Friday, March 26, 2010

What can we do?

This is in response to a comment on the previous post.

Each of us can only do what we can do, but the first step is to take responsibility for what we are contributing to the problem, and to figure out a few small ways we can make changes. This can be a gradual process!! but the end result can look something like this:

1) Buy as much of your food requirements as you can from local farms and artisanal producers. If you need help with sourcing visit (good esp. for produce), and (look for the chapter in your area and ask about sourcing animal foods from responsible grass-based farms). Be more conscious of what you're buying and think about any ways of cutting back on processed items and items with a lot of packaging waste. By supporting local farms you are not only going to have better health and contribute to environmental protection and proper animal husbandry, but you will also be helping your local economy in a profound way -- think of what it would mean if our small farmers had more money to spend at local businesses? This has a magnified effect on the health of each local economy.

2) Work on your own health. This will mean learning to go against what the USDA, FDA, and CDC tell us is safe to eat and/or what is most nutritious. This means going against the American Heart Association and the Dietetic Association of America. It means looking at what people have eaten historically (particularly your own ancestors from several generations back) and seeing how you can adopt some of those practices. This is SO hard for most people, but usually once they begin to see positive changes in health they are enthusiastic about continuing. This is the biggest area, in my opinion, where individual action has to take a clear path AWAY from government and what it is telling us to do.

3) Shop at local business, but only if they are mom-and-pop operations. Begin to seek out more local, small-scale sources for the regular items you are purchasing, and be willing to pay a few extra dollars here and there. We have sold our souls to big-box retailers like Walmart and Target and it's killing our local economies. As you spend a little more (and definitely try to emphasize American-made products, and especially those made in your region) for the goods you use on a regular basis, you will naturally have to cut back to stay in your budget. Cutting back is GOOD. Don't be afraid to find ways to do with less, to make your own household cleaners or tooth powder, to skip some of the chemicals that are part of your body's regular diet. Shop second-hand and consignment for everything that makes sense; give away things you were going to put in the trash by checking Yahoo groups for a freecycle forum in your city.

4) Consider your own lifestyle choices. If you can, find ways to live closer to work so you can walk or ride a bike. Look into public transportation and carpools. Go out of your way to see if there are ways of working with others in your community to share some of the burdens and benefits of living more responsibly. If you have the aptitude and desire (and opportunity) cultivate an additional skill or way you can be self-sufficient in your own life. Look for ways you can barter and trade with others to create opportunities where everyone will benefit and you can cut out some of the middle-man dependency.

5) Acknowledge that convenience, stimulation, and ease are the things we have become addicted to on a national basis, and the things we may have to sacrifice if we want the future to be brighter. It is HARD WORK to care for animals, to grow food, to garden, to cook, to plan meals ahead, to take canvas bags every single time you shop, to ride a bike or a bus instead of driving, to carry 50 lbs. of farm food on the subway, to give birth at home, to kick a sugar or caffeine habit, to sacrifice money and things so you can be home with your kids. These things may be difficult or just inconvenient, but it's worth it.

As for what the government should do -- well, unless Dennis Kucinich becomes president some time soon and everyone in Congress has a change of heart and becomes just like him, there really isn't too much hope. We can't wait for the government to do what it should do. But as individuals we really do have the potential to profoundly affect society, to positively impact others in our sphere of influence, and to guide the futures of our own communities and families. In American society, based on capitalism and money, I think the single most important way we can make changes is through our buying decisions. We are literally voting with our dollars for the kind of future we want for our country and our children.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply to my question! What you say makes a lot of sense. I agree that thinking locally, in every sense, is a great intervention that each individual can make.

    With a vermicomposting bin in my kitchen, I know what you mean about lifestyle changes toward sustainability bringing challenges :) Things do not always go smoothly with my composting bin, but I'm glad I decided to do it, and for the most part, I'm happy with the process and the results.