Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Next Bubble? The Environment & Our Food

We've had a housing bubble, a finance bubble, and now, judging from all the media on this topic, I think we may be due for a food sustainability bubble too.

When I think about food, I don't always think of the complex systems at work behind the scenes. I simply think about what tastes good, and focus on enjoying my meal-time experiences. Feeling economically challenged by the recession, I sometimes worry about the cost of food too. But behind my day-to-day experiences, I'm starting to think there's another bubble looming, and this bubble could pop right in my kitchen, and in a way that no amount of stimulus money will be able to fix.

This week's Time Magazine cover story Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food by Bryan Walsh does an excellent job at describing the situation. In his article, he talks about environmental damage caused by the downsides of modern agriculture, government subsidies that often support our current system at the expense of small farmers, and emerging repercussions on the health of the nation.

Michael Pollan talks in even greater detail about these issues in both his books. In Defense of Food, focuses on the tremendous complexities of food science and nutrition, politics and our food policies, food marketing, and the interconnections of how all these factors affect everyday people.

The movie Food Inc. also illustrates a lot of other issues in our food system, and the consequences for farmers (great losses) and consumers (a loss of health). Food Inc. also highlights some bright spots like Walmart going organic.

If like me, you'd like to learn more about the sustainability of the current food system, you can also check out these articles:

Giving Earth That Worn-Down Feeling
By Henry Fountain, Dot Earth Blog on The New York Times

Apocalypse Later? I'm Going Local Now
by Doug Fine, Washington Post

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch
Michael Pollan, New York Times

Now that I've started to garden for myself, I've developed a broader understanding of my food. It's good to know that so many voices are starting to bring attention to where our food comes from and how this might affect our future.


Toni Shrader said...

Wow, I sure agree with you on this one! My blog can-can.comcom has really picked up, I think its because people are coming back to being more frugal and realize the importance of taking control of what we eat.

Anonymous said...

I come from a time past, I am a WWII baby. I remember when this country was trying to get it's agriculture industry started. Back then all farms were local. The problem was, and still is, low prices for produce.
This country is hooked on Low Priced Food... The farmers I know and knew are just as interested in sustaining the environment as you say you are... the problem is it takes drastic measures to produce a profit from limited resources so the farmer uses whatever he can to product the maximum crop.
By the way, do you plant heirloom or hybrid seeds? Try to find heirloom seeds at your local garden store... If we are really serious we would stick to the old heirloom seeds..
The next question, where did the heirloom seeds come from? Have you seen a bunch of wild gourds hanging from a tree? It is a long way to the melons we enjoy today.

Another thing, in our quest for CHEAP Food, we have driven the food producers out of this country to Mexico, South America, Philippines and other places. Of the lovely food we see in our super markets, only 2% has been grown to the standards we imposed on the U.S. producers. It became too expensive for the U.S. producers to compete, so Off to Never-Never Land.
Thanks, for asking,
Lone Jack

Stephanie said...

Thanks Lone Jack for your thoughtful reply. It's really difficult to argue against cheap prices but I try to look past the superficial and vote with my wallet for locally produced food every single chance I can.

I personally don't need a discount on my food and I would feel weirdly selfish about taking market-driven-food-charity when I don't need it.

An interesting editorial was published in the Los Angeles Times last week titled, Keep your self-righteous fingers off my processed food by Charlotte Allen. According to Allen I am an elitist snob...,0,2592815.story

Toni, Thanks for sharing your blog, it looks like a good resource. Any good cook knows that they can make some tasty food using very inexpensive basic ingredients and a little time.