The death of compromise?

"Greening" initiative in the cafeteria has apparently failed.

By Paul King, Editorial Director

I read an interesting OpEd piece in the Los Angeles Times last week, about the return to “normalcy” in the Longworth Building cafeteria at the U.S. House of Representatives. The writer was celebrating the fact that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s greening initiative in the cafeteria apparently has failed.

Yes, the compostable tableware has been 86’ed, as well as the “sea of didactic signage” about the cafeteria’s environmental efforts, according to the columnist. In addition, many of the highfalutin’ menu items added by the “know-it-all liberal elite” have been replaced by more recognizable fare, such as fried chicken and mac and cheese, preferred by the “centrist-to-right” public.

Now, I am not a fan of Nancy Pelosi, and I suppose that if I had to pigeonhole myself politically I would be part of the centrist-to-right grouping. (I like to think of myself as a “depends on the issue” person.) But I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness reading this column. I was disappointed that a well-meaning attempt to bring more socially responsible practices to a foodservice operation had failed.

But I think I was more depressed by the undisguised glee in the writer’s words as she trashed Pelosi’s efforts. She was dancing on the program’s grave like the people of Oz at the death of the Wicked Witch of the West (to whom, of course, conservatives have compared Pelosi).

Is it just me, or is this country becoming so mired in the black-and-white that we have no room for compromise? Have we abandoned the practice of critical examination, whereby issues are broken down and solutions uncovered that would at least somewhat satisfy all parties involved?

Perhaps the compostable tableware used in the Longworth cafeteria needs to be refined to make it more ecologically sound as well as practicable. Does that mean that the concept of compostable tableware is bad? I don’t think so, but the L.A. Times columnist certainly does. Maybe “cuisine”—yes, the writer even talked of cuisine as if it were a poison—such as turkey escabeche and the panzanilla station are more highbrow than low-to-middle-income staffers in the federal government are accustomed to. Does that mean that expanding employees’ culinary horizons is in itself a bad thing? Apparently so, according to the Times writer.

When the whole “greening” effort began several years ago, I thought we had touched on a topic most people could agree needed to be addressed. Sure, there would be some trial and error, and our reach would almost certainly exceed our grasp. But eventually we could come up with a solution to our environmental challenges. But if we can’t even reach a compromise on aiding the environment—indeed, if we can’t even come to some agreement on whether there is even a problem—how can we ever solve our country’s, and planet’s, other challenges?

Keywords: 
sustainability