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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Town/gown - 11/19/09

I spent three hours in lab last Thursday removing nodules from the roots of bean plants. I loved it. At one point, I turned to the people in my lab group and exclaimed, “This reminds me of digging for potatoes! Have you ever done that? It’s so fun. Like digging for buried treasure.”

Sometimes I outdo myself with the rural thing. Seriously though, potato harvests were the highlight of the two years I worked on a vegetable farm. That’s not what’s notable about the situation. Rather, it’s my assumption that everyone would understand this particular pleasure.

A Vermont childhood has instilled an appreciation of nature within me. I don’t suspect that I am unique in this. Did anyone see that sunset last Wednesday evening? Natural beauty is thrust upon Vermonters whether we like it or not. Our geographic location requires a certain level of interaction with the outdoors, which in turn demands respect.

The whole “green” concept, then, seems so basic to me, such an understood necessity. But, like the potato phenomenon, I have begun to realize that my own hands-on-the-land perspective is not necessarily applicable to everyone here, even as we find ourselves co-habiting in the heart of what I would say is the most beautiful state in the country.

I do not mean to imply a holier-than-thou attitude concerning environmental issues. Rather, I think it is an essential piece of the puzzle to understand the different perspectives and priorities that people bring to the table.

There is a certain elegance to a skyscraper. Not to promote this country-bumpkin character beyond the level of humor, but I will admit that tall buildings generally captivate me. Perhaps it is the contrast to my usual surroundings, but I find cities aesthetically very exciting: the people, the cars, the art, the buildings. Cities are movement, and it is refreshing sometimes to pick up the pace. If I really wanted to take it to an overly philosophical level, I could observe that urban structures are monuments to human achievement — which, if I might say without offending the bears, is pretty amazing.

So I suppose this leaves me somewhere between a reverence for trees and a reverence for steel. How do I resolve that with my innately green conscience?

I don’t really think I have to. I don’t want Vermont and its landscape to become a fearful thing. I don’t want to feel bad every time I go hiking, with every pine and every babbling brook pointing its finger and  reminding me of the green reforms I could be instituting in my life but haven’t. I want to turn the lights on in my room without hearing a daisy yelp with pain in the back of my mind. Nature shouldn’t be a guilt trip.

But if we continue to clump our lifestyles into categories of “good” and “bad,” I think that’s where we might end up. I have a Vermont perspective. You may not. So what? It’s not like the environmental movement is a consequence of some ridiculous rural vendetta against urbanites. At least, it shouldn’t be. Obviously there needs to be a change, but it’s not something that should intimidate us or force us into one extreme or the other.

Lastly, I hope that with this change, my children and my children’s children and their children after that will get to know what it’s like to unearth a potato.