Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Religion, Politics, and Food

Nobody wants to be told how to eat, what religion to subscribe to, or which political agenda to support. I know I posted about the subject of consumtion recently when I shared my initial interest in Barbra Kingsolver's book entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life. I really don't mean to be preachy here, but I had such a profoundly life changing experience after reading this book, that I really want to talk about it more.

I spent Amelia's nap time Monday morning finishing the book, and as I closed the last page I felt like a freshly converted Christian bursting at the seams to tell the world what I knew to be true. (You know the guy I'm talking about here. I'm not trying to be condescending to Christians I'm just using the over zealous sharers as an example.) I felt certain that if everyone just knew this information they would immediately make a change. After thinking about it for awhile I realized that some people really donot welcome the idea that food consumption is tied to ethics or spirituality, and even if they know, it's hard to make a change. I'm not just talking about the consumption of food, but everything we so readily rush to the store to buy. But since this book deals specifically with food, and the environmental impact food has on our world, I'll stick to the matter at hand. The premise is that American's are so unaware of the process our food goes through to reach us that we don't even know better than to keep doing what we're doing. I guess that's why I think talking about it might make a difference. Even if it just builds my own resolve.

Recently I sat sorting my recyclables into their proper paper bags when someone I really love and respect made a comment I truly do not understand. This person, who is deeply spiritual and has spent her life learning about health and caring for the human body, looked at me quizzically and said "what, are you trying to save the earth?". I was so shocked at the question I never did formulate an intelligent response. Now I've had some time to think about it and I understand it even less. As a spiritual person who believes in a creator and values health I find it difficult to comprehend a rational reason for not wanting to "save the earth". I've heard it said that some religions believe the world is coming to an end anyway and this is all part of God's plan so why would we fight to stop it. I don't believe that. I don't believe that God would want to see us in such a selfish state of consumption that his creation is being destroyed. Even if the world as we know it is going to end sometime, why would we trash the earth before returning it?

Let me get to the point. I recycle, I walk everywhere that I can, and I avoid buying things new when I have the chance to buy them used. I could rationalize that I'm doing enough to make a difference. Maybe I am. But I think I can do better. Not just for the sake of saving the earth. For the sake of my family and our health I have resolved to do better when it comes to consuming food. I want our pantry to be stocked with food that makes us stronger and builds our community while I'm at it. I want to reward the local farmers who practice sustainable agriculture. I appreciate the contribution they are making to our world. I've learned that buying local food and taking responsibility for our health by growing what we can makes a huge contribution to reducing our oil hungry nation's dependence on a non-renewable resource. I've come to realize that the gas we consume when purchasing a bunch of bananas grown in New Zealand really isn't worth the health benefits they provide. Especially considering a potato with the skin on has almost three times the amount of potassium a banana provides.

I won't be perfect at this "newish" way of thinking about food. I'm not planning to be heroic or even become a food missionary. But I wanted you to know that I learned a lot from this book about how food arrives at my plate, and the consequences our fuel enhanced diet has on the world around us. I promise not to come knocking at your door to tell you more, but I don't promise I'm done discussing the issue. I think it's worth talking about. Even if we disagree.

3 comments:

  1. I really appreciate this post. I have also always wondered why very religious and spiritual people that I know and love did not see recycling and other earth friendly behaviors as an honoring of God's creation. I remember one of those dear friends saying, "It will all burn" so why does it matter?

    I also appreciate the reminder that I can do more. Its funny, I never thought of Boise as a hotbed for sustainability and eco-friendliness...but after living here I can see that we were a bit ahead of the game. There are times that it is hard to find the products and practices that support good ecological stewardship here in Arlington. And I know that I need to read this book!

    Thanks for the reminder and the post! _S

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  2. I cannot wait to read this book and then discuss.

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  3. This is going to be my choice for my book club in January. I can't wait to read it.

    It get so angry when people make stupid comments about my decision to be a responsible human being. I actually had someone tell me that according to her research cloth diapers were as bad for the environment as disposables. That must be some really good crack that she is smoking? Ha Ha! This same person also told me that the baby food I made at home has more contamination in it than the store bought stuff. Give me a break!

    I think that God gave us this earth and we are to be good STEWARDS of the gift he has given us and that means taking care of it.

    All of that being said I don't want to sound preachy because I have used my fair share of disp. diapers and fed my baby many jars of Gerber. I just think that every little bit helps.

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