It has been just about a year since I made my transition to Science Blogs, and other than the kerfuffle in July and the fact that they still don’t pay us particularly often, in general, I think this has been a successful move for me – particularly in my larger goal, which was to reach a readership that wouldn’t get this material otherwise. Science Blogs also drove me to write some good stuff, in response to critique or query or new readers – and that’s important to me. So a quick year in review – I thought for those who hadn’t seen them, I’d go back and pick my own favorite piece from each month, just in case you are looking for new stuff to read:
I’m very proud of last December’s “Fairness, Personal Action and Al Gore’s House” because I think it was a useful addition to my larger work in undermining the “personal action doesn’t count” narrative. I’ve been arguing this for many years in many ways, but this is just another nail in the coffin of the idea that it doesn’t matter how you live your life, that big “political action” is what really counts. In some ways, this piece of my work – the articulation of the history of the public/private distinction, and hopefully, its ultimate dismantling is the thing that I most care about.
January’s “Blood on Our Hands: Dealing Ethically with the Problems of Husbandry” got a lot of discussions going about our responsibilities when we eat, and it drew some interesting discussion with my colleagues. There is a very fragile and beginning awareness in the world that the lives that livestock lead have something to do with us – but the full implications of that are very new to most people.
I didn’t write most of the post that was my favorite from February – instead, I borrowed an article for Alternet. But the discussion that this essay on living in the US with food stamps as your only source of income (something 7 million Americans are forced into) had a fascinating discussion attached to it. I don’t always have time to comment a lot in the discussions after my posts, and I trust that my readers will make most of the salient points anyway, but I always read them, and this one “Life With Food Stamps as your Only Income” stayed with me a long, long time.
Chores are a dirty word in most houses – those things no one wants to do. The funny thing is that while the amount of time spent on chores expands when you have animals, so does the pleasure of doing them. It probably seems strange to people that I wrote:
On a farm, chores are something else – they are bookends to each day, a formal structure like the forms of a sonnet or musical scales that shape the day. They can be speeded up, slowed down, slightly elided and occasionally contracted out, but for the most part, they are there, implacable, eternal and oddly pleasurable.
It is occasionally hard to get going out to the barn, but I genuinely love doing chores – and the connection that it brings me to the many creatures in my life. In March in “On Chores” I found myself trying to explain the inexplicable – why one would want to go out on a cold morning and haul hay and water. But I do.
It isn’t just contrarianism that made me write my earth day posts. I definitely annoyed some people writing several posts about “Why I Hate Earth Day” and “Why I Hate Earth Day Redux: The Road to Hell in Baby Steps” - why was I hatin’ on something that was so full of good intentions – particularly on the 40th anniversary?
I really, really miss having Zuska as a co-blogger – I still read her over at Scientopia, but it isn’t quite the same. She pushed me to do a piece about what it is like to eat on food stamps that I think goes at least a little bit beyond the “hey, I’m the governor of some state and I don’t have to trade my food stamps for toilet paper or cook on an illegal hot plate in a motel room, so great, I can eat fine on food stamps” nonsense that we so often see. My May favorite is “Eating Poor” then – and I wish I still had Zuska here to push me harder!
Some of these are hard to sort out – I liked several things I wrote in one month. But my fave from June is easy – “Why Gay Marriage is Good for Everyone.” This is obviously an issue very near and dear to my house, since I have gay parents, but I don’t generally take on this subject directly. But this is a place where I think it is deeply relevant to the subjects of this blog.
Enter gay marriage. Gay people may choose each other from love, from the same emotions that motivate heterosexual couples, may live together from love, may care deeply about the religious institution of their marriage (and any discussion of religion and gay marriage cannot ignore the fact that many gay people were married, as my parents were, in their churches and synagogues and covens before they could marry in their states) but they have not had the luxury of pretending that the economic, family and legal ties of marriage are not central to the institution. No gay person can ever rest content that they will be permitted at a hospital bedside for their spouse without a big shiny pile of paperwork. No gay person can ever be a parent without worrying about who counts, and how the schools will treat them and their partner. No gay person can write their will or establish guardianship for their children without a worry. No child of gay parents gets to grow up without hearing some idiot say “she’s not your real mother” or “he’s not your real Dad.” No gay family can count on getting social security if a partner dies or health care from every employer, or coverage for the kids from the non-biological parent.
Gay people, once in love, have done society a signal service by simply placing a renewed emphasis on the legal, social and financial benefits of marriage – they have forced us to stop talking *only* about love, and start talking about money and benefits and rights and legal protections – and what those things are for, about the compelling interest society has (if, indeed, it has one – I think it does) in creating stable families and households.
I try and place my farm in the context of agriculture – historically, the world picture, American history. Of course, it is only a half-picture, but I do think it matters to see ourselves outside ourselves, at least as much as we can (and Greenpa’s suggestion that we start a “Journal of Agricultural Failures” may be my single favorite comment ever!) So July’s fave is “Putting Me in My Place.” It is one that has come back to me several times recently, particularly because I’m working on an essay expanding this idea – how the fact that women do most of the world’s farming means that we will never have a fully industrialized agriculture:
This is one of the reason the world’s farms, despite enormous effort to expand, consolidate and mechanize them, are mostly small, and probably always will be. Because the vast majority of agrarian women in the world, just like me, must do their farmwork with their babies on their heels and their children or grandchildren interrupting them to ask questions. To get bigger, a farm must be able to support two farmers – one to do the local work – to manage those animals kept close to the house, to tend those fields that can be handled with a hoe or a digging stick, to tend the household garden, and one to do the work with draft animals or tractors and other dangerous tools, further away from the home, while the home-farmer guards and watches the children.
In August the kidding was over, and there were really cute pictures of baby goats. How could “Final Goat Round-Up” not be my favorite?
Debates within the peak oil community get a lot of passions going, so it isn’t surprising that so much attention came to the arguments that Rob Hopkins and John Michael Greer were having, or that I felt the need to get add my two cents in “I Can Save the World Better than You Can, Nyah, Nyah!” Most of all, I really feel like the debates in the community get us closer to a useful picture of a future world than focusing on what we agree on.
In October, I really enjoyed sharing my blog with a number of fellow bloggers who did most of the work of transmitting what happened at the ASPO USA conference – in many ways, that was the best part of the whole month. I particularly liked John Bell’s insight into the breakout sessions that I missed due to various being-on-the-board things that kept me out of the actual sessions.
I’ve still got one more day to write something absolutely perfectly utterly brilliant for November (Sure, that’ll happen ;-)), but so far, my fave is my meditation on my brilliant colleague Mike the Mad Biologist’s outrage about deficit reductionism. I identify generally with the left, but here I find myself breaking with the American left, simply because I don’t believe we have the resource base to support the kind of economic growth that deficit spending depends heavily on – but neither do I buy the American conserative proposition that that means we have to screw over the poor and vulnerable. So my fave so far is “Not Deficit Reductionism, Misplaced Priorities.”
All in all, it has been an interesting year! More coming!