Food: the Big Picture

Posted to Subscribers on 18 March 2009


Dear Subscribers,

There were some corrupt links in yesterday's post. I had so many interruptions yesterday that I sent the email without testing the links, my apologies.

Meanwhile, many of you have sent additional information, including a handy link:

Another sent a revelatory exposé type post on spermicides in genetically modified seeds:

It's very tempting to get wound up and yell a bit, but the idea that we will run out of food has been around "forever". It seems to be a carefully cultivated type of paranoia, probably so severe that we people are infecting other kingdoms of nature with our particular illness. Obviously, the solution is not to stockpile the way survivalists are doing because this causes a type of congestion that is very similar to cancer: put the surfeit somewhere and then try to keep it from becoming moldy and do something to keep the rodents away and then build a fortress around yourself so that when less prepared people get hungry, they don't steal what you had the foresight to stash.

We, including many who make policy, have been conditioned to believe the population is too large for countless years. I discussed this in an article last summer:

However, the theory is basically flawed. Instead what we have seen is relatively constant population growth and a seemingly miraculous ability to sustain the higher levels of people. The problem is therefore not food but how we live. As I have been trying to show you through positive posting, permaculture can feed the world. Geoff Lawton, the Dead Sea miracle worker, is absolutely clear on this subject:

Perhaps it is true that we cannot continue to live in the obscene and wasteful way of the late 20th century, but we do not have to run out of food. . . and we do not have to export war, bird flu, and GMO seeds to hold down population. We do have to get our environmental act together, but we also need to recognize that contrary to advice of Malthus, which was essentially that "superior" human beings should have more children, that there is obviously a human phenomenon similar to what happens in the plant world when there is a drought: we go to seed. We become obsessed with procreation and progeny when we are toxic and dying; and up to a point, this tends to result in a higher birth rate until Nature steps in and makes sure we are not able to do this because our bodies have become too corrupted to produce viable offspring. Surely a statement like this is offensive to some people, but I believe we have been seeing this on a larger and larger scale and a few medical doctors have (privately) expressed a concern that we are not far from an infertility crisis, one that favors the survival of a few tribal communities in very remote parts of the Planet.

When I first studied fertility, approximately 10-20% of young couples were unable to have children without some major intervention. This figure is probably an acceptable one and assures homes for orphans and work for people such as myself who have special talents for overcoming infertility, but when the cause of infertility is not random but intentional, the rate soars. If I look back on the early part of my career, there was only one failed attempt to assist a couple and I knew it would fail for at least four years (and did not follow up to see what happened after that) but today, the odds of overcoming infertility are much lower. Moreover, I would not agree with Malthus at all about who is superior and why. It is possible that those who live in the closest proximity to Nature are the best equipped to survive so the argument is about as silly as who is highest on the food chain.

If a human eats an animal or head of cabbage, he or she may presume to sit high on the food chain until fungi begin the inexorable decomposition of our bodies -- while we live or after we have surrendered our bodies to fate -- then, it is no longer possible to claim the top position.

In any event, while I have never subscribed 100% to the concept that we are what we eat, I believe what we eat is important. We are, however, whoever we believe we are and this is not carved in stone so we can change if we want.

Food is nutritious according to a number of very simple and logical factors. Plant food depends on good soil. I mentioned recently that I am committed to composting now. It is a way to reduce the amount of undesirable "export" to landfills and improve the quality of the soil on my little spot on Earth. I did what I usually do to avoid rediscovering the wheel: google, google, google. One compost experiment at a university resulted in a harvest of pound of potatoes per square foot:

In my tenure in this body, I have lived in many different climatic zones and seen very rapid decomposition of yard "waste" in Hawaii and relatively slower in New Mexico, but, ironically, it has been unbelievably slow in my present area. I now understand it is not the cold but the depletion of nutrients. Despite the humidity, leaves and grass are very slow to break down here, but the compost bin has worked considerably better. I thought it was due to the red wigglers I got from the farmer's market on Bainbridge Island, but the problem with the leaves on the ground is evidently a lack of active microbes and this has to be corrected. Everyone agrees that one can compost when the temperature is below freezing because the microbes themselves produce heat. This worked for me in New Mexico, but not in the Pacific Northwest. We have to be very careful of what we put in our soil and water if the soil is to remain alive and capable of producing nutritious food.

Savika in front of compost bin and behind my patch of potatoes.
Picture taken August 29, 2008.

The other argument for growing one's own food is transport. I hate to admit it, but some of my herbs are global travelers. For instance, and this is not meant to discourage sales, but it is a concern, the black cumin you get came originally from Egypt, the finest quality in the world. However, it is organically grown to specifications in India and then shipped to the U.S. where it is cold pressed to make oil. This oil is sent to a lab that fills the gelcaps and then the gelcaps are sent back to the lab to be put into bottles and then the bottles are shipped to me and I send them to you. I ship them to Thailand and Florida and Brazil and Norway so, as I said, they are world travelers, but I am guessing that in some cases, 90% of cost of the black cumin is transport. Now, not everyone can afford the equipment for cold pressing seeds. This starts at about quarter of a million dollars, but practically everyone could grow a few plants just for the seeds and compost the leaves and other plant parts and this, my friends, is the revolution and why Monsanto is playing the endgame with not just our members of Congress but the Canadian and EU politicians as well as all the people who say "yes" to their bidding the world over. The one thing we can be absolutely sure about is that if Monsanto and ADM and the others were to prevail, our environment would be so significantly destroyed that life as we know it would cease. Therefore, get on the phones and express your protest. Or, use the one click method:

And, plant, plant, plant!



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2009






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