Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Weekend of Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam is a Jewish saying and means ‘to repair the world’. But can one person really make a difference? According to Rabbi Tarfon, a sage of the first century AD, “it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Maybe we can’t stop global warming, but we do have to make a start. And I have.

For me, baking bread is a political act to take back control over what my family eats. So I prepared for Shabbat by baking a challah, running back and forth from the kitchen to my home office, as the bread rose.

Each week during the summer I’ve made the egg bread, and each week I’ve switched recipes because sometimes the darn thing doesn’t rise enough, even with well proofed yeast.

This Friday night’s version rose (hooray) and had good taste but could have been less dry. Next week I’ll read King Arthur Flour’s baking tips to figure out the moisture problem.

The electric bill came on Friday too, for joy for joy. I tore it open like a college acceptance envelope before the advent of email. We’ve been sweating for weeks as part of what seems to be a national, grassroots crusade to turn off the AC. Was it all going to be worth it? Had I let go of the grid even a few fingers full?

And the envelope please…yes, the news was good! We’d cut our daily kilowatts by 2/3 from last year and nearly ¾ from the year before.

Now, just a little transparency. In 2006, there were 6 people living in my house over the summer months. For family reasons, my parents had joined the 4 of us. Last year it was more like 3½ persons, since the oldest was working many hours, as a good college sophomore should do, helping her poor suffering parents with the tuition bill just a wee bit.

This summer we’re practicing empty nesters: one kid in Boston, the other at camp. Come mid-August, we’ll have a Perfect Heat Wave – both kids back, ready to see if hot air really does rise to the second floor bedrooms. Those savings will go right back to SoCal Edison, I’m sure. But we’ll be watching our kWh’s again come September.

Last week I discovered a new recycling option. The Agoura Hills Library recycles used batteries. We had 3 cups full of AAs and AAAs that I’d been saving for just such a find. I packed them in the car to be deposited along the way on my (new) weekly trip to the Farmers’ Market in Old Town Calabasas, a 20 mile round trip. Our Oak Park Farmers’ Market will be opened once the powers that be agree about parking. I hope that’s soon. A three mile round trip will save time and gas.

I’m still learning my way around the produce stalls, having only gone the last three weekends. Should I buy right away or check out everyone’s prices? Will the fruit from each tomato vendor taste differently? I can’t say I’m having the level of ‘Bill McKibben-Deep Economy-build community' conversations yet, but I am learning more about how food from the ground is supposed to look.

And today I happened upon a video of a Pat Murphy lecture that made me feel hopeful about the future. Pat is the executive director of Community Solutions and the author of Plan C-Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change.

He doesn’t think all the technological changes we’re hoping will save us will actually work. He believes we’ll have to change how we live and who we are.

Of course that means we all have to get on the bus to make it work and that will take leadership and vision to convince everyone to get onboard. But it means that every individual's effort has meaning.

Yes I can ... repair the world one recycled battery, loaf of bread and red, yellow or orange tomato at a time. And I’ve already started.

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