I’m not a big fan of scare stories, stories written to shock me. I don’t like horror movies and ghost stories. And I don’t like documentaries and reports which outline how bad our world is. Some might say I’m naive but, honestly, I simply try to remain calm. There are a lot of things in our present day to get upset about, but I chose which ones are important to me.
When I came across the “Ecologist Guide to Food” I was not impressed to have yet another book in my hands which tells me how messed up our world is. The book contains a story about workers on banana farms barely make a living. It contains a story from Italian tomato plantations and their migrant workers. And it contains a story about meat and soy production and resulting ‘soya wars’. In short, the book is full of stories which make me want to stop eating right now.
Why I don’t get scared so easily
The reason I’m staying calm and I won’t stop eating right now is that I know about the injustices in the world already. I know that we have to kill animals to survive and that global trade leads to price dumping everywhere. It’s not good and I’m not proud of it but there is very little I can do about it in the short term (other than to stop eating).
Again, call me naive but I’m not going to stop eating food which might have been produced under questionable circumstances. Why? Because I need food to survive.
The ugly truth is that as humans we need to kill in order to live. Even a plant-based diet has an impact on our environment: we take something away from other animals (and humans!).
The question remaining for me is what I can do better or differently.
Options A is to close my eyes to the realities of our world and keep on living my life. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and not knowing what went into my food can help me enjoy it more.
Option B is to be radical and to start producing everything myself, using permaculture principles and raising animals in a compassionate way.
Option C is to shop consciously and to pay attention to what’s going on. This option involves getting information, asking questions, and to understand the food I’m consuming.
Since I read the “Ecologist Guide to Food”, option A is not viable anymore for me. A tin of tomatoes from Italy won’t be the same anymore.
Option B is also not an option for me because I don’t have the space to grow all of my own food and to raise animals. Yes, I want to but at the moment it’s just not feasible.
Which brings me to option C – shopping consciously.
Knowing my food
Shopping consciously means for me to understand that my food grows somewhere. As a modern society, we have become disconnected from our food. We rely on an industry to supply us with every single item of food in our house.
This disconnection has a variety of negative side effects.
Number one is the outsourcing of food production with potential ingredients we wouldn’t put into our food at home.
The second problem of the disconnection between production and consumption is that we tend to overconsume and eat foods that aren’t in season. This overconsumption doesn’t necessarily have to have negative impacts on our health but it does on our planet. Just consider apples travelling around the globe or being stored in the fridge just so that we can have apples all year around.
The third problem with our disconnection to food are cosmetic standards. Around 30 percent of all fruit and veggies don’t make it into the supermarket because they don’t look right. Eating only untarnished fruit and veggies leads to food waste which then leads to even more food being grown to feed us.
There are more problems with not knowing and not understanding where our food comes from, of course. But again, there is no use in scaring you.
My solution to understand my food is to establish a connection with the growers and with the suppliers. I went to see the origin of our veggie box, I saw the honey taken from the hive, I know where my jam is cooked, my bread is made, and where my eggs are laid. By far, I don’t know everything but I’m trying.
And I think that’s all a book like the “Ecologist Guide to Food” can inspire: an attempt to do better.
For anyone interested in the book, the full bibliographic reference is: Andrew Wasley: Ecologist Guide to Food. Leaping Hare Press, East Sussex (UK) 2014.