Will Allen harvesting (Photo credit: Growing Power)
Back-to-back films on agriculture at the World Community Film Festival this afternoon left me uplifted and feeling like change is on the horizon. Dirt! The Movie, Fresh and A Thousand Suns reminded me how many people there are who think like me — including those attending the event — and what amazing impacts these people are making around the world.
One farmer in the US took it upon himself to build a wind farm on his farm as security for survival. (Actually, I think that was part of Dirty Business, a film about coal and energy which followed. I saw four films in 6 hours, so please forgive me if I confuse them.) Will Allen, a former basketball player, returned to his family’s farming roots and started Growing Power, where compost is everything. Joel Salatin is a farming hero, Michael Pollan speaks the truth in terms people can understand, schools are tearing up asphalt for gardens, and rehabilitation programs for inmates are reconnecting people with the land.
In this fascinating TED Talk, Pollan talks about humans’ relationship with, or rather perceived dominance over, nature, corn’s dominance over us, and nature’s incredible systems at work on a farm.
“…If you think about it, this completely contradicts the tragic idea of nature we hold in our heads which is that, for us to get what we want, nature is diminished. More for us, less for nature. Here, all this food comes off this farm and at the end of the season, there is actually more soil, more fertility and more biodiversity. It’s a remarkably hopeful thing to do. … We can take the food we need from the earth and actually heal the earth in the process.”
If that title seems confusing at first, the sentiment simply represents the chaotic experience of the modern North American in deciding what to eat.
With thousands of choices at the supermarket, diet advice that changes every year, and a regular barrage of the “latest studies” that turn previous ones on their heads, it’s no wonder we’re looking for simple solutions. From fad diets to the latest incarnation of margarine (50% lower in calories!), what to eat and how much is often up to the discretion of our sources — the most prominent of which have other motives besides your health in mind. And even if you think you know what to eat and are feeling pretty healthy, chances are you can still do better. Michael Pollan, recognising this conundrum, offers seven words that will change your life in the most literal sense: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
In the first two of three parts of his fifth book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), Pollan illustrates in depth the problems with our food (in the broadest sense possible) and how it is we arrived here. The history is fascinating, and it is that which helps the reader understand why and how we got here, who the key players are and, ultimately, how to go about fixing it. As it turns out, the history goes back a long way.