Today I set off with my husband David, our son Theo and David’s dad Steve on a mini vacation up north to the Bay Area. We are driving most of the day and we won’t be seeing any friends or family this evening, so my Giveaway today was going to be a challenge. So, since I’m supposed to be on vacation, I decided to drop a book off at our local Little Free Library this morning before we set off to minimize anxiety and to make use of my time as we zoom up the Interstate 5 towards San Francisco, while David drives, Steve reads the paper and Theo watches a video of Iron Man.
The book I gave away this morning was a thought-provoking one – The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, one of my favorite authors and commentators on the state of our world. His in-depth research and extremely sane advice on globalization, global warming and how we use our resources have strongly influenced my beliefs on how and what we consume. A few years ago I went to hear him in conversation with Nate Lewis at Caltech about global warming and was so inspired by his sane yet impassioned talk that I hung around after the talk like a teenage groupie waiting to get his autograph. He kindly signed my ticket to the event, and I use it today as a bookmark.
As we pass through the very long Central Valley of California, where a huge amount of food is produced, I see the effects of both globalization and global warming written all over the landscape. Parched grasslands interspersed with farms crowded full of miserable-looking cows and fields of row upon row of almond trees. Occasionally I spot the California Aqueduct snaking through the fields to our right – a slender blue lifeline for much of the state. Cattle farming consumes large quantities of water as well as corn and soybeans that are grown to feed them, and methane from cow farts contribute to the destruction of our atmosphere. Almonds are one of the thirstiest crops produced here, requiring a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Does California really need to consume or export so much meat and so many nuts in the midst of a drought? The farmers seem to think so. The freeway is lined with angry signs protesting the state government’s restrictions on water use for agriculture and blaming congress for the water crisis. Our current predicament indeed gives us food for thought. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the more we consume, the more we damage our environment, creating extreme weather conditions like devastating storms and the current drought, limiting our future production and consumption. It seems we are at a tipping point here in California with such a dire water shortage, but Friedman considers himself an optimist and reminds us, “Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately needed”
Well, I may have taken away some of the anxiety from my Giveaway by giving away Freidman’s book this morning, but I am not exactly relaxing on this drive as I worry away about the state of our state and of the potential for a global catastrophe. Maybe, if I’m going to enjoy this vacation, I should to shut my laptop, stop looking out of the window and watch funny cat videos on my phone instead! Hmmm.