Earth Day is a great opportunity to remember and reflect, if only for a moment, on the symbiotic relationship between our planet and its inhabitants. Now, what if we could be present to it every day, and taste daily the beautiful richness it gives our lives?
Eating presents us and our families with that wondrous opportunity several times a day. After all, food is our primal link with nature, with the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom; a link that we too often take for granted. Caught in the hustle-bustle and buzyness of life, we have shuffled and reshuffled our priorities so that what constitutes the very root--the core--of our physical existence and well-being on this planet has been thrown in the bottom drawer of our scattered minds. Better yet, being present to it, and honoring it, is perceived as a luxury or an oddity best left to wealthy snobs or to unrealistic, self-righteous eccentrics.
I won't go here into the conversation about the overwhelming evidence of diet-related illnesses that afflict our 21st century Western society. As we know, there's only so much science can do to alleviate diabetes, for instance. Science certainly won't prevent one in three children born since 2000 from joining the stats if we don't transform our relationship with food.
I also won't discuss here the damning impact of industrial agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions, topsoil erosion, water pollution and loss of cultivated biodiversity. Suffice to say that we're in the process of destroying the Earth's capacity to feed us, just as surely as we're failing to nourish ourselves for health.
Now, here's the great news: daunting as climate change and the diabetes epidemic may seem, to pick just two of many issues, we do have the power to rekindle our primal connection with the Earth, and to contribute to nursing it back to health so that it can nourish us in return. All is take is a little bit of mindfulness when it comes to the food that we choose to buy and consume.
Let's eat every day like it's Earth Day, let's commit ourselves to mindfulness as we endeavor to nourish the Earth, our children, and ourselves back to health, one meal at a time. And let's invite our children to play this game with us!
I hope this guideline proves helpful:
- To buy food that was grown without pesticides and other agrochemical, when available... and to ask about/for it if need be!
=> No agrichemicals is good news for my personal health, for the health of the people who grow my food, and for the protection of the environment. "Organic" labels offer one type of guarantee; another comes from the trust you develop with producers whom you choose to buy from directly.
- To never eat/buy meat unless it is clearly labeled "with no antibiotics", "no growth- hormones"... and to ask about/for it if need be!
=> Meat laced with antibiotics and growth-hormones is the product of an industry that treats animals inhumanely, and feeds them a diet that sickens them. Its price is cheapest but its damaging impacts on public health and the environment cost dearly to taxpayers.
- To never eat/buy fish unless it is sustainable (click on the links below for more info about available guidelines) ... and to ask about/for it if need be!
=> To learn if the seafood presented to you is sustainable, check out the guidelines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program (California), the Marine Conservation Society's FISHONLINE website (UK), or the Australian Marine Conversation Society's Sustainable Seafood Guide. Beware of imported seafood (84 percent of U.S. consumption), as its supply chain can be difficult to track and evaluate. Imported farmed seafood is especially iffy on the health and environmental fronts. More than half comes from Asia, including 23 percent from China. A Government Accountability Office report released in April 2011 found serious gaps in the government's oversight of these products, asserting that â"seafood containing residues of drugs not approved for use in the United States may be entering U.S. commerce."
- To cook at least 2 new recipes every month in order to incorporate more and more fresh products in my diet, and to reduce my consumption of processed food.
=> Yes, a green salad with soft-boiled eggs or rice with steamed carrots and broccoli count!
- To buy as much of my food as possible from local producers, season permitting, in order to support the local economy.
=> I give myself bonus points for exploring/creating opportunities to buy my food directly from producers I trust, as the shortest value chain guarantees better products at a better price for me and a better income for them
- To be mindful of the socio-economic impact of the production of the food that I buy and consume... and to ask about it if need be !
=> Low prices typically implies cheaply produced food, including cheap labor. Farm workers in America do not enjoy the same rights as everyone else in the workforce, hence the need for consumers to pay attention to the kind of labor conditions they support. When buying imported products, looking for fair trade labels can help identify items that support the people whose labor feeds me.
- To get involved, either through learning, teaching or collaborating on a project that inspires me and that I deem relevant to our food security.
=> Some ideas in no particular order: gardening, farming, cooking, canning, curing, pickling, baking, cheese making, creating a food coop, educating kids and folks on food issues (between health, local economic development and everything else in between, take your pick!), advocacy.
If this consumer game plan inspires you to also take action as a concerned citizen, read and sign this petition to demand new public policies to transform our food system: http://www.nourish9billion.org/sign-the-petition