Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A social movement of botherers

The below is a love letter I wrote to Michael Pollan which I first published on my blog in 10 June 2009. Pollan has written such books as the Omnivore's Dilemma and In the Defense of Food. They're basically just good reads, but chances are, they're going to make you think about what you eat and where it comes from which makes them pretty darn FANTASTIC reads.

Anyway, over the weekend, Inspector Climate and I went and saw Michael Pollan speak. When I get a moment, you can betcha your bottom dollar that I'll tell you about it, until then here is my letter of love.


I wrote this for a class this semester and then received permission from my lecturer to repost it here. The assignment was to use a piece of someone else's written work to write about something that changed your view on the environment. It was supposed to be autobiographical. I chose to write about this article by Michael Pollan that was published in the New York Times in 2008. I tried to write this other ways, but every time this is what spilled out of me. I had to read this out loud. My voice shook as I declared my love for a man I've never met. My face turned rosy as I let my true emotions surface. My classmates laughed.
Dear Michael Pollan,

Your piece published in the Green Issue of the New York Times on April 20th 2008 gives me the warm fuzzy feeling that I get when I think about puppies, Obama’s inauguration, Harvey Milk, and the anti- Vietnam War movement. Yes, Michael, you make me believe that people can change. You inspire me to change.

You write about An Inconvenient Truth and how the most terrifying moment for you wasn’t the doom and gloom of lost species, ecosystems, or the possibility of vast amounts of human migration but Gore’s plea at the end for people to make a difference by making the puny contribution of changing their light bulbs. Change their light bulbs? That scared me too, Michael.

You write, “But the drop-in-the-bucket issue is not the only problem lurking behind the “why bother” question. Let’s say I do bother, big time. I turn my life upside-down, start biking to work, plant a big garden, turn down the thermostat so low I need the Jimmy Carter signature cardigan, forsake the clothes dryer for a laundry line across the yard, trade in the station wagon for a hybrid, get off the beef, go completely local. I could theoretically do all that, but what would be the point when I know full well that halfway around the world there lives my evil twin, some carbon-footprint doppelganger…So what exactly would I have to show for all my trouble?”

You ask for a return to community; you say, “Cheap energy which gives us climate change, fosters precisely the mentality that makes dealing with climate change in our own lives seem impossibly difficult. Specialists ourselves, we can no longer imagine anyone but an expert, or anything but a new technology or law, solving our problems.”

You suggest I bother because maybe someone will see me bothering and bother too; and someone else may see us bothering and soon we have an avalanche effect of people who bother. A social movement of botherers. And that, my dearest Michael, gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Michael, I think I love you. For you to bother is to garden. To cook home grown meals, at least in part, that family and friends can enjoy together. Food that is grown by botherers and for botherers. Oh, Michael, you suggest that “Maybe you decide to give up meat, an act that would reduce your carbon footprint by as much as a quarter. Or you could try this: determine to observe the Sabbath. For one day a week, abstain completely from economic activity: no shopping, no driving, no electronics. But the act I want to talk about is growing some – even just a little – of your own food…measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds benign, I know, but in fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do – to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.”

You’re right, Michael. Now, as I sit and reread your article I am thinking of how I can plant lettuce and basil and oregano in my kitchen window. And I will, Michael, I will.

I promise to bother.

With much love,


P.S. I planted basil in my window last week, Michael. As I let the water run through the dry Australian dirt, I talked to my roommate about what else we could plant. Rosemary is next. I thought of the dinners I could make with my, albeit very small, garden; the friends I could invite to partake in my little slice of independence, I thought of you, Michael, and all the other people you’ve inspired to bother.


  1. love this!! I should write to authors more often...I always forget that they are actual people too. silly.

  2. really great. he is one of my favorites.

  3. I've had "In Defense of Food" on my shelf for quite a while now, I'm hoping to get to it soon. Have you heard of the book "Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology"? I think you might like it, I thought it was absolutely inspiring.

  4. What a wonderful inspiring letter. Did you get your picture taken with him? Very inspiring.

  5. I won't forget what he wrote about corn and grass-fed beef, it has really changed my whole outlook on mass food production. He was definitely on the forefront of a movement