Feeding the Next City

 

As I have noted here previously, I have been reading up on the history of food, and how we have arrived at the current state of industrial agriculture – endless fields of monocultures of corn or soybeans, giant factories filled with chickens or pigs or cows, a diet that featured 1/2 pound of high fructose corn syrup annually in 1970, and now includes 62 pounds of the stuff every year. (A favorite source: Felipe Fernandez Armesto’s extraordinary book, “Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food”).

And I do this because I now understand that global food production is the single largest source of carbon pollution – some estimates say nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas comes from food production – intensively requires water (2 nice big juicy steaks? About 4,000 gallons of water required), and relies on massive doses of fossil fuels. The next city cannot be fed with this system – we simply won’t be able to afford the fuel or water, or absorb the pollution.

We should all try to get our food from as many local sources as possible. This still isn’t easy (take a look at www.100milediet.org for a snapshot of an interesting experiment), but it is increasingly becoming received knowledge that we will eat better, and feel better, and pollute less if we can get our daily sustenance from local sources.  The Oxford English Dictionary last year added a word to their tome to describe those who eat locally: locavores. It must be official if the OED says so.

All of this is prelude to an invitation to get to know much more about these matters. To wit: an absolutely sensational essay written by Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma,””In Defense of Food”), which takes the form of an open letter to the “Farmer in Chief,” whoever that might be after the election. The piece ran October 12th, in the New York Times Magazine. It is quite long, but I urge you to read every word – it is a very well reasoned and clearly argued appeal to substantially alter the way we eat, and in particular the way federal policies influence our daily meals. You can find the article by following this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html

My personal favorite of his suggestions: tear out five acres of White House lawn and plant organic fruits and vegetables. Take a look – it’s a very significant piece by a very powerful  writer. Bon appetit!

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