Michael Pollan

On the journey

I’m writing en route from Boston to Seattle, where I’ll be living for about a month, attempting to keep (well, return to) a regular work schedule while participating in a family member’s effort to regain health. As departures from routine often do, I’ve encountered a couple of surprises during the journey. The first one isn’t so surprising, actually, given the prevalence of overweight in America; for those of you keeping score, the estimate is 145 million American adults, two out of every three of us.


I have written previously (perhaps approaching cliche by now; you decide) about having two blogs and wanting to have one — not by jettisoning one by having them merge organically. Here's another post that fits in both places — about sustainable living (no link; you're reading it) and food issues, at fisherblue.com/blog; in fact, I starting writing this at the other one.

The wholistic approach

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I've mentioned other times about preferring to have one blog instead of two, for all sorts of quotidian reasons, but foremostly in a symbolic way: I want to find a way to make my two issues — saving the planet and escaping the misery of obesity — be one. (It's the Buddhist's hot dog order: Make me one with everything.) When the subjects are, say, solar energy and food addiction, it's not readily apparent where the Venn overlap is.

Keeping carbon down on the farm

Under the influence of Michael Pollan and others, I've written previously about how we've lost the connection between the food we eat and the world that produces it.

I don't know which should strike you as more absurd, that such a disconnect could occur, or that I could be the one mentioning it, again — I'm suburban all the way, a middling house-plant grower at best, and until recently, didn't even understand what other people meant by having a connection to the land.

Jim Laurie, speaking on holistic management to an MCAN advisory committee gathering at Redbone's in Somerville, Mass.

And yet, here I am again, brought along this time by Jim Laurie, whom I heard speak Tuesday night at Redbones BBQ in Somerville, which I take pain to mention because they've been strong community supporters as long as they've been around. On Tuesday, they hosted the Mass. Climate Action Network, serving grass-fed beef donated by Chestnut Farms of Hardwick.

How do you sustain yourself?

Longtime readers know I'm a committed Michael Pollan fan, ever since "Omnivore's Dilemma," which, to me, is not only brilliant in the extreme but also a model for my professional aspirations

At Tara Pope Parker's blog at nytimes.com, Pollan is collecting our collected wisdom on sage and healthy eating. It appears that the post went up on the 9th, and that in less than a week, more than 2,100 readers have left their tips, including me.

A naturalist who doesn't love the outdoors

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In addition to my continued opening to the biomimicry movement, I'm presently reading "Naturalist," E.O. Wilson's autobiography — I was moved, in part, to pick it up recently because I knew that he would be closing the GreenBuild conference last month with Janine Benyus, the biologist who is credited with coining the term biomimicry and who, with Dayna Baumeister, founded the Biomimicry Guild.

Before they sat together, Wilson and Benyus each addressed the very large crowd separately, and she opened her remarks remembering the "microwilderness" behind her house in suburban New Jersey, and how she used to spend as much time as she could out there, observing and communing with the organisms who lived there. Very quickly, she conveyed her love for that place, and the sorrow and offense she felt when the bulldozers came to start phase two of her subdivision.

The story dovetailed (note bio allusion!) very neatly with the tales Wilson tells in his book at greater length, the substance of which he acknowledged when they came together on the stage couch. Both these people went out of doors and fell in lifelong love. I can't relate. I played out of doors too, climbing on rock faces and playing war in the brush in places that also have since fallen to the dozers' blades, but I somehow missed the forest for the trees. They were just there, and so were the animals — musta been. But they didn't capture me.

It's all one issue

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If you want the Prager who knows and values the outdoors, you want my brother, Richard: National Outdoor Leadership School, Outward Bound Minnesota, solo Appalachian Trail hiker from Georgia to Maine, scaler of all the 4,000-plus-feet peaks in New Hampshire, New York State School of Forestry graduate degree, all before age 25, and 10 years (maybe it was only 5) as president of the Simsbury (Conn.) Land Trust.

Me, I got nothin', as JS would say.

Butz’s big impact

It was a sure bet that the headlines on Earl Butz's obit this week would focus on the racial slur that torpedoed his public life, and it was in every one I saw. But Butz, agriculture secretary under Nixon and Ford in the '70s, was perhaps one of the most influential figures in 20th century America, although not exactly in a salutary way. He blessed, and hastened, the demise of the family farm, for example, stating baldly and  unapologetically that farming was now the domain of corporations, and the family farmer would just have to get used to it.


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