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January 29, 2007
If I were that kind of artist, I would design plant catalogues, because I can't think of much that beats the combination of a lovely warm bath, a nice cup of hot tea and a book of beautiful plant pictures. Now is when they arrive in the mailbox, relieving the monotony of January, that month that used to be mostly white but is now more a greyish-brown, with some startling and disquieting touches of color: the little blue vinca flowers blooming under the dogwood tree, the forsythia bloom here and there, the buds of lilacs. Two cold days, we had, and not really all that cold, and today it's warm again.

People who make money supplying us with fossil fuel -- or just helping us to waste it -- don't want there to be such a thing as global warming, and so they want us all to call it "climate change," which somehow seems to be easier for them to take. Whatever. My very favorite nursery, White Flower Farms in Connecticut, has decided to ignore the semantic debate and take action, reasoning that whether you think people cause global climate change or not makes no difference as far as what we must do with what God has given us is concerned. Whatever caused the cherry trees to bloom in Brooklyn last week, we still need to change our lives -- for reasons of health, for reasons of fairness to the rest of the world, if not to sustain the possibility of life.

So they have a new section of their website called "Our Common Garden" (by which they mean the earth itself). You can go there and share your ways of being more careful of the earth and the portion of its resources you use than you might have been up to now, and learn some interesting things about what White Flower Farm and other folks are doing. Visit them at

Reading about Our Common Garden and reading economist Carol Stone on the Farm this morning -- check out Ways of the World, if you haven't yet -- reminded me of who is in charge of my life. I am in charge of my life. I don't know how energetic my government is going to be about climate change -- more so than previously, it seems, but I can't pretend to understand, much less control, the potent cocktail of politics, self-interest and graft that informs public policy. But I can know what I will do and, as the people at White Flower Farms point out, I cannot reasonably use anybody else's inactivity as justification for my own passivity. I am the one who decides what I will buy, what -- and whether -- I will drive, where I will live, to which companies I will give my business, what I will write and what I will say. Ford can build as many gas-guzzling SUVs as it wants to, but I get to decide whether or not to buy one -- and it seems that enough other people reasoned this way during the last three quarters that Ford lost several of its shirts by sticking with its light truck program for too long.

We cannot expect corporations to act altruistically except within very narrow limits. They're businesses, not churches. And so we must find ways to make it a matter of their enlightened self-interest to do the right thing, not expecting any war of interdiction against them to accomplish by itself what we refuse to accomplish by scaling back our own consumption. It hasn't worked with drugs and it won't work with Hummers. The law of supply and demand always works, and the "demand" part of that equation is squarely in our court.

It is a Monday in January, still early enough in a new year that all our resolve is not yet evaporated, early enough to imagine things being other than as they are. Will we be able to halt the steady creep of a climate change that will make the earth unfit for our habitation, that will scour the human race from its surface and give the rotifers and amoebas a chance to work on it for a few billion years, until it is clean again?

Who can say? Not me. All I can say for sure is which side I want to be on.
Carol Stone writes about ecology today in Ways of the World at
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