This post is linked up with Tasty Tuesdays; Tuesday Talent Show; Slightly Indulgent Tuesday; This Chick Cooks; Simple Lives Thursday; Fight Back Friday; The Gallery of Favorites via The 21st Century Housewife; Friday Food Flicks; The Living Well Bloghop; Freaky Friday; Fresh Bites Friday; Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; Seasonal Celebration Sunday.
As most of you know – because you are all loyal and attentive readers –last Friday we screened the film FRESH by film maker, Ana Joanes. There was such a massive response from the screening both in traffic as well as emails and comments I thought we could rehash some of the details that are so instrumental in the film and our food system.
Now, the film has a butt-load of great quotations but one of the ones that really struck me (and I think works as a good segue to our discussion) was by George Naylor, an industrial grain farmer who said, “When i was in college my roommate was from Pakistan and he says George, he says ‘ya know Americans fear only one thing… Inconvenience”.
It is this thought process that exemplifies the entire industrial food system. The truth is, we found a way to grow food things bigger, better, faster cheaper (to steal a phrase from Joel Salatin). Professor John Ikerd, an expert in this field & an Agricultural Economist, concurs:
“We find something that works well, and we continue to use it because it works so well and then..we begin to apply that same kind of paradigm of industrialization [to the food system]: Specialization, standardization, economies of scale. We begin to apply it to everything and it doesn’t work on everything”.
Living organisms such as our selves, our loved ones, the animals we eat and the various ecosystems of the planet cannot be standardized! No matter how hard trans-national companies and global agribusiness try. Yet in this culture of consumerism that we have been so indoctrinated into, most of us haven’t stopped to ask should we grow food this way? What is it doing to the land? To those who produce our food? To each other?
As Will Allen, an urban farmer & activist in the film said, “We just want want want. We want all this food but we don’t want to think about who’s growing it, what the farmers have to go through, whether they’re making money, we don’t worry about chemical residue on food that’s lining your plate”.
What is this type of eating and consuming actually doing to the planet and each other?
The truth is, there is no cheap food. If what we’re paying at the supermarket seems like a “great deal”, it just means the true cost of the food is being externalized somewhere else. To the planet. To the heritage and heirloom varieties of plants that are being wiped out by GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. To the traditional knowledges of working with and for the land. To the farmer. To the agriculture workers. To the animals. To our health and by extension, to health care and the public dollar.
I know, there are those of you out there who think we need to “feed the world”. My response to that is usually, we can’t feed the world. Even with all the technological advances of every industry on the planet, the Earth can’t sustain that kind of transportation of goods and environmental degradation – never mind the social affects of such production. It is that drive to feed the world that spawned the atrocities of the Green Revolution. When big industry talks about feeding the world, they’re really talking about feeding the cattle and other livestock that are at the unsustainable center of our food system. That’s not an argument not to eat meat, but it eat it in smaller amounts, less often, and when we do, from sustainable, “ethical” sources – local, small scale, grass fed, and organic.In truth, we need to feed ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities in ways that foster traditional, cultural, and local learning of specific eco-systems that vary even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Community is the way forward, my friends – especially in urban centers.
I’ll close with this: The globalized corporate food system is unsustainable. Period. But as Michael Pollan (whom I love!) says, “When people say the industrial system is unsustainable…we throw around that word without thinking ‘what does that really mean?” It really means it can’t go on this way. Monocultures are very dangerous things. A Monoculture is lot of the same species grown together without variation. Nature doesn’t have monocultures. When you grow too many of the same thing, you end up with too many of the pests of that thing. The only reason you can grow vast amount of the exact same species of animal in close confinement is you use antibiotics to keep them alive. Monocultures of corn, soy, rice, cotton – same issue. It takes an immense amount of fertilizer and pesticides to keep that crop healthy. Because nature doesn’t like monocultures – sooner or later, she will destroy them”.
We need to start being more inconvenienced. We need to live smaller. We need to slow down. And we need to start asking more questions if we want to leave anything for generations to come – which I believe we have a responsibility, as stewards of the Earth, to do. We’re all implicated in this and we can’t not be. And we can’t be perfect all the time – we have to balance our “wants”. I don’t know a single person who is so extremist they can live in a way that doesn’t do any harm at all. And I don’t think that kind of extremism is a sustainable way of living for most people. What we can do is what we can do, in small bits, until each one of us is doing it right. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Shop at supermarkets. Grow some herbs – heck! Grow a tomato plant or two! Get a plot in a community garden and meet other people who are interested in the same cause. Demand restaurants in your area only buy seasonally & locally from organic growers in your area. Start a community kitchen in your neighborhood. Host a potluck based on local, seasonal food where you live & organize to talk about feeding and nourishing each other. Write letters. Just, do something.
What can we do in our own backyards, front yards, and communities to make a dent in the global food system?
What are you doing now, in this moment, to make your/our food system more “sustainable”?
What do you wish you could do?
What would make this project more “do-able” for you?
What did you think about FRESH if you watched it?
If you didn’t, what do you think about my thoughts here?
What are your thoughts?
Can I ask anymore questions? …aye!… let’s talk!