By Stephen Meno
First Lady Michelle Obama launched her crusade against obesity by encouraging everyone to begin growing their own gardens. She started by growing her own on the White House lawn in April, 2009. While there is the obvious effect of providing a supply of fresh vegetables for consumption, I think there is a deeper, underlying consequence of teaching people how to grow.
Seventy percent of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending. And as environmentalist and indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke has pointed out countless times, our country have more shopping malls than schools as a result. What that says is material possessions matter more than knowledge.
Even more, we have a presidential candidate who refuses to acknowledge climate change is caused by man in his energy policy report; members of Congress who do not even understand basic sexual mechanics; and children who think food only comes in boxes. Instead of acknowledging the natural world around us and how it functions, we gain meaning in our lives with stuff.
But “stuff” doesn’t sustain us (especially when advertisers constantly tells us that we need to buy new and more). So it’s not surprising why among the hundreds of advertising I see every day are TV shows about hoarding and shopping addictions. This economic system is not only bad for our minds and souls, but for our environment. Materialism leads to us consuming about 30% of the world's resources. In fact, if the rest of the world consumed as much as the U.S. did, we would need 4.5 more earths!
What people like Michelle Obama and countless others are teaching us is what we all should know: where our food comes from and how it’s made. Nothing is more basic or more important.
When my grandmother was dying in the hospital, I remember one of the saddest moments was when she could no longer feed herself. But if all the supermarkets in the country were to shut down right now, how many of us would know to obtain our own food?
Even now, we don’t even know what the stickers on our produce mean (go here to find out). It instills a sense of self-worth to be able to feed oneself, to get meaning and purpose from regenerative things, like plants. In her remarkable book, Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom, Cherokee/Appalachian writer and storyteller Marilou Awiakta points out that, “In developing a new model for American life, each of us alone can do very little. But if we fuse our energies, if we plant together, we can do much. Let us do so. And look for signs of the harvest…” (1993: 66).
We have to reconnect and relearn from the earth (and each other) in order to understand and save it (and us). Education is as much an issue for the environment as it is for our community health.
Image courtesy of PruneJuiceMedia.com.