Um, actually, he WON’T be having the Chilean sea bass, THANKS (Day 328)…

January 22, 2008

ian at moma

This is one of my bestest friends, Ian. He works in policy for the provincial government’s e-health program, likes ironic meditation and isn’t too bad in the kitchen. We’ve known each other for 15 years, so there’s no need for politesse when we hang out together — it’s all bluntness, all the time.

Some of you may remember my recent jaunt to New York — well, Ian came with me on that trip, and it was probably the first time he’s seen my green lifestyle up close. He made fun of my myrrh-based mouthwash, put up with my grumbling about how ugly bangs get without proper blow drying and indulged in my fanatical shopping sprees at every local design store in Brooklyn (I, in turn, put up with him checking his luggage).

Anyway, while we were in Greenwich, we went to this amazing restaurant called Sushi Samba. There was so much to choose from on the menu and we were on a roll — every bite was followed by simultaneous looks at one another of, “Oh my god, are you tasting what I’m tasting? Because I’m tasting something between heaven and ambrosia.”

But in the midst of our ordering frenzy, I heard the waiter suggest the Chilean sea bass, then heard Ian agree to this, and just couldn’t let it happen. I interrupted, explained why this was not cool (it’s practically endangered, to say the least), and he agreed to order something else.

Yes, we were eating lots of other fish, and I didn’t have my SeaChoice list of which ones were good, bad or mediocre in terms of sustainability, but for whatever reason I got my back up about the sea bass (technically called a Patagonia toothfish, which sounds far less appetizing, no?).

This is something that happens a lot in my life now: People around me do something bad for the environment, and I have to decide whether to point it out or let it slide. Part of me doesn’t want to impose my judgment on others, but another part wants to create a gentle ripple effect and spread my newfound green knowledge. I mean, on the one hand, speaking out for Mother Nature is an integral part of being an environmentalist, but on the other hand, self-righteous hippies are annoying.

Ian said afterwards that he thought I handled the situation appropriately — I didn’t create a fuss, I didn’t lecture him about anything else he was ordering, I simply stated my case for why a certain dish on the menu upset me, let him make the final decision and that was that.

In the long run, I think such things will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis. If the person next to me drops a Styrofoam container of leftover factory-farm meat on the sidewalk, you bet I’m going to say something. But if someone standing in front of me at the coffee shop doesn’t have a reusable thermos like I do, I might not.

However, that’s the long run. For now, I’m letting everyone know about all the things I’ve learned doing this challenge. Getting other people to be green in ways I can’t was one change, but this is about didactics — teaching, sharing and initiating dialogue whenever possible, whether it’s with a friend at a sushi restaurant or a colleague at the cafeteria.