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One Change Begets Another: UPDATED!

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

So I finally cracked it, the answer to the question that has stumped me these past ten months as I've been "trying on vegetarianism" for size.

No, "what do you eat?" was not the hard one. Nothing with a face has been my answer all year.

"How do you feel?" Not a hard one. Great. Better than ever.

Is it difficult to do? For me, no. For folks who eat out a lot or travel for business, perhaps a bit more challenging.

The stumper question? The one that comes up every month or so from my husband.

"Tell me again why you're doing this?"

That's the hard one. He knows all the reasons. The greenhouse gases from meat-producing agriculture. The animal rights issues. The health angle. And perhaps simply my fascination with quests of any sort. But all those answers don't seem to hit at the heart of what I feel inside. But I have finally, finally found the answer that works for me.

Because this, I can do.

Because this little action, putting down meat, is within my control, and it matters. It makes a difference. It counts. And maybe more than anything else, that's all we want from our lives. Or all I want from mine, at least.

And so Because this, I can do has become my mantra. And although I thought vegetarianism would sit in its own little silo in my life, that's not how change works, is it? One change begets another. One ripple makes more. As a meteorologist named Edward Lorenz observed, an event as small and seemingly insignificant as the beating of a butterfly's wings may cause changes in weather patterns that result in an enormous storm halfway across the world. Interestingly, Lorenze first made reference to this possibility in relation to a seagull's wings in a paper he wrote in 1963. The year I was born.

So, why do I use my own bags at the supermarket? Because this, I can do.

And why do I use a reusable water bottle? Because this, I can do.

And my rainbarrel and bike rides and Victory Garden and worms? Same little, barely noticable beating of the butterfly wings.

As my grandmother used to say, a quote I love, love, love, about her little patch of the world that she tried to continually improve, "It may not be much, but it's my responsibility."

Because this, I can do.

By the way, I've decided on what to do as part of Melinda's Growing Challenge. I'm planting a Vegetarian Garden. That means that in addition to my usual mix of fruits and veggies, I'm adding more plants to enhance the nutrient mix of a vegetarian diet. I already have some calcium-packed winners such as kale and lamb's quarters, and that protein powerhouse amaranth, but I'm adding quinoa and buckwheat and a variety of beans. Maybe blueberries. And I've also started growing sprouts.

This week on FoodShed Planet, check back for:

* A national quick-serve chain that I actually LIKE!

* A report from the Live Groundhog Hotline as Georgia's Official Weather Prognosticator, General Beau Lee, makes his annual prediction on Ground Hog Day.

* The long-awaited, much anticipated first-person account of TEAM CHICKEN!

"You're joining Team Chicken?" my husband asked, shaking his head as I danced around the kitchen to the tune of The Chicken Dance coming from the sound-chipped birthday card I gave him. "Why? Why are you doing this?"

All together now, folks . . .

Because this, I can do.

UPDATE: Monday, January 28, 2008

I received a very long and thoughtful email this morning and wanted to respond to it here. A woman who has been a vegetarian for the last twenty years is about to start eating meat again. She feels as if, perhaps, it is environmentally-sound to eat locally, humanely-raised meat. She asks me where I stand on this. Here goes:

1. I think everyone has to come to their own conclusions. The farmers that I know personally raise their animals with care and conviction, and I do believe in voting for local, sustainable food by supporting them (my children eat meat).

2. However, even local, sustainable dairy farmers usually separate the babies from the moms at two days old and sell the male babies for meat before they have lived a good life. I know that is just a fact of farming, but that bothers me, and is the #1 reason why I'm starting to lean toward giving up milk.

3. If I had my own cow and could "skim a bit off the top," I think I'd be okay with milk. As for eating meat, it all comes down to this:

4. Knowledge known cannot be unknown. Compassion felt cannot be unfelt. And therein lies the problem (for me).

5. And, frankly, if enough non-meat options are available in nature, why not?

See this article from yesterday's New York Times by Mark Bittman (who is not a vegetarian, by the way).
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