Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Book Review - The Omnivore's Dilema

Believe it or not it took me, a foodie, a long time to figure out that being green starts with what you eat. The book The Omnivore's Dilemma has brought to light for me the complete picture of how food is interconnected with the American environment. In the book Michael Pollan explores one simple question, "What should we have for dinner?", really extensively. I feel like I've woken up after eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge! I had no idea that the former Soviet Union had an underground black market for home grown produce, because their "highly efficient" industrial agricultural system just did not work. I never knew that spring mix salad was so resource expensive. I did not know that mushrooms live underground for decades. Nor did I know that pasture (grass) raised beef (and milk) literally has more nutrients in it than industrialized corn fed cattle.

The Omnivore's Dilemma is a fun, interesting read, but it does have some scary moments. The entire first section alone, the part about industrialized agriculture, is enlightening in a depressing kind of way. Pollan exposes the fact that commodity corn has infiltrated the American food system so extensively that it is in almost everything in most supermarkets, simply because it's the most profitable thing for large companies to make. Later in the book, Pollan describes a 100% sustainable, highly productive farm, Polyface Farms, in Virginia. I don't know why ALL American farms aren't like Polyface? Well, yes I do, Wall Street can't profit from farms like this.

Reading the Omnivore's Dilemma will validate many Veggie Traders and others who already have a head start on being green. We already know that green is really about economics and how one chooses to spend their money and their time. We know that we want to spend more time in our gardens and kitchens with family and friends. We would rather trade seeds than trade stocks. And the only bailouts we care about are the ones associated with a heavy rain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually read Joel Salatin's "Everything I Want to do is Illegal" before I read Pollan's "Omnivore's Dillemma" (which I just read last week). I love the concept of there being more Polyphase-esque farms around. Sadly, there are few people willing to put in the effort required for that - remember the 50 hrs/yr of the modern corn farmer compared to the Salatins' 12 hrs/day, 365 days/yr? Le sigh.

It is now a running gag in our household to ask folk during a meal "So, how's your corn?" ;P