I’m always slightly startled to find that I’m in my seventies and sliding downhill. On this side of the journey, I seem to be saying more good-byes than hellos. I’ve said good-bye to many friends with whom I started this journey. I’ve said good-bye to my wife of forty years, to my profession of teaching writing, to places I’ve lived and the friends I’ve made there (Like a Stone Skipping Cross the Water), to several dogs and one cat, to solo drinking, to motorcycling, to two knees and one shoulder— I could go on.
After watching Cowspiracy last night (available on Netflix–please watch it), I am ready to add meat, fish, and eggs to my growing list of good-byes. The jury might still be out on milk, fish and eggs, but the meat has to go. Even if half of what Kip Anderson and his crew documented is true, anyone who claims to be concerned about the environment should go vegetarian, if not vegan.
I watched the film last night at James Madison University with a roomful of students and a sprinkling of concerned codgers like me. I am constantly thrilled by young people. I find most of them seriously concerned about the environment and the well-being of others rather than focused solely on themselves, a concern clearly evident in the question and answer period that followed the film. They seem to know at twenty what took me seventy years to learn, although I must say in my defense that I have for decades been an environmentalist, even though I have for too long been eating meat.
The real point of environmentalism lies in thinking about others. You go outside the self, no easy task, to care for those you love, for others you hardly know, for the animal and plant world, and for those who will live after you–your children, your grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of the others now living. I cannot in any way understand climate-change skeptics, fossil-fuel advocates, oil-barons–basically, narcissists who are willing to challenge facts and science for the sake of personal profit, those who claim that current economic growth outweighs the probability of global disaster sixty years from now. I am not a Christian, but I get what Jesus is reported to have said, why he raided the money-changers.
So for me, Cowspiracy was good-bye to how I have lived (although I am going to broil that salmon, eat that cheese, and drink the milk I now have in my refrigerator).
But good-byes, until perhaps the final one, are also hellos, new ways of seeing the landscapes through which we are traveling to wherever we are going. This is the pleasure of growing old.