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23 April 2008

Why Bother? and the cheap-energy mentality

In the NYT Magazine for last Sunday, Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto (in the UK published as In Defence of Food - The Myths of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating) has written a really brilliant comment piece called "Why Bother?". He poses the question that so many pose, and then immediately give up - in the face of the enormity of environmental peril and climate change: how can my actions possibly make a difference? Pollan says his heart sank when at the end of Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, his exhortation is for everyone to change their light bulbs. (Yeah, that really does bite. Thanks for that, Al.) After making a rather weak appeal (in my opinion, but I guess one does have to choose ones words, and the article is already four pages, very economically worded) to out-of-fashion concepts like virtue and community, he turns to the even more out-of-fashion Wendell Berry, a man with whom we should all be (but possibly some of us are not) familiar. Berry was the originator of the "cheap-energy mentality" critique. This is getting more to the heart of the matter, as Pollan points out that it is cheap energy, the division of labour, and the resultant atomisation of communities that both contributes massively to global warning and at the same time, makes changing our ways so impossible, and even impossible to think about or understand.
Then, thankfully, after laying out the utter hopelessness of the case, he turns to hope. You can only do what you can do, and he does give reasons why we should do it. So the task now is to decide - what is the most effective thing to do, the most urgent, and also fully within the realm of possibility? (Hint: it's not light bulbs, it's not "carbon offsets" and it's not writing a cheque or joining a club.) The answer is to grow your own food. Yep, just exactly what all us hippies said to do way back in 1970. Damn shame we were all too high to make a coherent point.

21 April 2008

Blogkeeping and My Life

I haven't posted for a while here. Some personal changes are happening in the Deborama household. DH and I just got back from Manchester yesterday where DH had a gastric band operation. This was the first time he had ever had surgery of any kind, so it was rather fraught for me leading up to it (and probably for him too, but since he's British, there is no way to tell.) But he came through it just fine. He was a little grey in the face for the first hour I saw him, as he was waking up fully. (This was a good two or three hours after his operation, but they kept him in recovery and then put him into an ICU due to his sleep apnoea. I arrived at the hospital as he was just waking up, but they stuck me in a private room saying they would wait and give him a chance to "settle" before I could see him. The same nurse said this to me, along with "just 10 more minutes" about four times, and I was just about to explode with a very American "Settle, schmettle!" before she finally sensed my mounting anxiety and escorted me to his bedside.)
DH spent the night in the ICU (although he was very well, and hardly merited the extra care, but it was apparently hospital policy) and I spent the night in a Travelodge near Manchester airport. But now we're home. DH had lost an amazing five stones (70 pounds) in the six months preceding his operation. He is now expecting to lose perhaps another 100 pounds or so with the help of the gastric band.
Meanwhile, Deborama has been attending clandestine (it's a long story) Slimming World meetings and I have lost a stone since joining, having lost about 10 pounds before, for a total of about 25 pounds since I was at my heaviest. I joined a small local gym last May and I have been attending quite faithfully, an average of three or more days per week. I was very frustrated to not lose any weight in the first five months of this regimen, as I was not really regulating my diet at all, but hoping that building some muscle would cause metabolic changes that would "kick-start" a weight loss and give me some incentive to give up my beloved breakfast of an unsweetened latte and a croissant, my frequent cereal bar snacks and my occasional (but probably more frequent than I cared to admit) late night scoop of ice cream. I think it was around November of last year that I all but gave up the croissants and very slowly and painfully lost the 10 pounds, and when the Slimming World invitation came in January I decided I must bite the bullet and face the fact that at my age I need to do both diet-control and regular exercise; the days of "effortless" weight-loss are now well and truly past.
Now this is the last personal or diet-related post you will see in the main Deborama blog. I am doing a mini-relaunch, and I am going to confine the Deborama posts to serious news, comments on the world at large, religion, philosophy and ethics, sexual politics, the environment, humour and culture. The one exception will be photos and news of our birds. I will post these on Facebook or Flickr, with a link from here.
Simultaneously, I am going to relaunch my other two Deborama sub-logs. Deborama's Kitchen will become my new Diet Blog (keeping the name, though) and any personal journalling will be there, along with its usual fare (although it has been nothing at all for a year or more) of recipes, food politics and food-related news.
Deborama's Books is going to get the third relaunch/make-over. I plan for it to be more joined up with another of my recently neglected passions, Bookcrossing. I am hoping to get back into attending the Bookcrossing meetups, and now that I have a study (I was using the dining room table, in an open plan room with lounge with its almost always-on telly, another excuse or reason for the lack of blogging going on) I have huge backlog of books to register on Bookcrossing. Also, I have been planning to add some movie and television reviews to the books blog, as well as reviewing the books I have read but failed to mention over the past three years.
I know myself, so I don't expect this will happen overnight, or even all that quickly. If I achieve the three goals set out above within six weeks I will be satisfied (and if I fail to do it in that time, chances are it won't happen, so I had better get cracking.)

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