Earth Day: Past time for Americans to scale down our appetites


In honor of Earth Day, here's a new video from Free Range Studios, the awesome Berkeley-based animation team that also brought us The Meatrix series. It's called "One Earth," and it explains that if everyone lived like Americans — that is, inordinately wastefully — then we'd actually need five Earths to provide enough resources, energy, and places to dump our pollution. Alas, we've only got one planet, so we need to start living like it. The video is sponsored by Care2, an online community for eco-minded folk, and it's hosting a petition you can sign vowing not to just buy green, but to live green.

I signed it, and here's what I pledged: This year I will walk or bike more, grow more of my own food, compost our scraps, and eat less meat. No more bottled water if I can possibly avoid it. The Potato Non Grata long ago replaced all the incandescent bulbs in our house with compact fluorescents – so easy, and the energy savings are pretty significant. To snobs who say they can't bear the bulbs' greenish tint, try the more expensive color-corrected ones. If the Potato, a photographer who's picky about his light, approves of these fluorescents, I bet you will too.

Those are the easy personal steps. We also need the big ones. The 2007 Farm Bill offers the most significant chance to revamp the food system in a way that would scale back our agricultural system to more like "four-Earth" greedy. Read Michael Pollan's excellent summary about it in today's New York Times Magazine, the better to collectively keep the pressure on our elected representatives. Corn-based ethanol is not the solution to our energy crisis, nor is fat-powered biodisel from factory farms. They just swap one problem for another, and they make the same people rich. Let's put more land into conservation, not take it out to grow more resource-intensive corn. Let's see some funding for transitioning farms to organic agriculture. Let's extend the food-stamp program to make it possible for more recipients to shop at farmers markets. Let's make the school-lunch program less of a dumpster for overproduced commodities. Tell your representatives, whatever state they're in, that the Farm Bill matters.

Happy Earth Day. My wish: For us to change the world just a little bit before next bite at a time.

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