Monday, July 19, 2010

Food For Thought

This week's newspaper column: (Read it in the Hatteisburg American)

Most Americans are very sure they know exactly where their food comes from: the Grocery Store.

That’s right. We drive to the supermarket when convenient and fill ever-larger shopping carts with seemingly endless varieties of familiar and exotic edible offerings. And why not? It’s easy and predictable. Today’s corporate agribusinesses have become so very efficient at factory farming, processing, and the logistics of moving things from place to place that it’s no wonder most citizens are disconnected from the source of one of our most essential necessities of life - food.

Of course, much of what is on grocery shelves isn’t exactly food, or at least not simply food as we would recognize it growing on the earth. Most groceries might be more accurately described as a “food-like products.” Look at the list of ingredients on the packaging and you will find dyes, hydrogenated oils, and chemical preservatives - which humans would never consider eating otherwise - inserted for the sake appearance or for extending shelf life of food that was grown half a continent, if not half a world, away.

The result? A high calorie, low nutrition American diet that is, in part, responsible for record levels of obesity and ill-health.

It wasn’t always this way. Up until the mid-twentieth century, most of the food we ate was grown within a one-day driving distance. The pre-World War II landscape was full of family farms. Outside every city, town, and burg was farmland, with much of the crop going to feed local appetites. If you did not grow up on a farm, you certainly knew someone who did. People were connected to the source of their food, and fresh seasonal produce always graced the dinner table.

Now I’m not saying we should get rid of grocery stores; they are quite essential. But there are many sustainable reasons to eat locally grown food.

Let’s take a quick tally. 1) Locally grown food uses less fossil fuel getting to market, 2) fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than packaged foods, and 3) buying locally grown food supports your local economy possibly keeping your would-be deadbeat friends employed.

My favorite reason to eat locally grown foods is the taste. Go to a farmers’ market and load up on freshly picked tomatoes, bite into a raw crisp green bean, take home some succulent zuccinni and eggplant to stir-fry – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more delicious meal.

It’s hard to have a conversation about eating locally without addressing the reality that fruits and vegetables are seasonal by nature. But instead of thinking about what isn’t available at some point in the year, get excited about what is in season. In summer, celebrate watermelons and tomatoes. In winter, enjoy cabbage and broccoli.

So a little food for thought: What local food can you incorporate into your diet?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Are you Happy?

Image: Meiklejohn and Alex H/34

At last, a user-friendly flow chart for that eternal question: Are you happy?

Are you?


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Declaration of Energy Independence

Image: American painter John Trumbell, The Declaration of Independence (1795)

For the want, will, and hopes of the people, and with acknowledgments to Thomas Jefferson and the Second Continental Congress, I submit to you this Declaration of Energy Independence.

WHEN in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Emotional and Economic bonds which have connected them with a destructive Energy Policy, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should chart a New Course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Energy sources are not created equal, that they are endowed by their Nature with certain identifiable Costs and Characteristics that affect Life (Sustainability), Liberty (Energy Independence) and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Women and Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Energy production becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a policy of Alternative Energy production, laying its foundation on sustainable principles and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

The history of the present Energy Policy is a history of repeated Environmental and Economic injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over their Quality of Life. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The current Energy Policy of these United States of America:

Has shackled the People with economic burdens of relentless and unpredictable spikes in the cost of Energy;

Has enriched certain Corporate entities while placing great strain on the Livelihood of the Citizens and the Health of their Planet;

Has fostered social habits among the Citizens so as to constitute addiction to and dependence on Non-Renewable Energy resources;

Has placed their Economic fortunes in the hands of rogue despots and unfriendly nations having control of oil and gas supplies;

Has influenced aggressive invasions of foreign lands by their Elected officials resulting in loss of life and limb and treasure and good will;

Has discouraged and downplayed the viability of Alternative Energies, and has underestimated the ingenuity of the Citizens of the United States;

And, by its short-sightedness, has caused the deterioration of the Health, Welfare and Well-Being of the American People.

We, therefore, the Citizens of the United States of America solemnly publish and declare, That the People are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent of all forms of Imported and Non-Sustainable Energy, and That the goal of Energy Independence shall be a National priority, and That the elected Leaders of the People shall act with urgency, intelligence, and resolve to achieve real and lasting Energy Independence.