What’s on the other side of the bridge between knowledge and action? A really good meal.
Marion K. Hubbert, the geologist who coined the idea of peak oil, famously stated that “Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know.” When I first read them, those words felt like a slap in the face and, at the same time, like the relief that comes from a diagnosis: it doesn’t cure anything, but at least the enemy has a name.
At the time of my first encounter with Hubbert’s wry wisdom, I was working in support of clean energy technology development at a national research institution. On one hand, it was a dream job: I had the opportunity to use my knowledge and skills to help power a more sustainable future. On the other hand, learning more about energy extraction, production, and use fueled my nightmares: it became obvious to me that humans are monsters with the capacity — and, frankly, will — to destroy everything they encounter to fuel themselves and power their stuff.
I quit my job. I wish I could say it was a principled decision, but really I was 4 months pregnant, my position at the institute was not a secure one, and an exciting opportunity for which I was thoroughly qualified came up at a university with childcare options. I interviewed and was hired. (My daughter never got a daycare spot though.) I was back to working with social scientists.
Hubbert’s quote kept nagging me. Whether talking about energy or education, the problem remained: we know a lot about the measures that could alleviate social inequalities (like, I don’t know, universal childcare), but we aren’t implementing them. Of course, we can do more and more research about it to conquer our ignorance… but what if we dedicated our whole selves to putting the knowledge we do have into action?
I quit my job. I wish I could say it was a principled decision, but really I was about to give birth to my second child, my husband was (finally!) starting his own professional career and couldn’t be counted on for daycare pick up, and we made conservative financial decisions so I could stay home for a few years to decrease the stress on us all.
After bedtime and during preciously short preschool hours, I’d try to figure out what knowledge we do have about decreasing humans’ toll on the planet — and, by no coincidence, on our own health and well-being — and seek to put that knowledge into practice.
That was over 6 years ago now. Where am I now?
That’s what this Medium publication is about: my quest to know better and do better, my attempt to be part of the solution. It’s a messy world so I’m making a lot of mistakes. Feel free to point them out, so I can try and correct them.
Food is at the core of my journey. A really good meal (the kind that’s good in every way, an elusive goal), shared with community, seems at once like the cornerstone and the keystone of a life well lived, individually and collectively. That’s what I will be writing about here.
Let’s read and write, let’s get inspired to do and eat better.