The reason I read this book was that I wanted to know more about sustainable agriculture. So, I search on the internet and found a list of 100 books on this topic. There were a lot of textbooks and literature for farmers and professionals in that area. So, in the end, I picked this one by Jonathan Safran Foer as it seemed to be more for newbies to the area. I got it as an audiobook and started listening. After a few minutes, I checked if I had accidentally bought another book as as Foer went on an on about suicide notes and breathing the same molecules as Hitler and Julius Ceasar – it was very confusing and not clear at all, what all that got to do with climate change and agriculture.
But I kept going – much easier with an audiobook than with a printed book, I suppose – and it slowly became clear. Before touching on the topic of agriculture, Foer talks a long time about the psychology of how the human race is handling the climate crisis. To name just two:
He compares it to how Americans reacted to the WW2: US civilians participating by saving resources and energy for the fight against Nazi Germany.
How Jews in Poland reacted to the holocaust: only his grandma fled, while the rest of her family stayed, despite knowing that the Nazis were coming, and died.
It is pretty much an interesting assay on how humans react to a crisis – or rather why then don’t react.
Why are we – the human race – not doing everything we can to stop climate change? Why did we allow it to become a climate crisis?
One quote sums it up pretty well and Foer cites it in his book:
“If a cabal of evil psychologists had gathered in a secret undersea base to concoct a crisis humanity would be hopelessly ill-equipped to address,” wrote Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian, “they couldn’t have done better than climate change.” And as Foer told Sierra. “There’s this chasm between what we know—that global warming is a human-caused catastrophe—and what we do, and it’s really puzzling.”
I got the message that it’s really puzzling and I feel that Foer also doesn’t really have an answer – or I missed it somewhere in the pages. It is a long meditation on the topic and goes down many unexpected roads.
But, you may ask, does he actually talk about sustainable agriculture? Well, yes … briefly: somewhere in between, he recommends to stop eating meat before dinner. Full stop. That’s it. Why this book was on a list about sustainable agriculture, I cannot really explain – there is a vague connection, yes, but it’s quite a stretch.
To be honest, I was pretty relieved when I finished the book. It definitely has interesting parts and makes you think about why it is so hard to really change your lifestyle into a more sustainable one. But, my goodness, must it be so depressing? If you are already suffering from climate anxiety, DON’T READ IT – I fear that it will send you over the edge and into a dark, dark depression.
Yes, the climate crisis is more than serious – no question about that. But I doubt that continuously beating yourself up about it will help. It may motivate some people. But I fear that it will make other people be paralysed with fear and do nothing. At times Foer makes it sound so hopeless that I couldn’t help wondering if it’s still worth trying.
I think that we need to maintain hope that we can still do something about it. And I think that Foer’s suggestion not to eat meat before dinner is a good one. It’s a good starting point and will help to lessen your ecological impact. Take it from there and make your lifestyle more sustainable e.g. by becoming a vegetarian and eventually even a vegan. But don’t get lost in dark thoughts about how unjust the world and how hopeless it all is – how is that going to help anyone?
Stay positive and keep trying!
If you read this book, let us know your opinion and if you have other book recommendations, please drop them in the comments box. We will truly appreciate it 🙂
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