By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
Two massive freight trains are speeding toward us. One is powered by the Y2K engine, the other by genetic engineering. Conductors are trying to pull the brakes on the first but are fueling the engine on the second. What’s an individual to do?
In this issue of The MOF&G, we have described some aspects of potential Y2K problems so that you can think about how possible interruptions in the electrical power/banking/transportation systems might affect you and how to prepare for them. Growers should prepare themselves and their families and communities just as everyone who can should, but growers have their own specific concerns to address, as well. If the food supply is interrupted, can you feed yourself and your family? How can you grow more food this year to help your community? Will you have enough fuel, feed, seeds and fertilizer on hand to start the new year? Will you be able to get water for your family and your farm animals? If you haven’t started planning for at least a month of living on your own or with just the resources of your community, you should do so now.
Maybe the conductors will be able to pull most of the brakes on time and your planning will have been for nought. Maybe they won’t. Right now, nobody knows, but as growers, you have considerable power to help yourselves and your community. If your town hasn’t started planning for Y2K yet, the best thing you can do is to go to your town office, offer to help organize a potluck supper, and at that supper, inform your neighbors about Y2K. Have your town distribute copies of the Y2K Citizen’s Action Guide (see the resource list in the Y2K article in this newspaper). Find out who in town has something to offer – food, generators, storage space, emergency shelter, and so on. Find out who will need help. Set up a resource and communication system. You may not be able to stop the Y2K train yourself, but you can keep it from derailing your community.
Genetic engineering is a tougher problem. Artificially manipulating genes so that species that could never cross on their own are now being crossed, then spreading those genes far and wide in the environment, is a train without direction and with tracks that could go anywhere – and everywhere. While the Y2K problem is overwhelming, at least people can fix, upgrade or replace computers and computer chips as much as possible. But you can’t go into the environment and remove genes the way you can go into a machine and remove computer chips that aren’t working right. What if Frankengenes turn out to be harmful to our health or to our ecosystems? They are already ubiquitous in supermarkets, in everything from juices and sodas to soy burgers and cooking oils. They are in our bodies, in our children’s bodies – and we have had no say in their introduction, no choice (i.e., no labeling) at the supermarkets. Even if you shop strictly at a health food store, you may be ingesting engineered genes without realizing it. It’s time to demand – at the least – labeling of foods that contain engineered genes; better yet, to keep these foods out of our systems until (if ever) they are shown to be safe. Let your grocer and your legislators know what you want.
A very exciting resource is now available for those who want to ride an environmentally sound train into charted, ecological territory: Anna Edey’s book Solviva. As I say in my review in this issue of The MOF&G, this is the most important, most significant book that I have read in years. It tells how to heat homes and water supplies and grow food out of season using the power of the sun. It tells how to treat waste without large, expensive, inefficient treatment plants. It discusses saner methods of transportation than we use now. Buy a copy and read it, then pass it on to your town manager. Buy another copy for your library. Come and hear Edey speak in at MOFGA’s Unity site on the 20th of March. Solviva fits right in with Bill Getty’s thought that Y2K could lead to “spontaneous simplification” and his observation that whatever happens on January 1, “I know that the sun’s coming up, and the sun grows plants.” Wishing you a good growing year …