Thursday, March 15, 2007

My latest idea for personal environmental benchmarking

In my past and in my core is a desperate environmentalist. Terrified as a child by the apocalyptic narratives (Revelations?) my father foretold of our beautiful planet's demise, I spent the first half of my life planning to do something to prevent it.

Only AFTER going to law school and working for few environmental non-profits and, later, doing 18 months of psychotherapy and having a kind-hearted doctor introduce me to anti-anxiety medication did I come to some peace with the fact that I can't save the world. I really can't. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not, as they say, "all that."

But old habits die hard. When one spends one's entire youth (and this was 30 years ago, mind you) being told that by:

  • keeping the refrigerator door open 1/2 second longer than necessary,

  • running the shower water while you lather instead of just for rinsing,

  • driving to the high school dance rather than walking,

  • throwing out clothes that were anything less than threadbare,

  • setting the thermostat higher than 68,

  • putting plant matter in the trash instead of the garden,

  • and, generally, being born and living in the late 20th century

one was helping cause the destruction of our revered planet, one has a hard time "loosening up."

Lately I have been struggling again with food issues. Not eating issues, but food issues. What food is good to eat, not just nutritionally, but from an environmental sustainability and social justice standpoint?

My conscience surfaces when I see trucks of hogs on the way to Detroit for slaughter. And when I read about how now deep ocean fish are being depleted because we've taken care of all the shallow water fish. And when I consider the transportation and unfair trade costs of those Chilean grapes I can buy for $.99/lb. You get the picture.

My proposal is to get some smart cookies to create a website where you can determine how much of what foods you can eat sustainably in a month or year and then provide a mechanism for tracking it.

For example:

Input: Family of 4 in Michigan, two adults, two children; seeking annual quotas

20 lbs. Poultry
0.5 lb. Beef
6 dozen eggs
100 gallons milk
2 lbs. ocean fish
5 lbs. freshwater fish
unlimited vegetables and fruit if local and in-season

Who knows what it really would look like. That's my point. What if combined animal protein (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy) is only 5 lbs? FOR THE YEAR.

Still, it would be good to know that I was eating within appropriate limits.

A similar kind of survey exists for assessing one's "Ecological Footprint," i.e. the impact, especially in terms of resource use, one has on the planet.



    Anonymous marianne said...

    Tell me to STFU if I am preaching to the choir, but I wanted to suggest a book to you. A book that I recommend to parents and to my daughters who are mamas. "Last Child in the Woods". I grew up afraid too. And this is a book that I believe all parents of young children might want to read! Saving the world through loving it, not fearing it. :) Best, marianne

    8:34 AM  
    Blogger doulicia said...


    Thanks! I haven't heard about the book so I will check it out. And the parallels with birth (loving, not fearing) are intriguing.


    10:34 AM  

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