Years ago I wrote to the then centre for agricultural wisdom, Massey University and asked for comment/advice/most anything about farming as pollution. At the time I used to walk to work past an open drain. I’d walked passed it through my school years too. In summer the kids would play in the shallow water – it probably wasn’t all that pure, but it wasn’t all that polluted either – ok for kids to be kids – to play in as long as Mother wasn’t going ‘eee-uuuwww’. I never heard of any kid drowning or otherwise being damaged apart from an ear bashing from Mother when their clothes had become muddy. Some of the local gardeners used to tip their lawn clippings and other garden refuse and so the banks had all kinds of diversity growing. Ducks raised successive generations, pukekos strode around selecting choice morsels. Cats and rats would’ve had an uneasy relationship, along with the mice, and dogs running past. There were always sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, thrushes, sea gulls, in autumn goldfinches flashed around the seed heads, in spring nesting magpies would dive bomb the unwary – it was a pretty rich and diverse ecosystem, beautiful in its own way.
On the other side of this wild space, was a sports field. By way of comparison, it was an eco-desert – a monoculture of a few select turf species – perhaps an occasional weed. The council piped the drain, filled it in, bulldozed the ‘weeds’ and in a few days the rich diversity was replaced by dirt and a receding hairline of grass. I guess the sports lovers thought it was an improvement, they could now drive right up to the edge of the field in thier lardassmobiles. The nasty drain was gone and so mothers could be relieved to know their kids wouldn’t respond to the boring sport by checking out the wild things.
I saw this replacement of diversity as being symptomatic of farming in general, and enquiring minds wanted to know. Could farming be pollution? Ah, Massey? Hello? Still waiting for the reply…
…and then the other day I got the reply. Not from Massey, of course. In another form. If keeping the drain was a local area form of environmental enrichment, what other actions could an individual take that might do usefully to protect their local environment. Most things require some sort of save the whales plastic bag dodah thingy. Nothing wrong with that, but what if there was a way that you and I – today – could slow global warming, save 12 to 50 square feet of land from deforestation, over-grazing, and pesticide and fertilizer pollution, reduce your carbon footprint and save the equivalent almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Sounds incredible, but if it was almost effortless, wouldn’t you want to at least try once? What if in addition to all this it saved you money, and made you feel good as well as feel environmentally noble? Fantastic? Sure!!!
So. What do you have to do? Easy. Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch today, instead of an average animal-based lunch like a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, a ham sandwich or a hamburger. Personally, that’d be tough for me – I can’t do the jelly thing. But make it peanut butter and mayonnaise, or peanut butter and beetroot with lashings of freshly ground black pepper and I’m your man. Who knew, when I walked passed the drain, with my packed lunch, I was closer to the environment than anything from a university? Change your diet, change the world. While you’re eating your sammie, do some reading on the side – Six Arguments for a Greener Diet.