Earth Day! And the Ethical Foodie Manifesto

Happy Earth Day, foodies! This year’s Earth Day happens to fall on a Meatless Monday, an extra cause for celebration.

Now is as good a time as any to introduce the Ethical Foodie Manifesto. Some may wonder what the ethics of food and foodie-ism are all about. After all, aren’t we just talking about artfully-prepared veggies on a plate? Au contraire, my foodie friends. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Food is about life. I love the imagery of a healthy, closed-loop ecosystem. Each facet of the system involves the revolution of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Admittedly, death is a necessary part of life. The death of plants and animals means the nourishment of the microorganisms that inhabit the soil. Those microorganisms and nutrients feed the plants: the trees that provide us with oxygen. The fruits and vegetables that nourish our bodies. For some, too, the grass that feeds the animals that then end up on our tables. For each organism in the chain, “food” means something different; but for each, their food plays an integral role in the next organism’s ability to thrive. Organic waste, rather than fertilizer, is the original method of replacing lost nutrients. Nature is in perfect working order without our interference; that’s why I believe that the closer we get to the source of our food, the more wholesome it’s going to be.
  2. Food is about health. I truly believe that you are what you eat. I think organics (or in general, simply more plant-based foods) are better sources of nutrients and antioxidants precisely because they’ve had to fight harder against pests and predators to survive. The microevolution and adaptation of our food to its environment means that those plants that have thrived in their natural environment are better equipped for survival. Those nutritious compounds evolved for the plant’s health, not for mine. But when I eat those strong, survivor veggies, their nutrients work similar magic in my body, too.
  3. Food is about community. Besides the obvious community-building implications of preparing and sharing meals with friends, family, and neighbors, supporting farmer’s markets and buying local is where it’s at. Local agriculture provides jobs – how’s that for an economic investment? Supporting your local growers means your money stays in your community. It strengthens your community’s food security. It creates higher demand for home-grown produce and drives the market toward small-scale, diverse, multi-crop farming operations, rather than monocultures of subsidized produce purchased from out of state. Ever heard of “voting with your fork?” This is what it means. Put your money where your mouth is – literally!
  4. Food is about future generations. We could talk endlessly about the detrimental effects conventional agriculture, factory farming, and overgrazing have on the environment. We could talk about desertification, depletion of soil nutrients, groundwater pollution, antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacteria, and dwindling reserves of fossil fuels – all inherent in our food industry as it exists today. While these environmental concerns go way beyond food production, we cannot dismiss food production as a major contributor to global warming. Our grandparents didn’t eat the way we do now, and our parents didn’t always. But if the food industry continues to operate the way it currently does, our children won’t be able to. By the time they grow up, we’ll have depleted the resources necessary to conveniently bring us fresh fruits and veggies in any season. Sustenance and sustainability are inextricably linked. There’s no such thing as a beef-eating environmentalist. (<— Click that link, by the way. It’s a brilliantly-made video about what goes into making the quarter pounder in your burger.)

This year, I’m committed to voting with my fork, to eating and living more sustainably. How, specifically? I’m sharing delicious veggie-dominant dishes (and recipes!) with my friends and family. I am shopping farmers markets, getting to know my growers, and investing again in the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program as my husband and I did last year. I’m going to experiment with fermentation to preserve my fresh summer produce for good (local) eating in the fall and winter (I’m really excited about this one!) I’m going to continue reading, researching and writing on issues surrounding poverty and nutrition, food deserts, food security and sustainability.

What are you doing this Earth Day and/or on an ongoing basis to promote sustainability?

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