April 3, 2010

Whatever Happened To The Organic Gardener?

I find it rather ironic that at a time when Green living has finally caught on and is being marketed to death in all forms, a whole crop of backyard organic gardeners are whoring the original tenets of Robert Rodale, the father and founder of organic gardening:

"Do The Least Harm"

But perhaps it is precisely because "Green" or "Organic" or "Natural" is so haphazardly and almost euphemistically slapped on labels and in product advertising faster than bags of Scott's Ween-n-Feed are still hopping off the Big Box store shelves. Everything is Green these days. Organic is fashionable. People's vocabularies are now peppered with words like "sustainable" and "free-range" while they drive their hummers to pick up a bucket of KFC.

Is this oxymoron based on laziness? Irresponsibility? Underlying greed? Or are they merely following the examples set by our so-called leaders and media icons? Do people still not get it? Is the disconnect due to faulty comprehension of organic gardening's paradigm or just selective denial? Or all of the above?

Basically, it seems to have come down to: "What does it matter if I fudge a little? What's a few ounces of Round-Up or a just one feeding of Miracle Gro or a few spritzes of Sevin or Malathion or if my square foot garden is built from old railroad ties as long as I layer on cartloads of compost, mulch my grass clippings, grow heirloom plants from non-GMO seed? I mean..I'm doing something. You can't expect me to make an effort in every area! I'll "go organic" but not if it means I have to sacrifice everything and afterall, toxins and poisons enter my body every day and the earth is being still being polluted without my control so what does it matter if I make a few concessions here and there?"

We can't lament the 'poisons and toxins entering our bodies everyday without our control" or the earth still being polluted as well, if we are part of the problem and one of the contributors.

While Robert Rodale's mantra was to do the least harm, the other and too-often overlooked aspect of his philosophy was that everyone - in their own way - can make a difference no matter how small they may think their efforts. Organic gardening doesn't demand (nor should it expect) perfection. It just requires effort, commitment and dedication to exemplify that tenet of doing the least harm to your self, your children, your pets, your neighbors, your soil and Your Garden: Earth.

Thinking globally and acting locally is more than just another pithy catchphrase and can pertain to running a full-scale farm, maintaining a backyard garden or tending pots on a porch. We can stop making excuses, justifications, qualifying, defending, obfuscating and copping out. We can step up to the compost plate, keep our eye on the organic ball and swing away with sincere effort, credibility, honesty to the best of our ability. Not with perfectionism our goal. Not a home run each time. Just a few ground balls that will move the runner ahead to second base. Think globally and act locally. It all begins at the tip of your bat. If you hit too many sacrifice flies because it'll end the game sooner and you may console (or excuse) yourself that you're only one player and shouldn't be expected to win the game single-handed, then you're not a team player, and you might as well forfeit the game.

We're all on the same team. We're all players. It's the last game of the series and the bottom of the ninth with two out. It's someone's turn at bat. Maybe yours, and you can only do the best you can. Not the most convenient, not what everyone else is doing (how 12-year old), not the quickest, easiest or "if it was good enough for our grandparents, it's good enough for us". So was DDT, segregation and child labor. We might not win the World/Earth series in the end, but our grandchildren's children can take pride in the position we played in the playoffs.

While we do have limitations and individual, personal parameters to work within, we are not without some choice. We can choose to be part of the problem or be part of the solution.

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