Sunday, June 17, 2012

First Follower - Tipping Point 2

The Food Revolution in Global Perspective

My wife and I spent some beautiful time with our friends at Hearthfire this weekend, and I ended up pretty inspired.  This was brewing inside me the whole ride home, so here goes.

It seems to me that everywhere I turn, I'm seeing more and more about veganism, vegetarianism, raw foodism, nutritarianism and truly healthy living in general.  From my perspective there's this explosion of blogs, wesbites, cookbooks, classes and institutes devoted to it.  Now to some extent I'm looking for it, of course.  I've spent more than a few nights up too late reading other folks' stories, recipes and health and nutrition information online.  But as far as I know, there aren't nearly as many blogs and sites devoted to lovers of bacon, synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides or obesity.  I may be wrong, at least in the case of bacon.

My nephew Levi with some of the juice my sister made.
Apparently he loved it.

Even on a personal level, though, I see more of it happening around me.  A teaching colleague of mine just bought a juicer and has been experimenting with it, reporting back to me with the results.  My brother-in-law's brother-in-law just did a five day juice fast as a detox.  My sister just did a five day juice cleanse as well.  Another friend e-mailed me recently to say that after reading the blog he and his girlfrend bought a juicer, have adopted healthier eating habits and he's lost 15 pounds in the process.  I am thrilled for them and give them giant props and kudos.

There was the bumper sticker I saw while driving on Route 287 in New Jersey today: "The Future is Organic."  It was on a big Dodge Ram Deisel 4x4 of course, but the sentiment was appreciated, and that may have been the spark that set this post in motion.

Bill Clinton apparently just went vegan and my mother-in-law tells me that Bill Cosby has recently been extolling the virtues of healthier eating habits, dropping fried foods and juicng as well.  Collard greens, apparently.  No lie.

Now individually I'm not sure how much influence any of these folks have on society as a whole (sorry sis).  In Cosby's case, I can't say the young African-American students at my school started hiking up their pants to their natural waistlines after he bemoaned black culture in America back in 2004.  As for Clinton, while he may still be influential in some circles, that's probably offset by the republicans who've decided to go out and eat even MORE sausage and bacon just to spite him.  Really, can't you just see it?

But it's the cumulative effect of all these individual choices I'm interested in here.  I may be biased, having become a part of this "movement," but it seems to me like some sort of critical mass is on its way and soon may be achieved.  Kind of the like the first follower theory.

Health v Ethics

After my mother-in-law told me yesterday about Bill Cosby's switch to healthy eating (and perhaps vegetarianism?) I mentioned that going vegetarian is also, supporters say, good for the environment.  The methane that feedlot animals produce is a contributor to global warming.  The manure from all livestock has become a major factor in the despoiling of America's waterways.  And as lands are continually cleared for grazing, especially in South America, deforestation increases at an ever-alarming rate.  The Amazon rain forest, the globe's largest, the "lungs of the earth" as they have been called, is being systematically destoyed so cattle producers can sell beef to McDonalds for them to sell to America's increasingly overweight poor for 99 cents a pop.  Really, that's a good trade-off?  There's a whole raft of other benefits as well, check them out here.

A clearcut in the Amazon.
A preventable tragedy of epic and perhaps irreversable proportion.

As soon as I mentioned those environmental issues, I was reminded of a student I had this past year.  A great kid - curious, articualte and intensely passionate about a few things, one of them being vegetariansim.  He came in early one morning to practice a speech he was giving for his debate class about precisely that topic: the environmental benefits of vegetarianism.  It was a well written specch and he was very committed and persuasive.  This was back in November or December, though, and at that point I had about as much intention of becoming a vegetarian as I had of becoming an astronaut.  He gave his speech, I complimented him, gave him some pointers and said something like "Great argument, but I'd never become a vegetarian, meat is just way too good."  Funny how things can change so seemingly out of the blue, huh?

The modern cattle feedlot.
Only a little controversey about these.

Look, I didn't like the scene of the modern industrial cattle feedlot from the film Food, Inc. any more than the next guy, but out of sight is out of mind, right?  Besides, I grew up slaughtering our own cows, chickens and pigs and didn't see a problem with it.  My background is also pretty strongly christian (Southern Baptist to be precise) and the whole "god gave man dominion over the animals" seemed to imply a certain level of superiority - so heck, why not kill 'em and eat 'em?  Certainly I would have considered the slaughter on our little farm more "humane" than that of the modern industrial food system  But then it struck  me - funny how it's easy to say "humane slaughter" and not have it come off like the glaring oxymoron it really is, right?

I was reading a blog about vegetarianism recently and someone wrote "I became a vegetarian for health reasons - the compassion came later."  Certainly that first part is true for me.  It's not from any ethical revelation that I gave up meat, it was simply the accumulated science and nutrition behind it.  Whether that second part will hold true for me remains to be seen.  That judeo-christian value system is pretty strong and pretty deeply internalized.  Seeing animals as equals might be far off for me.  Only time will tell.

The Future?

So what's the point of all this?  Well, as I said, I'm beginning to feel that something bigger may be happening.  As the first, second and third followers join, no one wants to be left out.  I think the ball might just be rolling.

Now honestly, I've not been one lately to express much optimism about the fate of humankind on this planet.  Being a history teacher tends to take me in the other direction.  But maybe, just maybe, there is cause for hope.  I'd like to think there is, and that, in and of itself, it new for me.  I guess what makes me happy, and makes me think that it is possible, is that in this case, I'm actually a part of this change.  And that feels good.

Now, if we could only do something to reduce the demand for cheap energy from oil and coal, we'd really be on to something.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I just posted this video on Facebook. I'm catching up to the present (on your blog), but meanwhile, my diet hasn't changed one iota! But I am getting more and more uncomfortable about it.