Have you ever really considered what you eat?
Our dietary habits place each of us in a particular niche. Our need for nourishment is one of the things that taxes our environment in terms of not only having arable farmland to produce crops, but also to raise livestock, to transport food stuffs to market, and to process and package food. Simply growing food requires water, fertile soil, and the labor necessary to plant, tend, and harvest crops. Even if one considers that often cattle are raised on land that is not suitable for growing crops and that cattle forage and turn grasses unsuitable for human consumption into nutrient-dense food, it still takes something on the order of two and half pounds of grain and over 400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. And these are not statistics taken from one of the environmental or vegetarian activist sites. This is taken from a web site: http://www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org/mythmeatproductioniswasteful.aspx
which is working to dispel the arguments for vegetarianism.
My aim in this post is not so much to make the argument that others should switch to vegetarianism, my aim is to get people to consider what they eat. The consumption of food is necessary for life, but in an age when the production of food stuff to feed the ever burgeoning population of our limited planet may tip our environment over into collapse, when energy needs compete for the same corn as nutritional needs, and when our unconscious and unbeknownst political decisions are entwined in a free for all of wasteful conspicuous consumption– we need to examine and make more informed decisions about how we will feed humanity. Simply unthinkingly going to the large, brightly lit super market many transitions points removed from where food comes from is not an activity that promotes good resource management and the longevity of our species.
I love blueberries. I grew up in Western Michigan where blueberries thrive in the sandy, acidic soil close to Lake Michigan where forests of conifers for centuries dropped their pine needles to compost and create the perfect soil for blueberries. Growing up, I picked blueberries in July and August for money for school clothes. Blueberries are only in season in North America in July and August. I have bought blueberries that were fresh in February. I can tell you that those blueberries were well traveled blueberries and that they were picked before they were ripe and that they were ripened using gas. Did I need to have blueberries in February? No. There was no dire necessity in that decision– just I saw the berries and had the impulse to buy them. Was this a good conscious choice? Not really. In a time period when fossil fuels will be running out and the environment is so incredibly taxed buying out of season blueberries shipped from somewhere in South America is not a good conscious choice.
Small farms have been in demise for the last few decades. Agricultural products in the US are so plentiful that many farmers cannot compete with the large agri-business farms and they are going out of business. More and more farmland has been becoming the suburban sprawl of our urban centers. Some localities are seeing the necessity of preserving local farms and are creating ordinances complete with tax relief or are out and out subsidizing farms. Local farms not only preserve a certain character of the surrounding area, they produce local food stuffs. This is food that does not need to be picked before it is ripe, gassed to ripen, or transported hundreds or thousands of miles. It is food that would be available to the local population if there was a collapse in the global markets or if the transportation of food from other continents became prohibitive or restricted. Eating seasonally and locally produced food helps to keep local farms in business, is environmentally a better choice (for more than the reasons stated here), and is long term savvy.
Tomatoes and zuchini. Have you ever grown zuchini squash? The vines take over the garden and produce more zuchini than you could ever imagine. I remember my mother once upon a time trying to convince me to eat zuchini by making scalloped zuchini. Like scalloped potatoes. In Michigan in late summer, you cannot get rid of the zuchini fast enough. People sneak up on one another’s porches and leave the stuff. Tomatoes also. Tomatoes ripen very suddenly and while one week they are green and hard on the vines– the next you will have bushels of them. I read somewhere that if we just processed all the tomatoes that are grown we could produce some phenomenal amount of tomato sauce, but every year tons of tomatoes go to waste.
How many people have planted anything since they were in Kindergarten and pushed those marigold seeds into the potting soil in a small paper cup? How many people have sprouted bean seeds since they were in elementary school? We make certain choices about what plants we want in our landscapes. Acres of green lawn are considered desirable, but this uses a huge amount of water resources. Grass thrives in cool and wet conditions. What if we planted the areas around our public buildings with indigenous plants that could be used as food? What if we planted fruit and nut trees, berry brambles, perennial herbs and other plants that could be used for food in our yards instead of grass? Imagine all the food that could be produced with the same resources that we are currently using for nothing more than lawns and ornamental plantings of little value beyond aesthetic appeal. What if we all switched are consideration of what should be planted and made it a requirement that every plant planted have multiple reasons for being planted?
What resources have been used to produce the food that you are eating? What unconscious political allegiances are you making with your choice of what you buy and consume?