Friday, September 23, 2011

Eating Local - The Necessity


Chicken today contains 266 percent more fat than it did 40 years ago.
What’s more, today’s chicken also has 33 percent less protein, according to a study from the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Mejtropolitan University. The problem is modern farming practices. Cramped environments and unnatural diets produce birds that have the same weight problems as the humans who eat them

University of Washington researchers calculated the cost discrepancy between healthy food and junk foods and found that 2,000 calories of junk food rings up at a measly $3.52 a day. Yet for 2,000 calories of nutritious grub, the researchers plunked down $36. To add insult to fiscal injury, out of every dollar you spend on food, only 19 cents goes toward the stuff you eat. The other 81 percent goes toward marketing, manufacturing, and packaging. Think about that the next time your grocery bill jumps into triple-digit dollars.
Image courtesy of Earth Song

Let's face facts, we're talking a lot about food these days. Food safety. Food desserts. Natural foods. Whole foods. Organic foods. Processed, frozen and thawed, unrecognizable food. Food shortages. Food security. Food democracy.

But the corporatization of our food supply leaves us less in touch with not only what we are eating, but our role in this planet and our identities as people.

And there's no shortage of talk about this phenomenon. Which is good. We need to have this conversation because nearly every other voice surrounding us in telling us that what and how we are eating is fine and great and can't really be changed even if we desired it to be (which we would never do, we're told).

Movies like Food, Inc., King Corn, The Economics of Happiness (highly recommended for this series), Super Size Me, and books like The Carnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation have caused us to begin talking about doing something different.

Because, in case you missed the intro, Chicken contains 266 percent more fat than it did 40 years ago.

That's nearly three times as fat as in the early 70's. Not because the chicken has evolved and can handle all the extra weight. In fact, if you've watched any of those movies, you know that they can't. They can't stand up or move around. Their breasts are too heavy for their own body to support. So they're immobile. Which means that they are not healthy. And they get diseases. And those diseases are treated with all sorts of vaccines which is not helping to protect us from super-bugs - and putting more poison in our and our children's bloodstream.

Add to this that the blood and waste from dying (or slaughtered) and rotting chickens, pigs, cows, etc. is going directly to our water streams and affecting the down-hill vegetation, including spinach, peanuts, soy, oats... (Do any of these food groups sound familiar? What if we add in the word "salmonella"?)

And then there's that extra crap that goes into our food when it's being processed. The flavor of our natural orange juice - the ones that come in that carton which we associate with milk and farms and innocent childhoods, for example, is completely artificial - the work of chemists. Filler is made from wood chips. Pesticides were designed from as methods of warfare. Genetic modification means that - at the least - companies are owning copyrights on shared grains.

Steroids are killing cows and causing our children to develop too fast. Carcinogens can be traced back from rain water, pesticides, genetic modifications, bleachings and other treatments, storage, shipment, transportation, manufacturing, and processing.

Add to these factors the fact that those who sow, reap, pluck, gather our foods often, ironically, go hungry themselves as they work for nearly slave wages and are themselves distanced from the very bountiful harvest their hands touch... Those who pull roots from the ground cannot keep enough potatoes on their tables.

Our disconnect from our food reaps violence. Because we've so centralized our food system, only those with money have true access to the best of foods (and water). Most of us are stuck with modified, highly processed, bleached/frozen/de-nutritioned foods. That is, if we have access at all...

What we need is regain control, to establish a food democracy.

Photo from Interesting Green
As we noted last week, we cannot afford to maintain flying apples around the world from their place of origin, to a factory to be wrapped up in prettifying plastic, to the stores where they will be consumed. We must grow our own.

We cannot afford to remain in the left-right paradigm. We cannot afford to grow and consume and exploit at the rates we are.

I propose that we begin a new way of living. Let us call it: Radical Progressive Conservativism.

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The movement toward localism - in any of its forms, really - seems to me to be a long one. One that must be grassroots and organic. One that must start with a few and one that must release from the cold, iron grips of oppression over a generation or even more before being realized. Although there are signs of progress (the World Bank and IMF have been pushed out of South America and much of Asia), there are still troubling signs that the powerful elite will not go without a few bloody fights, without gasping their last.

What, in the meantime, can we do to begin to live out the existence of this free and localized manner. How do we break the bonds of slavery to the large banks - as we are being asked to do by our brothers and sisters suffering for the struggle in New York and Greece right now?

I will take your suggestions and add them to mine come Wednesday. Practical ways to begin living local even as we dream of much larger ways of restructuring society.

3 comments:

  1. Steven2:28 PM

    I do not believe that local food sovereignty and sustainable communities can be achieved without tackling the chief economic obstacle, namely, the fact that land and productive assets are priced as a function of the most profitable uses that the owners can engage in, and the fact that the most profitable uses invariably turn out to be those which harness massive quantities of past solar energy stored in fossil fuels. This fact is the reason why most of us are struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, and cannot afford local food. Sustainable lifestyles limited to the use of regular solar income generally produce even less exchange value with which to pay the mortgage. Capitalism has thus sequestered all the best land for the uses which keep money flowing to the top via unsustainable economic activities, while keeping the masses dependent on participation in unsustainable economic activities just to barely get by. But prohibiting the extraction and use of fossil fuels and other harmful economic activities would level the economic playing field, bringing land prices within reach of those seeking to live sustainably. Active efforts to assert social control over the economy, as by adopting democratic economic planning, would further seal the deal. We also need to radically alter our city planning models so as to promote optimal proximity of people, processes, and resources in order to effectively localize our economies. Virtually nobody is proposing this - there is little financial or career incentive for architects and planners, even the "green" ones who propose relatively minor tweaks to the physical configuration of consumer capitalism, to think in such radical terms. Individual and incremental efforts to, say, buy local food will accomplish relatively little on their own. We must ante up to deal with the larger issues in a concerted, non-incremental way.

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  2. Jason thank you so much for a great article. As you probably know I made a life style change on July 25 of this year to go vegetarian with a goal of going vegan sometime in the future with the permission of my cardiologist. I agree with the premise of your argument. Peace brother.laz

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