Chapter Eleven in which Hippo has an epiphany

“They have to eat!” I blurted.

“What are you talking about, Hippo?”

“They have to eat!” I repeated. “There are a lot of humans and they all have to eat!”

“There are 7 billion,” said Al, “and, of course, they have to eat. Isn’t that the problem?”

“Don’t you see, Al? As Wendell Berry said, ‘The act of eating itself is an agricultural act.’ Every day, eaters are actively shaping the way food is grown and produced, for better or for worse. Since each human might eat two or three meals a day, a thousand or so in a yearly cycle, there are many opportunities for an individual to influence the food system and help regenerate the Earth. Multiply that by the number of humans – 7 billion, was it?”

“Maybe 7 1/2 by now,” said Al.

“Just think of that, Al. Over 7 billion humans are already actively involved in creating the food system just by eating. If they want to live, they have no choice but to eat, but they often do have a choice about what they will eat – and therein lies a golden opportunity.”

“Hippo, you are a genius,” said Al.

“I thought of it it because of potluck dinners,” I said.

“Potluck dinners?” asked Al.

“It’s a great human tradition, Al. They gather together for a meal and everybody brings a little something to share with the others. Nobody has to work too hard and they end up with a feast.”

“So you’re saying that if the 7 billion humans all came to a potluck dinner, we would have one heck of a spread.”

“Well, yes, Al, but it’s just a metaphor. What I’m saying is . . .”

“I know what you’re saying, Hippo. I was also speaking metaphorically,” said Al with his beak in the air. “You’re saying if everyone made simple, small changes, it could add up to making a big difference.”

Al and I readied our plan. It was time to meet the other animals again and present our findings and recommendations.