Workshops  |  Consults  |  Shop  |  Contact
Openness is our greatest human resource.

Blog Entries tagged 'food'

Michael Pollan on food, the environment and the economy, from the Rumpus

I like this interview with Michael Pollan on the whether the Green Economy can save the planet. 

Rumpus: I don’t want to ask you about an article you haven’t read, but maybe the idea of “economy vs. environment” is provocative enough to address. Owen argues, in so many words, that economy has to be sacrificed to some extent to save the environment. How do you feel about that?

Pollan: Well, I mean, that’s a good question. There is a real effort to align economic growth with becoming green. It’s the Thomas Friedman school of things, this idea that you can unleash these powers that will drive certain change, that you can align economic interests and the environment. It would be wonderful if it’s true. But I think we need to make changes whether it’s true or not. The fact is that there are fundamental tensions between the biological reality of the planet right now and the economic reality. To some extent you can adapt the economy, create a new set of rules and incentives to send it down a better track, but finally people in the first world are going to have to consume a whole lot less. Green stuff or black stuff, whatever it is.

Rumpus: The idea of a “green economy” is really palatable, though.

Pollan: I think it’s very politically comfortable to suggest that you can have a non-zero-sum solution to both the global economic crisis and our environmental problems, but my guess is that the non-zero-sum solution is wishful thinking. We could have a greener economy, even a greener consumer economy by changing the rules—whether it’s by taxing carbon or trading carbon, I’m not sure what—but in the end there’s just a fundamental problem with the sheer amount we’re consuming. Fossil fuel is a very special thing. There is no other fossil fuel out there. Yes, there’s solar energy, but whether it can underwrite the kind of lifestyle we’ve had remains to be seen. So if you’re a politician it’s very useful to say that we can have economic growth and at the same time green the economy, but writers just have to face up to the fact, whether it sells or not, that there are some fundamental tensions between the economic order and the biological order.

Rumpus: I was re-reading some passages from Botany of Desire and a particular sentence grabbed me. You were talking about our Nature Narratives, and you said, “There’s the old heroic story, where Man is at war with Nature; the romantic version, where Man merges spiritually with Nature (usually with some help from the pathetic fallacy); and, more recently, the environmental morality tale, in which Nature pays man back for his transgressions, usually in the coin of disaster.” If someone told you that our current problems—the food crisis, the energy crisis, the health care crisis—somehow epitomized the environmental morality tale, how would you respond?

Pollan: I think that’s the narrative in which a lot of things fit. Look at industrial agriculture. You use too many antibiotics on your cattle to get cheap meat, and suddenly you have antibiotic-resistant staph infections popping up all over the Midwest. But that’s evolution. I mean, you could put a moral spin on it and say, oh, we got what we deserved. But it’s just the feedback loop inherent to evolution. You spray too much pesticide and a resistant bug emerges. Now if you have a moral cast of mind, you’ll say, well, oh, boy, Nature is paying us back, getting even with us for using all that pesticide. The situation certainly conforms to the environmental morality narrative. But that doesn’t make the narrative true.

More

April 22nd, 2009

Trailer for What's On Your Plate, a flim by Catherine Gund and Aubin Pictures

Amazing

Not a day goes by that I don't think about what I'm eating, what I'm feeding my family, and how little I know about where our food is from, and who handles it as it moves from place to place.

When I see films like this or read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, I feel fortunate to have lived in Berkeley for several years and spent many delicious evenings at Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse.

The first time, I was taken for my 16th birthday by one of my fabulous gay "uncles" named Ivory, whom I lost to AIDS years later. I will always remember him as the person who introduced me to Lillet and the concept of the "prix fixe". It was incredible. We ate rabbit and drank Lillet and then had delicious flourless chocolate ganache.

I love you Ivory!

Anyway.

Now that Waters is advising the White House and transforming public school cafeterias by teaching kids to grow their own lunches, I feel I was there at the beginning-- a part of yet another movement: The Food Movement!

Waters has just joined the Advisory Board for this great film, produced and directed by a friend and fellow co-founder of Third Wave Foundation, Catherine Gund. 

I'd love to hear your food stories. We don't have any CSA's here on Maui, or if we do, I need someone out there to tell me about them.

February 25th, 2009