Although it’s hard to find among the other, more dramatic news, NPR reported today on the torrential rains currently vexing the mid-west. It may not seem like a big deal until you consider that because of the way our food system is set up, the weather in the mid west can potentially affect Billions (yes Billions) of people, cause mass starvation and drive up food prices around the globe.
Just fifteen food crops make up 90 percent of the world’s energy intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with rice, maize (corn), and wheat comprising two-thirds of that number – The United States produces approximately 35 percent of the world’s corn and soybean supply, commodities that are “crucial in the food chain, because they are used for feed stock for animals,” Coleman says. Growing demand for meat and protein from emergent middle classes internationally has made many countries dependent on “relatively inexpensive food stocks” from the United States, she explains – In the United States, we have to look at our own policies that are part of the problem, [including] our mandated use of ethanol in gasoline. This is something that is a mandated  percent that is not flexible, and when you have rising food prices and a problem with the failing crop, you would think that maybe we could lighten up on the ethanol mandate. Because right now so much of our food production is going into ethanol. – http://www.cfr.org/
When you use the majority of the fertile land to produce crops that are only relevant for the rich or for people in developed nations, you drive up the demand for other food crops by reducing availability. You also set yourself up for failure when the weather turns. It may not seem dramatic or feel like you are making a big impact, but how we, in the Americas, eat is a big deal for the rest of the world. The more meat you eat, the more gas you consume, the more the more bread and wheat you consume, the more products you buy with high fructose corn syrup, the less there is for everyone else. One of the easiest things you can do for the planet is to stop thinking of meat as a main dish and start thinking of it as a side dish, seasoning or celebration food.
If you want more food security, dig up your lawn and plant a few food crops. If you think you just don’t have the time, think again, it doesn’t need to be much. Choose what grows easiest in your climate. Here in the PNW you could consider spinach, lettuce, peas, squash, tomatoes and peppers. Most of these are succession plants, which means they can be planted in both the spring and the fall. It takes about as much time and water to grow food crops as it does to mow your lawn and keep it looking nice. These are also vegetables you can plant in pots on your patio.
Don’t think you have time for even that? Make a quick stop at the Olympia Co-Op instead. It’s less than a mile from the Safeway. You could also try Spud’s Grocery on Capitol Way which is about three or four blocks from the Safeway in Tumwater. When you have fresh, local food available you reduce your chances of food poisoning, use less fossil fuels, less energy keeping them cool, you are exposed to fewer risks associated with pesticides and GMO’s, and you will probably loose weight. Real food security comes from diversity in genetics, crops and eating patterns.
To feed the world’s growing and more affluent population, global agriculture will have to double its food production by 2050. More farming, however, usually means more environmental harm as a result of clearing land, burning fossil fuels, consuming water for irrigation and spreading fertilizer. Agriculture already imposes a greater burden on Earth than almost any other human activity, so simply doubling current practices would ruin large areas of land as well as poisoning rivers and oceans.
An international research team led by Jon Foley at the University of Minnesota has concluded that five basic changes in the way agriculture operates—and in the ways we eat—could double food production, yet decrease overall environmental impacts. The steps are as follows: improve crop yields, consume less meat, reduce food waste, stop expanding into rainforests, and use fertilizer and water more efficiently. The changes are reflected in a series of maps. – Scientific American
For those of you who are feeling particularly patriotic these days and feel that Islam is the biggest threat to the “American way of life”, I will refrain from telling you that you are crazy. If you are really worried about the countries that are “funding” terrorists consider that if the food crops you are buying use up 90% of the worlds energy (mostly fossil fuels) maybe you are their best customer.
This is who is consuming fossil fuels:
This is who is producing it:
For those of you who love your All-American summer grilling traditions, stop worrying about giving it up and start thinking about the huge varieties of local, seasonal veggies you can grill instead. If you who feel your eating patterns are part of your heritage, consider that slavery, bigotry and social oppression are too. Do we really feel like we need to add global environmental destruction and economic collapse to that list?
Much of the future safety of our children and everyone’s children depend on the choices that you make today. Perhaps it’s time for us to re-define patriotism as being part of a responsible and global community, embracing diversity and by living within our means. Wouldn’t we much rather be the country that goes down in history as the first to change our agricultural production methods, stabilize the global economy and bring health and prosperity to billions?
Marinated Grilled Veggies
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Dash salt
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
- 3 small carrots, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
- 1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
- In a small bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients. Place 3 tablespoons marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add vegetables; seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate 1-1/2 hours at room temperature.
- Transfer vegetables to a grilling grid; place grid on grill rack. Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat 8-12 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
- Place vegetables on a large serving plate. Drizzle with remaining marinade. Yield: 6 servings.
If you do not have a grilling grid, use a disposable foil pan. Poke holes in the bottom of the pan with a meat fork to allow liquid to drain.