Friday’s news that climate change is worse than we thought, has lit the fire under my feet, and gotten me to think anew about what it will take for us to make a sustainable world. With carbon dioxide in the environment now at levels not seen in 3 million years, a development that the scientist Maureen E. Raymo, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said “feels like the inevitable march toward disaster.” Of course, nothing is inevitable. We always have options, though at current rates of environmental degradation our options are rapidly narrowing, which is why it’s high time we all up our game — and by we, I mean me, because I’ve been twiddling my thumbs and making do with half-measures when nothing short of a fundamental shift in the way I live will do.
My commitment to myself, then, is to figure out a way to do better. It’s tied up with the project of trying to live better (by which I mean richer, deeper, and more profoundly fulfilled). I talk big, mind you. I have friends who uprooted their whole lives, sold their home and hit the road in an RV three weeks ago in order to work on farms around the country on their way to setting down more sustainable roots, perhaps in a retreat center cum sustainable community that they’re dreaming up. Compared to what they’re doing, my little inquiring is child’s play. But I am earnest. I want to continue a project I first started dabbling in twenty-four years ago when I explored vegetarianism, a ten year journey that brought me full circle back to being a (more enlightened form of) carnivore, and sunk bricks into my toilet tank to reduce the waste of excessive water flow. One avenue of exploration I’m excited about is Edible Estates, the brainchild of Los Angeles artist Fritz Haeg. Haeg’s idea is simple: turn lawns into edible gardens. A similar project, L.A. Green Grounds, founded by South Central Los Angeles-based “guerilla gardner” Ron Finley, who recently gave a rousing talk at TED — more about him soon — does for abandoned lots and the underused patches of land between sidewalks and streets what Haeg is doing for the venerable American lawn.