Listen to Pollan, But Send Us to the Moon

In yesterday's green issue of the New York Times Magazine Michael Pollan makes a case in his piece titled "Why Bother?" for growing our own food as a way to rein in our global warming emissions. The author of In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Botany of Desire says laws and money are simply not enough to make a real difference without personal actions. He's right that each lifestyle change we make—whether commuting by foot, changing a light bulb, or toting a canvas bag— takes us one step closer to demanding massive change. But I have to ask: If  we only have maybe eight years left to cut global warming emissions and head off disaster, do we have time for everyone to take baby steps to their lawmakers' doorsteps?

I only read Pollan's article today because I was busy in my garden all weekend, happily unplugged and readying my planting beds for a productive summer. These personal steps felt great, but let's not underestimate the power of a visionary leader who says we're going to boldly tackle this climate change problem as if he (or she) were John F. Kennedy announcing the Apollo Project to send a man to the moon. (Check out the book "Apollo's Fire.)

Remember what Kennedy said on May 25, 1961? "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

The Apollo program changed our lives, and spurred major advances in all fields of research, including telecommunications, aviation, and computers. What if our next president were to make the same kind of declaration about global warming? What might our future be like then?

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