Last night at dinner, a friend asked one of those "which would you rather" questions that always gets conversation moving and sometimes sparks a debate (which is the polite term for "argument".) The question was: "If you and everyone you knew had to drive either a Smartcar or an Escalade for the rest of your lives, which would you pick?"
This question initially didn't seem that daunting and- given that I was in the company of fellow farm employees and well-wishers- the answer seemed rather obvious.
Without hesitation, I said "Smartcar, of course." The next person took a moment, and she came back with "Escalade."
“Wait, what? Why? “ I blurted.
"Because you'd have to live a smaller life," was her simple answer. She expanded, noting that if you and everyone you knew owned a vehicle that small, it would make our scopes narrower. No towing, no hauling, no helping friends move. Can you imagine trying to get all of your camping gear into one little Smartcar? Planning cross-country adventures with the whole family? Not likely.
The conversation wound its way to other topics and we ended up discussing other things (like who would be more satisfying to take out of the limelight- Bill O'Reilly or Miley Cyrus?) Eventually, as the night wore on, my thoughts meandered back to the car conversation. I ended up wondering what life would be like if there wasn't a single vehicle in America that was any larger than a sedan.
Unfathomable, isn't it? My goodness but how our culture is addicted to more and bigger and now!
My train of thought went further. Imagine, really take a moment to think about what it would do to us? If you head to any conventional shopping center, you'll likely run into a Best Buy, a Target, a Costco, etc, and all of the items in those stores have been trucked hundreds if not thousands of miles to get to us. In a Smartcars-Only-America, stores like that would go out of business. Everything would have to be manufactured and sold locally (I suppose with the exception of large cities with harbors like San Francisco, New York City, London, etc. We could also ship things via plane, though I'm assuming that would get expensive fast.)
Some people don't realize it, but food is very much the same way. Tomatoes and avocados don't grow year-round; we truck them to grocery stores and restaurants across the country day in and day out. Most of the meat in your local supermarket came from the Midwest. What's funny to me is how quickly we moved into this way of living, and how removed it is from nature.
I know, there goes the organic farmer talking about nature again. But hear me out. The system we've developed is precarious. Trucking pesticide ridden vegetables and fruits up from Mexico and in from the Midwest is damaging the environment and our bodies. We've outsourced manufacturing from the United States in all but the smallest percentage of industries and our economy is suffering.
I'm not saying stay local or perish, but I do want to encourage you to consider the "Smart Car Lifestyle", especially if you are privileged enough to live in a place like Northern California. Our temperate climate allows for a lush variety of things to be grown, we host a plethora of incredibly talented artisans and craftspeople, our locally owned restaurants are some of the finest in the country and the list just goes on and on. Is the localvore lifestyle as cheap as the alternative? Yes. As Joel Salatin recently commented “Have you checked the price of cancer lately?” But really, would you rather have a lot of not-so-stellar things or a few, much nicer things? Your answer may be the latter, but it's food for thought.
So what are you waiting for? Take a walk, hop on your bike, or drive your Smartcar and do a little exploring in your own backyard. I think you'll be impressed with what you find.
-Your Localvore Organic Office Girl