'Tis the Season to ask, "What would I be happy without?"
Why did I have to be stopped by protesters on Guatemalan roads to pay attention to my father pounding “No Mowing” signs into the ditch? His is a desperate attempt to honor biodiversity in our rural community. We don’t let the ground rest. We don’t let ourselves rest. Being idle means you’re less, or worse, you’re lost. It is better to have a destination than to understand why you are going there. I was simultaneously raised on rebellion and achievement. The planet is driven by similar measurement and conflicting expectations. The climate has changed.
Diversity has lost its value. Agriculture has trained its own cadre of warriors, causing erosion, pollution and deforestation, permitting semis to plunge across countryside where highway bypasses cut off rural communities. First, they ravage the road itself, and then the road turns upon its sides, until the blacktop sea and choking smoke sweeps across homes and plants alike. Encroachment and pollution are only whispers.
“Do you want to farm again?” I ask my father.
“Is it your dream to milk 20,000 cows at a time? To have more manure than milk?” he replies. I am illiterate in weather patterns. I smell hay at the county fair, but it is an appreciation defined by the smell from a singular, nonnative grass. Five years later at the same fair there is not even one sweet smelling tendril of the coiffured grass I loved.
It took strikes in a highland village in Guatemala, roadblocks and abandoned buses for me to read in a book at my local library that large seed corporations are buying heirloom seeds, and I am saddened. Still, should I be more disappointed in myself that my coworkers in Guatemala can taste the difference between subtle varieties of corn and beans, and I cannot even tell apart those that are fresh and those that were heated from a can? My tongue has lost something. How can I name solutions if I cannot name seeds? What pieces of this key interaction with the planet, do we grow? Which seeds do we save? Am I one of them? As a child my dad took a written test to use Roundup. I found his books in the closet. Now he only needs to take a trip to the store.
Commercialism replaced our drawers of heirloom seeds with endless shelves of cereal boxes. Community gardens or shared farming cooperatives are seemingly popular, but organizations struggle to find volunteers to weed and harvest them. At the same time, illegal immigrants brave deserts and degradation to milk a cow or pick a tomato only miles away. Both are examples of the mass exodus of the most capable defining success as an “unlocal” concept, never to return home. Each individual is a larger imagined communities rejecting parts of itself. I am one such example too. The climate is changed in the name of need and want no longer separate in our dictionary. What would I be happy without? That answer is what I must answer for.