Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

first, they have to believe they can

A coworker asked me a few weeks ago if I’d read Omnivore’s Dilemma. I have not. I’ve heard quite a bit about it, though, and so we were able to talk a bit about some of the things that were brought up.

This led to a conversation on gardening, of which we’ve had many. He grows as much food as he can, and I started gardening this year and have been quite excited at my first few cukes and tomatoes. Another coworker in our pod, who has heard many of these conversations, seemed to have been struck by a comment one of us made about how important growing our own food is when it comes to a goal of reducing our dependence on oil.

I work with a lot of conservatives, and it is interesting the way that some of our beliefs match up. For instance, they might have an “us or them” mentality that drives their belief that we need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, but I’ve likely made them realize that living in a closed-system that is the earth means that dependency on any oil is destined to end in crisis. So they might still want to primarily reduce their oil usage because of them controlling most of the oil, but we have similar general goals of reducing oil usage.

And of course the cost of gas right now makes these conversations easier. People believe more readily that riding a bike to the pool instead of driving is a viable option, and that it is not only viable, but that it is a lot more logical than getting in the car to drive a mile or two. (As an aside, statistics consistently show that 40% of car trips that Americans make are 2 miles or less!) And the coworker overhearing us talk about gardening as a way to reduce dependencies on oil, who had never talked about or shown any interest in gardening before, suddenly started asking us, “How do I start to garden?” I think he’s also heard us talk about our various gardening challenges and believes finally that it is worth trying, despite his less than ideal-for-gardening yard.

The coworker who asked me about Omnivore’s Dilemma I thought would be interested in reading Diet For a Dead Planet. That book was one that started me getting serious about environmental issues, and it talks about some human rights issues. It talks about a lot of environmental issues surrounding intensive farming, specifically “animal farming”. I know that this can lead to people buying grass-fed animals instead of going vegan, but my coworkers are well aware that I’m vegan, and they’re well aware that my answer to this question is to go vegan. If they want to have that conversation, they know where to find me. I brought it in for him, and his eyes lit up. He’s definitely interested in the environmental impact of his food choices.

I suppose my purpose is to broaden their knowledge and their views where they already have the interest. This is where my own wide range in reading comes in handy.

I’m not talking about animal rights with them, I’m not even directly advocating veganism. This is a work place, first and foremost, and as is true of just about any work place I’ve ever worked, you need to be careful of the lines you walk. Sharing books that someone has already said they’re interested in is one thing. Lecturing on veganism or animal rights is another. Unless they’ve asked you to tell them about it.

In my opinion, anyway.

So I’m taking an indirect route, and mostly assuming that the more they think and learn about the environment and their impact on others (humans, or non-humans) the more likely it will be that they will start to seriously consider the ethics of the food they eat.

It is no guarantee that they’ll end up considering veganism, but lecturing them on veganism could very well close their mind to it anyway.

Something I’m coming to believe, through these recent conversations with my coworkers, as well as through a conversation with a neighbor today and my own experiences in the lead up to deciding to bike commute, is that the very first step for these changes to happen is that we have to believe that we can.

We have to believe that biking 14 miles to a place we weren’t sure was reachable other than by highways is in fact bikable, and that biking 14 miles in all weather is in fact achievable. We have to believe that we could survive, and be happy, eating vegan food. We have to believe that a life without Earth Balance is still a delicious satisfying vegan life. We have to believe that it is worth giving gardening a shot, and that we have nothing to lose from the attempt. We have to believe that we can make these changes.

And once we believe that, we consider it, and in considering it our natural compassion, ethics, and whatever else comes to play in our decisions, will come into play fully.

I can’t guarantee the outcome, but I am seeing the power of enabling the belief in change itself.

YMMV, of course.




One response to “first, they have to believe they can

  1. Abram July 27, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Nice post! I very much agree that preaching veganism can be counterproductive and can turn people off and close their minds more. But, in my experience at work as well, simply being vegan in a non-vegan environment, an environment in which I spend a much of my time, does raise questions. And once questions are raised, answers can be given. I detest preaching and proselytising. Even the word activism makes me somewhat uncomfortable. It is in my own choices–what I purchase for food, clothing, or other use, and in what activities I take part–that my activism, if you want to call it that, lies.

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