Grow Food Or Lawns: Whatever Works For You

Have you guys seen (usually through social media, such as Facebook or Tumblr) the “Grow Food Not Lawns” campaigners? Basically, they believe that people should not obsess over perfectly manicured lawns and grow edible fruits, vegetables, and herbs on their own property. The potential benefits in terms of less fuel consumed when food is shipped are obvious—if enough people were to do this to make a difference. Those whoa re fans of organic food might enjoy the peace of mind that comes with growing the food yourself.

There’s an easy argument against this—that not everyone, even in the suburbs, lives in a neighborhood (or town or city) that allows what the Grow Food Not Lawns proponents are encouraging. From what I understand, in some places, doing something like this could get part of your lawn bulldozed—and you billed for it.

There is another, more important argument.

I’m not a “grass person” (I love trees and ivy, personally) and many types of gardens look absolutely lovely, but there’s just no way that I’m ever going to do that. How about if I fulfill one of my specialized skills and, as a person who hates the feeling of dirt or grime and who gets genuinely uncomfortably warm at 70F, leave the gardening to people who have both the desire and inclination. Growing flowers and managing a garden is work. Growing crops that you intend to eat, even if you do not intend to rely upon them as your primary source of sustenance, is a lot of work.

Also, not everyone eats the kind of food that you can grow in your lawn. There are some teas and flavorful herbs and some wonderful fruits and berries that could grow in my yard, but let’s be honest: I can’t grow enchiladas or macaroni and cheese. I cannot grow sesame chicken or pizza.

I understand the environmental ideas behind this movement—I really do. But I’m not just objecting to people telling me what to do with my lawn like someone objecting at being told to shave (or not shave, as the case may be). It’s not just that people are being pushy—it’s that the idea does not work. Not for everyone.

We like the idea of a Jack-Of-All-Trades in fiction—someone who can kick ass, perform battlefield surgery, solve a complex riddle, survive in the wilderness for three months, and hack into any computer on the planet. But as anyone who has played a hybrid class in a video game might tell you, being a little good at a lot of things does not work. If you can act and write and paint and sing and you also have other talents, great. But chances are that if you’re working on your new album and filming a movie, you aren’t going to be able to devote that time that you wanted to spend on solving the Riemann Hypothesis, designing that new video game you thought of in the shower, and also growing your own food. And that’s if you don’t have children.

We each have our own particular aptitudes, sets of knowledge, capabilities, and interests. If you want to grow your own food, that’s great. If I want to do what I can do with my abilities, receive currency—my effort and merit measured out—and then exchange that currency to someone else (like a grocery store) for that store’s product (thus rewarding them for doing their work as I am rewarded for doing mine), then that’s wonderful. That’s the world in which we live.

The solution to unhealthy food is to fix the food and/or to fix our bodies so that we are not punished for enjoying the foods that we love. The solution to the environmental impact of transporting foods across distances is to use clean, renewable energy. We won’t exhaust sunlight transporting out-of-season strawberries halfway across the continent so that I can eat them when I want to.

If you want to make time to grow your own food or solve unsolved mathematical equations, good for you. But don’t criticize someone for using his or her property for a different purpose.

PS: I’m an environmentalist. I really am. I am just not a farmer. I like plants but we just thrive in totally different environments. They thrive in sunny, warm, humid environments where there are also things like insects and dirt and I do not care for any of those things in the least.

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Monsanto, GMOs, And People Who Would Have Loved The Dark Ages

Have you guys ever been in one of those situations in which you want one of your awkward or significantly less popular friends to be invited to a party, so you and some of your friends use your own social clout to get him her or her in the door unchallenged? Like, the host is happy that you’re there and honestly wouldn’t have cared if you brought a particularly ornery bear? (Or perhaps you’ve been the unpopular friend or perhaps you’ve been the host?)

So, about a month ago, that’s what happened with Monsanto. President Obama signed a keep-the-government-funded-so-that-the-world-as-we-know-it-can-continue-to-exist bill, and one of the minor provisions in it (thanks to aggressive lobbying from the company, Monsanto) “effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future.”

First of all, people fussing at Obama about this? Chill out. And I don’t just mean: “Our last President ordered that prisoners of war be tortured for information, this guy signed a law about seed-planting.” But also that. But, really, this was the governmental-finacial equivalent of do-or-die. No responsible President would have refused to sign.

But second of all, as alarmed as I am by lobbying of Congress and by democracy in general, not to mention anything that bars federal courts from doing something that they should be allowed to do . . . guys, this is about seeds. Like, plant seeds.

They aren’t genetically engineering dragons or viral weapons or even doing some harmless human cloning.

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are problematic when they limit natural diversity among certain crops (so if one has a vulnerability, they all do). They are also problematic for the same reason that any monopoly can be problematic (“Oh, you’re using our seeds? Well you’ll specifically need our fertilizer and other products”). That’s dickish, but still much less sinister than your average cable-provider (I’m not kidding or just exaggerating because of some service issues; cable companies are downright malevolent).

But GMOs feed millions around the globe who would otherwise starve. They allow our food to be more affordable and the annual crops harvested by our farmers* to be more predictable and consistent. And I don’t know about yours, but my genetically modified food is absolutely delicious. The way that some people freak out about technological advances that improve our lives and those of millions around the globe (whether they complain about GMOs or vaccines or, I kid you not, Google Earth), you would think that they wanted to live during the Dark Ages.

Because nothing says “all of our food is one-hundred-percent organic” like a devastating famine.


*Is anyone else totally weirded out that we still have farmers in 2013? I mean, I’m sure that in a hundred years we’ll still have some people growing their own herbs or flowers or whatever, and that’s fine. But there are still people who are actually farmers and they’re flesh-and-blood humans instead of robots and that is one of those things, along with heinous crimes, senseless violence, and rampant pollution, that I feel would be awkward to explain to extraterrestrial visitors. All of that horrifying, grueling labor should be performed by robots inside domed, temperature-controlled structures. And meat should be synthetically grown and harvested just like corn is.

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Thank Yew: My Thanksgiving

photo of turkey pictures
So, I’m not going to rant about how half of the history that they teach in elementary schools is horrifying lies. Or even really complain about how when Lincoln founded the US’ Thanksgiving as an official national holiday with a specifically prescribed date, his statement of the subject makes it sound like a holiday for Americans who are of Abrahamic faiths.

Because, you know what? Unlike more official religious holidays, Thanksgiving is really just an American holiday, with its religious undertones purely optional. Even if, as my family did, you only celebrate the Santa-and-getting-what-you-want side of Christmas (I refer to it as “Santamas”), you still probably call it Christmas and may have noticed what the first six letters of the holiday are. You still hear crazy people who believe that any cashier giving them a generic religious greeting rather than one specific to their own religion is contributing to the collapse of America and dooming the world to catastrophe. Thanksgiving is just, well, Thanksgiving.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, have you heard this nightmarish song from the same total weirdo who produced Rebecca Black’s Friday? Patrice Wilson’s latest victim . . . I mean “client/star,” is Nicole Westbrook. I had it in my head all day on Thanksgiving—until I listened to Songs For An Evil Queen, a two-disk playlist which my best friend recently and painstakingly assembled especially for me because he is the best person ever.

I do not really like Thanksgiving food. I mean, cheese does not really factor into the meal very much. Or at all. I like cranberry sauce (but mostly I love the cranberry sauce that I used to get from Boston Market. That stuff was the best and way better than canned or homemade cranberry sauce, though I have not had it in a decade), but until I was in my early teens, I just did not see an upside to Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes? No thank you. Stuffing in which my mother has hidden mushrooms and who knows what else? I’d rather die. Green bean anything? Don’t insult me.

And then I discovered that Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is a magical serum that transmutes uninteresting meat like turkey into a delicious food. Specifically, a delicious vehicle with which to ingest ranch dressing. It can’t be just any ranch, though. Hidden Valley. Other ranch dressings are … nightmarish imposters.

I should know. At this point, I am an expert in ranch dressing.

After the meal, usually cooked by my mother (this year, it was the two of us, my grandmother, my eldest aunt, and my mother and aunt’s cousin who is delightful but whom I see much less frequently). This was the first Thanksgiving since the family dog died (she passed away on the fifth of October of this year), and the fourth Thanksgiving since my youngest sister died (e. coli at the NC State Fair; fortunately, the livestock are now separated from where children are allowed to go. It would have been nice if they had done that before 2009). My youngest sister, Jaime, died on 2 November 2009 and would have turned fifteen on the twenty-eighth of November of that year, so Thanksgiving often falls on an awkward time for my family.

This year, I had a wonderful time with my relatives. I drank a bit too much delicious wine and the pies were not opened until it was just me with my mother. When I am done writing this post, I am going to go eat a slice (read: one quarter of the entire pie) of blackberry pie, because hot damn pie is delicious. After I was done visiting family, a wonderful friend of mine came over—after having more than one Thanksgiving—and he and I watched Justice League because it is an awesome show that we both missed out on when it first aired.

Also, Disaronno, my favorite beverage on the planet, was involved. On the rocks, of course. I did not make it into an amaretto sour like some kind of . . . monster.

And, of course, I considered the things for which I am thankful. No one at our table prayed openly or anything like that; that has never been a part of my Thanksgiving experience, though my grandmother and aunt, at least, are Christians. We mostly exchanged stories, most of which we had all heard before. Old people are adorable.

I considered the things for which I am thankful. A non-exhaustive list? I am thankful for my magnificent friends who are the only reasons for which I have not given up, moved to as cold of a place as I can find and found some life-sucking job that will pay me enough that I can play video games and, in all likelihood, reach five-hundred pounds through simply no longer having any motivation to interact with other humans in person. Even just keeping in contact with them online is enough to keep me sane. Or close enough.

I am thankful for my wonderful and absolutely out of her mind insane mother. She is all kinds of weird but she cannot help it.

I am so thankful that I have a computer that works, and works well. Computer troubles leave scars in your soul.

It has been such an honor to write for Zelda Lily and I absolutely love doing it. Even on weeks like this one when I almost forget until the last minute because my schedule has been crazy.

I am writing a book (the first part of a series). I am so thankful that it is coming along nicely, that I have a detailed outline of the book’s events already assembled in order and a clear idea of where the series is heading. I am especially thankful that my unreasonably awesome best friend is my collaborator. He is so brilliant and, while I would be writing even without him, the stories and characters and settings would not be the same without him. Plus, he’s often the voice of reason when we are blamestorming, and that is all kinds of necessary. I hope that, next year, I am thankful that we are done writing this book and that we have found a publisher.

I finished the first draft of another chapter just before writing this, in fact.

I thanked the Gods for being awesome, but I did so in private.

I am especially thankful that President Obama was reelected. Thankful that I will never have to say “President Romney” unless I write a story about a gloomy alternate universe.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, you beautiful people. I hope that you enjoy your delicious leftovers if you still have any.

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Essay: Should Feminists Be Vegetarians?

photo of a man eating meat pictures photos
There is a whole article on whether or not feminists should be vegetarian. Ecofeminists’ Sheila Jeffreys wrote: “It is a joy to be in agreement about the need to abolish such practices of violence against women as prostitution and pornography, because such agreement is so rare in the malestream world. But this great feeling of sisterhood and togetherness was marred by disagreement over an issue that I consider to be of great importance, the eating of animals.”

Kathryn Paxton George wrote a book called Animal, Vegetable, or Woman: A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism, and an article entitled: “Should feminists be vegetarian?”, and also produced a show on the topic. In her research, George found, “deep male biases of the traditional arguments for ethical vegetarianism” and makes the argument that there is a certain level of elitism behind the idea that women and feminists should be vegetarian. The debate is that cutting up an animal for consumption, or simply having a farm only to slaughter the animals is to objectify them, since feminism is about not objectifying women—and if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be in favor of not objectifying anything?

This is a ridiculous argument to me, as I, for one, consider myself to be a feminist. I believe in equal rights for all people and animals. I am a huge animal lover. I have two rescues and just yesterday took in a cat who had been involved in a hit and run right before my eyes. I am also someone who is deathly anemic and has to take five iron pills a day just to say at the lowest level that a human can safely be at. I constantly struggle with my iron level and have discussed with my doctor what I need to do. I need red meat. I can eat kale and spinach all day every day and it doesn’t have the iron I need. Every once in a while I have to dip into a steak or a burger. So, by this argument’s definition, I’m a bad feminist.

I try to buy free range, organic, and halal or kosher meats because I know the animals aren’t inhumanely slaughtered. Animals, whether you like it or not, were put here for human consumption. Yes, we are at an age where that doesn’t need to happen—but that is their purpose. I fully oppose the treatment that many animals receive, however, and I do not think there should be hormone injections. I feel their housing should be clean and that these animals should be loved and respected.

Wouldn’t a better argument be should feminists be animal rights activists? That’s a simple discussion with a simple answer: yes. Everyone should be an animal rights activists, and everyone should be a feminist. Everyone coexists, males, females, children, animals we are all connected and we all have to share this space, so wouldn’t it make more sense for us all to want the best for everyone and everything? How about we all just drop the subset and all be activists for a better world?

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