Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Must Read Michael Pollan

Can't even begin to express how grateful I am for Michael Pollan and essays/articles like this one that appeared in last week's NY Times magazine. Pollan's letter to the President-Elect focuses on the major issue underlying health care, energy Independence and climate change: the food issue.

Any attempts I would make to paraphrase Pollan's article won't do his points justice - so I urge you to read the article. I can attempt to summarize by saying: Pollan examines the past, present and possible future food system as well as the political relationship between food and just about every other sector of our world in such as way as to remind us that food is the core of our existence and well-being. It is essentially a condensed version of his latest book but with a stronger and bigger message regarding what to do next. In Defense of Food educated and empowered the individual. This piece picks up where the book left off and addresses the system from the top down by way of some brilliant, if a *tad ambitious, proposals:

I. Resolarizing the American Farm
II. Reregionalizing the Food System
III. Rebuilding America’s Food Culture

A few excerpts from the article:

"...Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them..."

"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."

"First, your administration’s food policy must strive to provide a healthful diet for all our people; this means focusing on the quality and diversity (and not merely the quantity) of the calories that American agriculture produces and American eaters consume. Second, your policies should aim to improve the resilience, safety and security of our food supply. Among other things, this means promoting regional food economies both in America and around the world. And lastly, your policies need to reconceive agriculture as part of the solution to environmental problems like climate change."

"Today most federal messages about food, from nutrition labeling to the food pyramid, are negotiated with the food industry. The surgeon general should take over from the Department of Agriculture the job of communicating with Americans about their diet. That way we might begin to construct a less equivocal and more effective public-health message about nutrition. Indeed, there is no reason that public-health campaigns about the dangers of obesity and Type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be as tough and as effective as public-health campaigns about the dangers of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. The public needs to know and see precisely what that sentence means: blindness; amputation; early death. All of which can be avoided by a change in diet and lifestyle. A public-health crisis of this magnitude calls for a blunt public-health message, even at the expense of offending the food industry. Judging by the success of recent antismoking campaigns, the savings to the health care system could be substantial."

*tad ambitious = Pollan's suggestion to "tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden."


tanyaa said...

Michael Pollan’s research is comprehensive, his storytelling sublime. I was truly swept up in his sense of adventure and carried along by his marvellously inquisitive mind. He tells the story of three meals in America: the fast food, fast bucks meal supplied by the industrial food chain, the slow grown, pasture fed, life respecting meal supplied by Joel Salatin and his wife and the wild meal hunted and gathered by Michael’s own hand. The last meal, he calls the perfect meal, sounds like an experience to aim for, one that once was our birthright. One that once was all we had to choose from but it always satisfied the omnivore’s inherent, genetic desire for variety. And it always kept our wholeness intact.
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Deborah said...

Absolutely, Tanyaa. Pollan's work is so inspirational you forget the education you are receiving as you read. He has changed the way I look at the world.