For several weeks after reading Robbins' book, I committed myself to a vegetarian lifestyle. I couldn't go the vegan route; cheese and dairy products are staples of my diet that I am not ready to forego. And these products could be obtained, I believed, without causing suffering or death for the animals producing them. But meat? That was another matter, entirely. I made the effort to avoid all meat and did fairly well for several weeks. But eventually I felt hungry and in some way deprived and my appetite for meat was stronger than my commitment. I'm ashamed to admit how easily I got over my angst at the revelations in this book! In time, I forgot it's lessons completely and began to imbibe much more heartily in the typical American diet once again. My sense of entitlement took over and I compromised my values. I caved. I co-opted. I settled for the status quo.
But fate has intervened! If you've ever read Blink or The Tipping Point, both by Malcolm Gladwell, you will know that there is a time when a small idea, presented and spread often enough, grows larger. Was it coincidence that my daughter and I had both been re-exposed to the sins and maladies of the meat industry through Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma? More than mere coincidence, I believe, that in our quest for healthy lifestyles we came across this book at the same time. In reading it, my concerns with the food industry expand past just the meat industry to include plants that are genetically altered for the purpose of improving upon the inefficiency of Mother Nature. Again, profit margins trump health! Both Robbins and Pollan discuss this in their respective books.
Since I cannot give up all food, I do what I can. I support local farmer's markets and try to buy produce grown within 100 miles of my base. I buy fruits and vegetables that are in season so as to reduce my carbon footprint. I spend more on foods that use organic fertilizers rather than petroleum based chemicals and try to eat less, opting for smaller portions and better choices. I recommit myself to at least a primarily vegetarian diet, eating meat only once or twice a week, buying only that raised by local farmers rather than factory farms and feed lots.
So often my small efforts seem to be in vain. I'll be tempted to give up yet again. Advertising and appetite collude to lower my resolve. But if one person can make a difference I'm willing to try. It may not be much, but it's something. Please pass the arugula.