MICHAEL JEWELL, A&E Editor
If I were king of the world, would I outlaw NASCAR and professional eating? Probably not. A healthy society doesn’t go around banning things it doesn’t like. In matters of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, everything is usually for the best when governing bodies mind their own damned business. Not to say that I wouldn’t be tempted.
In our dunderheaded pursuit of biofuels, American farmers have cleared wheat and soy fields, as well as precious forests and marshlands, for very profitable corn. This, along with bad weather and worse economic juju, has led to rapid climate change (those forests and marshlands absorb Co2), and a world food crisis with the prices of that wheat, soy and rice tripling in some markets. We try to find alternatives to gasoline, and settle on the one that ruins everything. I wish I could say I was shocked by this, but Bush’s White House has consistently chosen the most destructive, hubristic, bone-headed solution to every problem in its seven-and-a-half-year reign. What more can be expected from a government that treats dim-wittedness as a virtue and ineptitude as an art.
We’ve been called a decadent country by many. But, for the record, it’s not because of the extravagance of our lifestyles. It’s because of our waste — the petty waste of driving in a circle at 200 mph or one tiny Japanese man inhaling just as many hot dogs, a 64-ounce porterhouse steak, the commercial Humvee as an icon of masculinity and bottled freaking water. In a culture that fetishizes wastefulness, talking about the hybrid car as a way of “reducing our carbon footprint” is a perverse joke.
I’ve written about my misguided desire to live off the grid, at least to undue some of the damage that I’ve done as a consumer. I’ll admit I have romantic thoughts about the experience. I’d have my very own farm collective in the Pacific Northwest; I’d sell my vegetables to farmer’s markets and make artisanal cheeses and lead a contented, hardworking life without bothering anyone. Somewhere I’d discover the true purpose of farming, to tame nature rather than torture it, relishing in the gifts it gives when I treat it right. If all else failed I could retreat to the real world on my terms, and spend most of my time by my damned self. Mine is that sort of misanthropy that cherishes the value of human life while preferring it be kept at a distance.
Nevermind that I can’t keep a window box for more than a week. My green thumb doesn’t represent so much an aptitude for culling life from the earth rather than a plague, a bringer of death to any plant unfortunate enough to cross my path. As far as the cheese, I can’t imagine my situation would improve once live bacterial cultures are involved. I don’t have the willpower to tame a garden planter, much less the pure capitalist fury laying waste to small farms all over the world.
Maybe I can’t achieve my dream lifestyle; I certainly won’t save the world at this rate. But when I know that one steak on my plate equals one hundred other plates without rice, giving a damn is a good first step.