Sunday, April 20, 2008

Grow Your Own

By now most of you interested in local food issues and the environment have probably read Michael Pollan's latest dispatch from the food wars in today's New York Times Magazine. If you missed it, the article exhorts readers to grapple with climate change by planting a vegetable garden—"to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind."

A friend of mine told me the other other day, after seeing a comment of mine attached to a NYTimes piece, that I was giving Pollan too much credit for galvanizing the local food movement.

Well, I've mentioned Pollan exactly once in this blog previously, but it's true: I do give him kudos.

Like any successful writer, Michael Pollan has earned himself a backlash. Critics question his facts, his sourcing, his originality. My take is this: Pollan's genius lies in his timing and his ability to synthesize a panoply of arguments. Though the original ideas may not be his own, he has the skill to make those ideas clear and accessible to a broad audience. He's droll and self-effacing; serious without being overly earnest, didactic without being too judgmental. In short, he's a good messenger. (Lord knows we need to get the message.)

If he's getting rich off his new gig as a spokesperson for local food, good for him. In any event, it's a reasonable piece of advice: Go outside, get dirty, and make something grow.

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