Gardening: Just for Yuppies and Econerds?

In a recent New York Times piece, Michael Pollan lamented how little we, as individuals, can do to ward off climate change. But he also made a strong case for one activity that just might help the environment—starting a backyard vegetable garden.

You begin to see that growing even a little of your own food is, as Wendell Berry pointed out 30 years ago, one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way ‘solutions’ like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do — actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon.

That is, gardening is one exercise that never involves a car trip to the gym. It’ll leave you with the freshest veggies you’ve ever tasted, and if you grow more than you can consume it might even help you reconnect with your neighbors. Sounds like a can’t-lose situation, but Andrew Leonard of Salon challenges Michael Pollan’s stance on the grounds that Leonard—like many of us—just doesn’t have the time to “weed or hoe or water.” In Leonard’s opinion, gardening is hard work:

To be able to enjoy it as play, or as an almost spiritual exercise that connects you more deeply to the earth and all living things (some of which you must kill: Die, all aphids and snails!) can be a tough call after a long day or week at the office. It can also be an affectation that is only accessible to those who spend their Sunday mornings working their way through the New York Times, before deciding where to put their snap pea trellis.

So, he’s saying that gardening is not only laborious—it’s also a bourgie pastime for people with nothing better to do, kind like playing croquet while sipping white wine spritzers. The gardeners among us may take offense to such a statement, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that once Mr. Leonard’s green-thumbed neighbors get wind of this piece they’ll be taking their backyard produce to more appreciative recipients.