At times, the scale of the environmental and climate problems we face are overwhelming and disheartening. We cannot, individually, reign in the CO2 content of the atmosphere to 350ppm. We can’t stop mountain top removal mining and we can’t shut down the monoculture practices of corporate agriculture. We’re not even very good at cutting down on our personal bottled water consumption. When we’re hit with the impossibility of overcoming “the big things” — the issues we face on a global, or national scale — it’s nice to know that there are little things that make a difference, or, at least, get us moving in the direction of making a real difference.
This year, I’m growing food. I don’t plan on going off the grid. There are no harbored illusions of sustaining myself and my family on the harvest from my window boxes. But despite all that, I am going to grow some food. I am going to start. From where I am now, I know nothing about gardening or raising fruits and vegetables, but I’m going to learn. I believe that when we each have a small connection, a minor dependence on the earth and on the life of other organisms, when we take an active role in the process, we are more closely bonded to our environment.
Over the years, I have found that I am great at getting seeds to sprout. The cultivation to fruit or edibility is another issue. Over this unnaturally mild Nebraska winter of 2011/12, I have sprouted and nurtured some tomato seeds I rescued from the dollar bin at Target. They’ve grown robust, and are fighting one another for sun and dominance in the planter on the sill over my sink. Like me, the plants are aching for a Spring, anxious to get outside. Stretching for the window hasp, the nightshade leaves spread across the pane, dimming the midday kitchen. There is little doubt my yield will be insignificant, but the effort is the end. The beginning is the chalk. From here, I intend to grow forth.
The day when I can move the box outside is coming soon. The last touches of frost are fading from the forecast. The tomato fronds ask to be let out in the air. On our own, have no hope that we can fix everything; the problems of our planet are too great, no matter the where we stand and what lever we hold. But in our ultimate powerlessness, there is nothing to stop us from our small victories. Our discreet choices, our hope to do a little less, regardless of the global scene, mean that we aren’t doing nothing. We’re making a tiny difference. And this year, I’m taking on a small burden to feed myself something I’ve grown on my own. The process sprouted in a window box. I know it’s a small effort, but we all have to start somewhere.