Friday, July 18, 2014

Lessons in livestock

     In the timeless movie “The Wizard of Oz,” young Dorothy skips along the yellow brick road with the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow, chanting, “Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!”

     Last week, the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously, “Chickens, a goat, a sheep, Oh no!” when it denied the newly chartered Syringa Mountain School the ability to house the small animals on its school grounds in the Woodside light-industrial area.

     The animals were to be part of the education program at the school, along with gardening.

     What the school requested in terms of the city zoning may have been too broad in that it would have expanded what’s allowed in the city as “urban agriculture.” Goats and sheep would have been added to bees and chickens. The city could surely find a way to craft an ordinance more narrowly to allow animals for educational purposes at the school yet not allow such uses on every property in the city.

     As the world becomes more crowded with human beings, we have become ever more separate from the animals that sustain us with their hides, meat, eggs and milk. With that separation comes ignorance of the knowledge of the life processes that sustain our species and others on Earth. This knowledge can’t be acquired roaming the aisles of grocery stores or from seeing the “Lion King” movie and singing about the circle of life.

     The detachment from our food sources limits our ability to contemplate one of the basic conundrums of life itself: killing in order to live.

     Author Michael Pollan, who chronicled his quest to understand food, wrote, “The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”

     That’s a lesson worth teaching in our schools.

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