spring through fall without heating up the house?) And some communal gardening space.

Some friends and I were recently commenting on how we would all like to be able to do this, but most places that don't have zoning regulations to prevent that sort of thing (many of the local municipalities are cracking down on housing unrelated people one one plot of land in a barely disguised swipe at recent immigrants) would make life very uncomfortable for those of us who do not present a terribly conventional face to the world.

4/27/2007 9:36 AM  

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