Has anyone read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan? I think it is the most important book I’ve ever read. Ever.
I have watched Food, Inc. and many other documentaries about our food system, but this book has completely blown my freaking mind! I am a vegetarian and try to eat local and organic as much as I am able to (and can afford to), but I had absolutely NO IDEA how our industrial food system works and how incredibly detrimental it is to everyone involved (consumers, farmers, crops, livestock, the environment, human health). I feel so ignorant that I was so unaware of what I have been eating my whole life and where it came from, and I had always considered myself to be one of the more aware and informed ones! The whole system revolves around the general public not knowing or caring about the substances they put into their bodies- every day, multiple times a day. I feel like knowing this information has changed my life.
What do you guys think?
I think we all need to do what we can to fix this terrible dillema.
Manimal posted this in “What are some solid ways to actively do something to help the world?”
“Eat organic, non-commercial food only, don’t buy pharmaceutical drugs, get as many as you can to follow that path. Big ag and big pharma are doing lots and lots of harm both to the people and to earth itself, for no purpose other than private financial gains. Don’t buy their shit, or you’re poisoning yourself, the rest of earth’s population, and earth itself. For no reason other than laziness and ignorance. There are many other industries that are bad too, but not as bad as these motherfuckers, get rid of the biggest assholes first and then deal with the small fry.”
Let’s brain storm. What are some more ways we can help fix the food industry?
As a plant geek and aspiring farmer, I think the answer is Natural Farming. I recently spent a few months interning on a beyond-organic permaculture farm in Hawaii and learning about this unique system of agriculture. It relies on the natural symbiosis of microorganisms and plants and does not use any chemicals whatsoever. The underlying philosophy is respecting the balance between all living things. All of the materials the farmer needs they can make themselves using the resources available on their land (like using eggshells for calcium, bones for phosphorous, etc). It restores ecosystems while producing exceptionally high quality and nutritious foods. It can be implemented by backyard gardeners and large farmers alike because all of the resources are readily available and requires no expensive fertilizers or chemicals or outside materials! I find it absolutely fascinating!
You can find a better explanation and more info on these sites:
I have seen this in action first hand, and I can attest that it really is as amazing as “they” claim! These methods of farming originated in Asia and are very popular in other countries, just not ours. Yet.
If you want decent food without having to wait for the world to change, there aren’t many options. I only know two, quite obvious ones.
1) Get a farm, do it yourself. This takes a lot of work though. If you live in US or France there’s also the risk of police raids for no reason.
2) Get rich, so you can buy quality stuff. This won’t take up all your time, but then again it’s not as self-sufficient and you can’t really help others. It does promote real farming though. This is the way I chose, it works pretty well.
I think things are changing though. I bet it won’t be long until real farming is back. Just do what you can in the meantime.
I feel as though I’ve always been knowledgable in this area, and when I think about it, it actually makes me sad to think of all the people who have no clue about it. Those who eat mcdonalds on a daily basis, and those who think cereal is good for you… I know I do what is right for my body(most of the time) but they just are in denial and/or do not care about the issue.
I’m currently a freshman in college and watching the kids around me makes me sick, but they’re ignorant and won’t do anything to change their habits, and they look at me like I’m crazy and weird when I go into detail on topics such as this one..
maybe someday when they’re 40 having heart attacks they’ll understand…
I wish Michael Pollan would catch on in the mainstream like Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell have. Botany of Desire is such a fun read, as is In Defense of Food. Both the information researched as well as the quality of the writing are top-notch. And it’s so important!! so many people are willing to invest in quality parts when replacing windows or repairing a car, but when it comes to the food they eat, the lowest bidder wins. with taco bell’s dollar menu or whatever, you definitely get what you pay for.
and quality stuff can be expensive, but if you’ve got a farmer’s market near you chat up the farmers and they can be really accommodating. prices at farmer’s markets are often marked up because of the boutique/tourist population that cruises them and because they are selling whatever is at peak ripeness, but if you tell a farmer you’ll buy what they’ve got left over you can get quantity and quality for a good price. plus it gives you lots of reasons to experiment with your cooking . . .
I love going through the random produce in farm share boxes. “hmmm, salsify. what the hell is THAT?”
I have yet to read all of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but from the sections I’ve read it’s incredibly eye opening. I’m currently an environmental studies minor and have taken courses both on food systems and sustainable agriculture. I almost wish courses like these were requirements in high school education because I feel these sorts of issues are things that the public at large should be aware of. I do try to eat as local and organic as possible, although it is a bit rough with a college budget. Reading these posts though makes me feel completely crappy about the out of season tomato I had on my sandwich today though, and it’s making me realize that I really need to try harder to eat things that are in season and don’t have to be shipped in from halfway around the country.
One of the only books I’ve found interesting enough to read all the way through. Pollan is super thorough and keeps it interesting yet informative. My favorite was his journey with the mushroom hunters. You just never know stuff like this exists til you read.
As far as what Manimal said, yeah. Grow your own food, eat seasonally, get real. It might take a while to wean yourself out of commercialized food and into your own growing skill, but the end product is always so satisfying.
Also @daveb have you seen the Botany of Desire in documentary form? Does it do the book any justice?
To make the link of coincidences even more complicated, I brought up this topic in order to generate ideas for my final project for a sustainable agriculture class I’m taking. For once, I think my procrastination has paid off in more ways than I could have imagined. =) Thank you to all who have been a part of this, and keep doing what you’re doing!
I’m glad this thread is active again! :-)
@Megan Where are you studying horticulture where they are teaching classes in organic & sustainable methods? I recently earned a horticulture degree and was only taught conventional/chemical agriculture methods and now after the fact I feel like I wasted a lot of money! I was totally freaking blown away last winter when I did an internship on an organic permaculture farm, showing up there with only knowledge of conventional agriculture and not even knowing what permaculture was.
I recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma to everyone I talk to who cares about food. It honestly changed my life. That book, combined with my experiences on the farm last winter inspired me to completely change my life. In three weeks I am moving 8,000 miles away to live off the land an grow my own food. It’s going to be the most real and important thing I’ve ever done.
8,000 miles away to where??
that sounds like an amazing journey and i am certain you will be rewarded in a multitude of sup rising ways throughout it!
I met a spanish man named Tony living almost completely self-sufficiently in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Brazil this summer and he was a complete inspiration. If you have internet access ever you have to keep us up to date!
Hmm upon official calculation it’s actually 6000 miles from upstate NY to Hawaii. Anyway I will have internet and would love to keep anyone who is interested updated on my journey. The HE community has been a huge inspiration to me and I will always be connected to you all :-)
@Grass: I’m not actually studying horticulture as such. However, I’m attending The College of Wooster in Ohio and they have a small, yet strong and growing, environmental studies department. Not more than five miles away though is Ohio State’s Agriculture Research and Development Center. They teach classes in both conventional and alternative agriculture there. I don’t think permaculture is currently a part of their curriculum, but other organic and sustainable methods certainly are.
Good luck with your move! I hope you’ll be able to keep us up to date from time to time with what you’re doing! =)