Forgive my scattered thoughts this month — between the arrival of spring (and with it, Earth Day), and the passage across my desk of a flurry of relevant books and notices, I can’t choose just one topic on which to expound. What follows is a tilt-a-whirl ride through my green-saturated brain. Enjoy!
This week and next, a host of EARTH DAY-RELATED EVENTS will take place in the area to celebrate the 38th anniversary of this international holiday (the official date is Tuesday, April 22, but non-profits, arts organizations, and municipalities are taking the liberty of scheduling eco-events throughout the month).
On Earth Day proper, the local community-organizing group MENSK is putting on “YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE” in Congress Square, an event highlighting sustainable transportation, as well as other eco-issues. The mélange of happenings throughout the month — some of which aren’t pegged to Earth Day, but merely to environmentalism in general — illustrate the extent to which environmental awareness has become ubiquitous, at least in some circles.
Just this month, there have already been at least two green social-networking events (an upstart happy hour, PORTLAND GREENDRINKS, which takes place on the second Tuesday of every month, and the kick-off for The Nature Conservancy’s under-35 effort, TNC NEXT), plus one eco-related dinner (Environment Maine’s SOS: SAVE OUR SEAFOOD event, at which local chefs served up sustainable seafood dishes).
Were these well-attended events populated by the same people? If so, those activists are pretty dedicated (and appreciative of free food and booze). If not, Portland’s pool of enviros is growing!
But we knew that already, right? I mean, Whole Foods recently stopped using plastic bags, the city participated in Earth Hour at the behest of Mayor Ed Suslovic and the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, and for ages, Longfellow Books has devoted a whole section of its front wall to healthy-earth tomes.
On May 1, they’ll have a new book to add to the display: THE COMPASSIONATE CARNIVORE: OR, HOW TO KEEP ANIMALS HAPPY, SAVE OLD MACDONALD'S FARM, REDUCE YOUR HOOFPRINT, AND STILL EAT MEAT (DaCapo), by Catherine Friend, a Minnesota farmer who advocates sustainable farming, and who unapologetically eats meat.
She’s developed strict criteria (unfortunately unmet by most of the agriculture industry) for acceptable meat-eating: “After observing my animals for many years, here’s what I think comprises a quality life for a livestock animal: the right kind of food, and plenty of it; fresh water; lots of room to run and exercise; fresh air free from stink and airborne diseases; and the freedom to engage in instinctive behaviors.” (73)
Friend doesn’t have a problem with vegans or vegetarians, but reminds her readers that “the more of us who remain at, or join, the table by seeking out and buying humanely raised meat, the stronger our numbers and the more animals that will be raised in sustainable, humane systems instead of as widgets in a factory.”
It’s a sound philosophy, and one that has wider implications about thoughtful consumption. If consumption, generally speaking, is on your agenda for the coming months — need some hostess gifts? — check out Tamra Philbrook’s ARTFUL WARES (artfulwares.com has an online store and a list of local shops carrying her items). Like the Portland-based SEA BAGS, which are made from recycled sails, Philbrook uses objects that would otherwise be tossed — in this case, reclaimed natural shoreline waste such as mussel, clam, and lobster shells — to create beautiful, environmentally friendly tableware. They’d make a good Earth Day present too.
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at email@example.com.