In the environmental world, it’s characterized as the classic battle: Should wild areas be preserved for their intrinsic qualities or conserved for their resources? In other words, should nature be used for “the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest time,” as nineteenth-century progressive environmentalist Gifford Pinchot put it; or should the wilderness be protected and revered without human intrusions, a view espoused by romantic environmentalist John Muir?
Today, with a burgeoning population encroaching on our remaining wild areas and economic help scarce, many would say that Pinchot’s beliefs are more realistic for the modern world. In fact, there are even those, such as Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, who would take Pinchot’s notion a step further: Natural areas must be managed to benefit humans, if they are to survive at all.
I know it might sound obnoxious at first and that I sound a little like Martha Stewart with that headline, but I like the idea of raising gourmet kids. By “gourmet,” I don’t mean kids who demand white tablecloths and truffle oil. What I mean is simply someone with an appreciation of good food. Here’s how Webster’s defines it:
Gifts of Unpredictability
Despite the fact that your ego hates unpredictability, the truth is that you have benefited from it again and again. Think for a moment about the unexpected opportunities that have come your way, offers of help you never anticipated, sudden brainstorms and inspirations, impulsive decisions to move or to talk to a stranger that opened new horizons. This is the natural way to live. “Your life is already organized within itself,” Merlin said. “Life flows from life, the bud unfolds into the flower, the child ripens into the adult. Trust in each stage, celebrate it, and allow the next one to come to you effortlessly.”
A friend recently confided in me that she, too, was increasingly alarmed by news of climate change, water shortages, chemicals in our kids’ toys — letting me know she was prepared to take action. From now on, she announced triumphantly, she planned to reuse gift bags. “And if people think that means I can’t afford new ones, well … that’s fine.”
I could barely contain my surprise when my brother asked me a few months ago which compost bin he should buy from Gaiam. We’re talking about a guy who arguably has the cleanest fingernails on the planet (he’s a heart surgeon) and who has absolutely no tree-hugging tendencies. His SUV gets 13 miles to the gallon. He doesn’t have a single compact fluorescent light bulb in his entire house. He occasionally bikes to work, but mostly to avoid becoming like one of his patients. But his 13-year-old son came home from Boy Scouts one day and said, “Dad, we have to start composting.”