A Now or Never Kind of Project, by Barbara Kingsolver

Excerpt from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

How is it possible to inspire an appropriately repentant stance toward a planet that is really, really upset? … However much we despise the monstrous serial killer called global warming, it’s hard to bring charges.  We cherish our fossil-fuel-driven conveniences, such as the computer I am using to write these words.  We can’t exactly name-call this problem, or vote it away.  The cure involves reaching down into ourselves and pulling out a new kind of person.  The practical problem, of course, is how to do that.  It’s impossible to become a fuel purist, and it seems like failure to change our ways only halfway, or a pathetic 10 percent.  So why even try? When the scope of the problem seems insuperable, isn’t it reasonable just to call this one, give it up, and get on with life as we know it?

I do know the answer to that one: that’s called child abuse.  When my teenager worries that her generation won’t be able to fix this problem, I have to admit to her that it won’t be up to her generation. It’s up to mine. This is a now-or-never kind of project.

…I share with every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction.  And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion.  I’m not sure why.  If a friend had a coronary scare and finally started exercising three days a week, who would hound him about the other four days?  It’s the worst of bad manners – and self-protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society – to ridicule the small gesture.  These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species or something.  Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren’t trivial.  Ultimately they will, or won’t, add up to having been the thing that mattered.

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