July 10, 2008

Wild Pollan

There's a great interview with Michael Pollan at Yale Environment 360. He runs through his usual take on local food, the evils of corn, and gives a plug for grassfed beef, which is always a way to charm me.

My favorite passage is this

My experience was entering the garden with a head full of Thoreau and Emerson, and finding those ideas, as beautiful as they are, do not prepare you for when the woodchuck comes and mows down your little crop of seedlings. That approach to nature counsels passive spectatorship, and argues implicitly that the woodchuck has as much right to your broccoli as you do, because itís wild. So I, perforce, had to learn how to think about nature in a way that was a little different.

Weíve had in this country what I call a wilderness ethic thatís been very good at telling us what to preserve. You know, eight percent of the American landmass weíve kind of locked up and thrown away the key. Thatís a wonderful achievement and has given us things like the wilderness park.

This is one of our great contributions to world culture, this idea of wilderness. On the other hand, itís had nothing to say of any value for the ninety-two percent of the landscape that we cannot help but change because this is where we live. This is where we grow our food, this is where we work. Essentially the tendency of the wilderness ethic is to write that all off. Land is either virgin or raped. Itís an all or nothing ethic. Itís either in the realm of pristine, preserved wilderness, or itís development ó parking lot, lawn.

Making any sort of living off of the land requires hard decisions...shoot the skunk family living under the porch, or let them be and live with the funk forever. Spray the Canada thistle, or let it take over the most productive ground. Till, or no till. When we're talking about working landscapes, there isn't a whole lot of unmanaged wilderness in them, but there's even less black and white choices.

What we can do is work to promote ecological diversity in our landscapes...this creates a resilience that allows our farms to weather whatever tough decision we need to make.

Posted by rich at July 10, 2008 03:35 PM