When a great friend in Philadelphia said he and his consort were planning to come north for the climate march, I hopped right up on my high horse and gave him an e-lecture on the futility of taking it to the streets — hadn’t we learned from the 2003 debacle, when hundreds of thousands froze our asses off before the illegal invasion of Iraq, only to be written off as a “focus group” by the White House and mere fodder for page A26 by the hometown paper? So what the hell was I doing standing outside the Dakota on Sunday midday, as close as I could get to the food contingent waiting to start inching down Central Park West to the “starting point” of the demonstration? I’ll blame some old Burgundies at a dinner of Fairway-frisky lobsters the night before; all the talk made me think maybe I should actually walk the walk rather than sit home posting endless links online.
I read crazy people, so I know the wingnuts perceived the demonstrators as “hippie filth.” (Seriously. In 2014.) Clearly they didn’t read any of the smart signs and T-shirts and banners, which were remarkably positive (I spotted only one Kochsucker message). But I’ll have to admit, after going through my photos and videos, after that hour and a half outside the Dakota: I’m not sure the food world was so well-represented. What I saw in that tight space were a lot of vegans out in force with healthier-than-thou smugness, and the indictments of beef and milk were over the top. For all the advocacy of “food justice” and clean water and rights for food workers, there were too many blinkered views of what’s really ailing this ecosystem. Years ago I read a sharp, unsettling piece in Harper’s that made a seriously persuasive case that it’s not just animal agriculture but all agriculture that should be banned for Earth’s sake. If we really cared, rather than beef-blaming and tofu-grilling we would be shooting elk and subsisting on wild plants — getting ourselves back to the real garden. Somehow I suspect marchers in leather sandals drinking soy milk are not going to buy that. The answer is far from simple. But at least I didn’t spot any signs blaming gluten for global warming.