Saturday, October 10, 2009

For Vegetables

I know a guy, a well-known guy in his field, who refuses to recycle anything. "I never recycle. I'm protesting," he told me once when I refused to throw a bottle into a regular trash can. "All this recycling talk makes people think what they do matters and it doesn't." Putting aside the not so implicit insult to me an my would-be recycled bottle, all I could think was, "Well, isn't that convenient. But what if everyone actually did nothing?"

Today (Saturday), in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, I read with great interest Jonathan Safran Foer's essay Against Meat. I liked it for all kinds of reasons: because Safran Foer is a very fluid writer; because he framed the story with stories of his grandmother which I found poignant; because he admitted that he'd tried to be a vegetarian on and of since he was a child but most of the time started eating meat again; because he didn't try to argue that a vegetarian diet is as tasty as a omnivorous one. I also liked it because after reading it I feel like the gauntlet has been realistically thrown down. Putting sentiment about carcasses aside (which is a big putting aside, but takes away the case for sentimentality) if I'm someone who won't buy a plastic bottle of water; who worries every time I run alongside the West Side Highway because all the traffic reminds me of all the traffic everywhere and how much exhaust is getting spewed into the atmosphere every second from all the cars; if I'm someone who gives my brother serious grief about his SUV and runs around my house unplugging all the plugs I can, then how can I not act after reading this:

"According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and others, factory farming has made animal agriculture the No. 1 contributor to global warming (it is significantly more destructive than transportation alone), and one of the Top 2 or 3 causes of all of the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. . . . Eating factory-farmed animals — which is to say virtually every piece of meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants — is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment."

Granted, everything is a little fuzzy fact-wise here and the writing gives a big emotional punch, but no matter the numbers, there's no doubt that factory farming isn't good for anyone. And while I rarely buy red meat and only by organic or free range chicken, it's not like those labels all that meaningful. I know that even if I don't like to know that I know that.

So what's next for me and my kitchen? Well, lets just say that right now in my freezer there are three quarts of soup, all vegetarian. There's also sausage, lamb patties, and chicken legs (the meat's from Whole Foods and nicely labeled, but still. It'll probably all get eaten at some point. Whether or not it will all be replaced, I can't say for sure mostly because I'm not one for absolutes. It would be more convenient if I did replace all the food in there -- cooking up sausages and tossing a salad makes a quick a easy and tasty dinner and avoids take out which has its own plastic disaster -- but I think it may be just about time to let go of a convenience or two.

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