Thursday, October 16, 2008

Feed Lot

The NYTimes Magazine was all about food this week, including the cover story: an open letter from Michael Pollan to the next president of the United States, telling him why it will be critical to make reform of the food system one of the new administration's highest priorities.

"Unless you do," Pollan writes, " you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change."

A little more on why he says that:

"After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. ... [A] system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food."

Pollan is the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and more recently, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

His proposed solution for the next president is simple in theory: "We need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

(Of course, he seems to favor simplicity. In his latest book — which I thought very good, by the way — his proposed solution was: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.")

Pollan argues commodity farmers ought to be encouraged to grow as many different types of crops as possible, the country must train a new generation of farmers and help put them on the land, and the country should regionalize the food system.

On a related note, this is making me very ready for lunch.

1 comment:

Wintermute said...

It's making me ready to hear calls for what would be even more effective: zero or negative population growth policies.

I remember that Steve Gaskin person doing a show at the Shell asking us to eat soybeans and go ahead and have babies and give them to his commune.