People Versus Penguins
I took a religion class my junior year of college called Ethics. I was one of the more conservative kids in the class, still listening to the echoes of my hill-folk grandparents to tell me what was right and and was wrong. For the final paper in the class, I wrote a commentary on an article called People Versus Penguins. I can’t remember who wrote it now or what the foundation for the guy’s argument was, but basically he presented the question, “If you had to choose between furthering human development or preserving penguins, which would you choose?” I chose people.
Fast forward half a dozen years, and my views have changed. If I were to write that paper now, I wouldn’t make a choice between people and penguins, because we both need the same to be truly fulfilled and preserved—healthy bodies and a healthy home.
My boyfriend has started calling me Hippie Longstocking in the past year or so. I read about organic, sustainable living where I used to read catchy fiction. I planted 15 tomato plants, 6 sweet pepper plants, 10 fennel bulbs, and a few other random veggies this spring, along with my usual plethora of herbs. I feed them naturally with compost and manure. (I spent 18 years of my life trying to get away from cow shit, and now I gleefully pay $1.67 for a 40-pound bag of it .) I look forward to tending to them, helping them grow strong, deep roots and big, beautiful food.
I shop locally for food whenever possible. I feel genuine guilt when I eat animal–or sometimes even produce–that hasn’t been grown humanely or sustainably. I started sweating with anticipation and joy on Sunday when I saw that Homestead Creamery, a local, grass-fed (though not raw, which is illegal in my state… do NOT get me started on that) dairy operation not far from here, sells milk and butter in my local Kroger of all places. I just ordered a kit to make my own cheese from this milky, humane goodness. Take that, Kraft.
I make my own natural laundry detergent and dish detergent. And I love doing it.
I attribute many of these changes in my outlook to simply getting older and being exposed to more of the world. The more you live, the more you learn, right?
So I am shocked when I meet people who do not understand. And who do not want to learn.
Last Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to dinner with another couple friend of his. I was excited because since I work from home and don’t have any friends here, the prospect of making a new friend was welcomed, to say the least. We went to a wing place, and when I jokingly asked as we were getting in the car if I should ask the waiter whether or not the chicken served was raised locally on open pasture, he said he doubted anyone else at the table would even understand what I was asking.
He was right.
As the drinks and conversation flowed, somehow we started to talk about he issue of animal cruelty. The other couple are deeply in love with their animals–several dogs and horses. And yet through stunned eardrums I heard them telling me that when horse slaughterhouses started to be shut down, the economy was directly affected, so we need slaughterhouses. They are the “Medicaid for animals.” And that if pigs are allowed open space, they’ll eat each other, which is why they must be confined in CAFOs (my word, not theirs). And that all this hooplah about eating organically is just that—hooplah.
I bit my tongue (or maybe chugged the rest of my merlot) instead of calling bullshit. I can’t talk about these issues without getting passionate and loud, and my rantings would have fallen on deaf ears.
What bothered me the most about that conversation was not that our opinions differed. I’ve been the only conservative kid in the class, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and now paleoish. I’m used to people having differing opinions about the world, and I’m rather proud of my ability to educate without condescending.
What bothered me was that I was the minority—not just at the table, but in the population at large—and that no matter what I said and what facts I presented, I would be wrong. No matter what, I could never convince them that you could further human development WHILE preserving penguins. The books I’ve read and the documentaries I’ve watched and my own personal experiences of growth and development and fulfillment didn’t matter.
I’m not surprised that they don’t know all of the incredibly enlightening information I have floating around in this brain. I’m not surprised that they don’t have a small garden in their back yard or that they didn’t buy a CSA subscription this year or that they won’t drive down a windy dirt road to buy honey from a guy in a trailer when there’s plenty at the grocery store down the street.
What surprises me is that they don’t care to know about it.
I want nothing more than to be healthier. I come to this site and I write for this site because no matter what, we are all here because we love our bodies and pursue health day in and day out. I’ve read your stories about trying paleo or CrossFit or cutting out sugar, etc., and they have truly inspired me to keep learning and keep reinventing until it clicks.
How could someone not want the same?