Sun-Food Agenda: Future’s Food Footprint

Wendell Berry speaking in Frankfort, IndianaWendell Berry Image via WikipediaI expressed my hopes recently that Mr. Obama might encourage the earthcare values lived and written by Wendell Berry. Then the next day, I finished reading Michael Pollan’s NYT letter to the future “Farmer in Chief” and thought how different our world could be if we did nothing else but to reassess from the soil up our agricultural relationship with the planet.

And on Hoarded Ordinaries (thanks Lorianne!) I find Obama has understood the ramifications of the “omnivore’s dilemma” where changes to that failed system of bigger-hammer agriculture will help us nutritionally as much as politically. What energy issues could be more radical and in need of change than how we grow, ship and eat the food that sustains (or damages) us?

Below (from an interview with Time mag) is a snippet of Obama’s wholistic expression of hope for healthier foods, buildings, cities, transportation. What he grasps–in a way unfamiliar among our generation’s politicos–is the paradigm shift (read: change) that will be necessary to the very survival of our species. Whether he can make the kind of Manhattan Project for the Sun-Food Agenda (and in other sectors as well) happen in four years remains to be seen. But we can start. We can hope. We can work to be the faithful stewards Mr. Berry and Mr. Pollan encourage us to be. Yes we can.

There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy. I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen [sic] about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil.

As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs.

That’s just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

Interesting to note that McCain faults both Obama, and indirectly Pollan, for their ignorance of how Big Ag really works. No paradigm shift in view here, just biz as usual.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. If nothing else, it heartens me to know that Obama actually reads the New York Times and has the intelligence to summarize an argument he found therein. That sounds like such an obvious trait in a political candidate (like, duh!)…but after Sarah Palin’s famous inability (or refusal) to cite any specific magazine or newspaper she reads, Obama’s intellect is such a welcome relief. When Colin Powell endorsed Obama, he mentioned the intellectual rigor of Obama’s curiosity, and as a teacher, intellectual curiosity is one of the things I think we as a nation need to foster, not criticize or mock for being “elitist.”