Thoreau as Model for a Heirloom Gardening Movement

Ghandi. Martin Luther King, Jr. Anti-war protesters from the 1970s. Three significant agents of social change. They credit Thoreau as an inspiration for their action. So why not use Thoreau as a model for a social change against GMOs, and the Industrial Food Complex? If you read Walden, Thoreau lays out an example of being self-sustaining, and the value of economy. The chapter of Economy in Walden, to me references what we call our carbon footprint today. If blogging been around in his time, Thoreau would've been a great blogger.

Thoreau's writing about phenology is cited frequently.


is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate.

Nature's influence on Thoreau's journal writings, his beliefs, and philosophy was immense. I would love to read what he would write about GMOs, factory farming, and especially climate change.  When you consider the painstaking detail of his phenology work, and how climate change can make it all obsolete, his point of view of where we are at today, and the lack of government action on climate change, would be an important critique. All though with the state of society today, he would have to do it a reality TV format that our culture embraces so dearly to have an impact.

Can you see Bravo or TLC doing Civil Disobedience, where Thoreau lays out his argument for taking a moral stand against the government? Neither can I.

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau's wrote about how an personal act of conscious is larger than any civil law. Thoreau's objection was to slavery and the  Mexcian-American War, both embraced by the American government at the time. He wrote about this after spending a night in jail after withholding his poll tax while at Walden. He was released after someone paid his tax debt for him.

Mention civil disobedience in conversation, and it send shudders down the spines of a lot of people. It's not for everyone, and long term, it's not sustainable, like a an organic, heirloom garden. That may seem like a huge leap, but it's really not. Both are actions that can be used to take a conscious stand against actions that our government or corporations are taking that have negative impacts on society and nature.

Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) uses genetic engenering to modify an organism to achieve a certain end than nature intended. There is no value to nature, or to human beings added by this process. It's about profit and control by the corporation modifying the organism.

While governments outside the USA are taking steps to ban these organisms, we have a government that appoints Michael Taylor,a former lawyer for Monsanto, the company that is leading the charge for GMOs, as the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at The Food and Drug Administration. The American government is also siding with the Industrial Food Complex by allowing GMOs into processed foods, and not enforcing these foods be labeled so the consumer knows what they are eating.

It's not slavery, which was Thoreau's objection, but with the government allowing the use of GMOs while not enforcing the labeling of foods that contain GMOs, this action removes the freedom of choice and trust that is part of the social fabric in a free and just society. While there is no law forcing the American public to eat GMOs, allowing the use of them while not enforcing the labeling of foods that contain them, in my opinion, is  tacit concent.

tacit consent - (law) tacit approval of someone's wrongdoing

It puts more value on the profit of the Industrial Food Complex than on the health and well being of our planet, our democracy and our society.

When you have a society that embraces Snooki, Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives, asking them to take action that would qualify as civil disobedience would fall on deaf and dumb ears, like their reality TV Goddesses.

Positioning an organic heirloom garden as means of action against the tacit consent of the American government on GMOs is more accessible to a wider range of people than an act of civil disobedience.

It's also a good first step to disconnect from the Industrial Food Complex. Social change takes a long time. Especially, when it's against large corporate interests, and their influence on government policy. An organic heirloom garden is nature driven, sustainable and authentic. Positioning it as an action for social change against government and corporate interests that puts the health of nature and society at risk, such as what's going on with GMOs right now, is one that I think would have Thoreau's approval.