We’re only about four weeks away from what is arguably the biggest event of the year here in this part of Vermont—the county fair, known as “Addison County Fair and Field Days”, or, in the vernacular, just as “Field Days”. Field Days is the quintessential county fair—carnival rides, a Ferris wheel, kids showing cows and goats and all manner of other livestock, baking and canning competitions, horse and oxen pulling, hand mowing, antique farm equipment demonstrations, cotton candy, cast-iron-skillet tossing, logging exhibits, ridiculously-bad-for-you fair food, farm equipment dealers with displays, karaoke contests, etc, etc, etc. (I know it’s not proper to use “etc.” more than once, but sometimes it just seems to fit). The fair is five days long, and culminates on Saturday night with a tremendous fireworks display. Good times for everyone, and a hearty display of the kinds of values that we’re going to need going forward—an appreciation for the land and nature, community, family togetherness, volunteering. We buy “season passes” and usually go over every evening for the five days. The kids enjoy the rides and food and hanging out with their friends, and I enjoy, in fact, really enjoy, having a beer or two at the designated “beer tent,” put up by the local brewery, eating some BBQ ribs from the rib place, and then (here’s the “conundrum” part)—watching the demolition derbies and tractor pulls. I can’t think of two activities more diametrically opposed to concern for the future of the planet than demolition derbies and tractor pulls. Demolition derbies, somewhat akin to modern gladiator fighting, are veritable celebrations of destruction and waste, and both the derbies and the pulling are almost religious devotions to the fossil-fuel era. But I grew up in that era, and paid for college by working in a machine shop rebuilding the very engines that power both, and have raced cars and driven street machines with enough horsepower to light up the tires.
So, it will be a bit incongruous, me driving the family over in the silent Nissan Leaf, to watch the demolition derbies and tractor pulls. Worse, (or at least related) as I sit there and talk to my son about turbos and boost and transmission blankets and gear ratios and kill switches, he’s going to end up liking tractor pulls, too.
But, we need to get away from this in the future. Profligate fossil fuel use, and wanton destruction and consumption, are, writ large, related to the very problems that are devastating the planet. So I’m not sure if even sitting there watching is contributing to the problem.
So, I’m torn (well, I’m not actually torn; I’ll be going). I want to do my part, and make changes that are part of the solution. But I don’t want to be a zealot, to be that socially awkward party-attendee who won’t eat the food because he doesn’t know where it came from, or the person who won’t ever get on an airplane because they don’t want to voluntarily consume that fossil fuel.
I’ve posted before about middle grounds and moderation. For a few days in early August, I’ll just have to let Field Days be part of that, part of a personal Buddhist-like environmental Middle Way. Maybe in the future we can still have tractor pulls with alcohol-fueled engines, and the alcohol can be made from sustainably-grown grain, and the remnants of the smashed-up demolition cars can be taken immediately to the recycler after the contests to be made into new electric vehicles. We’ll just have to learn to do without those clouds of black diesel exhaust.