This past weekend, my PBS station showed the work of a local documentary filmmaker. Michael Schwarz created a film collaboration following the key message and concerns put forth by local writer, Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food."
Pollan made his case tracking the devolution of the national health and nutrition policies over the past 40 years driven by the heavy handed lobbying of the Sugar Industry. Both in this short film and his role in the recent feature film Fed Up, Michael Pollan makes the case that, perhaps, we could just let the epidemic wave of obesity and diabetes continue on until we figure a way to physically adapt to the demands of the current ubiquitous industrial food system. Pollan sites the growing and damning statistics of children under 10 with alarming rates of pre-diabetic health reports.
Pollan often gets the expected nervous laugh from his audience in suggesting that we adapt to these unhealthy conditions as he follows the possibilities of physically and genetically adapting to the dictates of the commercial sugar industry's pervasive presence in all our foods. Alternately, he proposes something felt to be equally daunting, to face fully the demand that we, the people of this society change the way we eat.
I've met Michael and matched notes on what he has found through his extensive and in-depth journalistic research, capturing of the alarming, shocking, destructive nature of our current food system. He has lobbied actively against the conventionally supported Congressional Farm Bill, making the case that what passes for aid to farmers and rural communities is really a Food Bill that condemns our entire population to disease, poor health, and food deserts of nutritional poverty.
I have found these same issues in the seafood section of our food economy. Seafood is the protein source that increasingly doctors and wellness figures tell us we need to eat more often. Yet we get a non-stop set of off-putting headlines about mislabeled fish, over-fished species on the verge of collapse, slave labor on boats, algal blooms that make fish unsafe, and even recent lab testing that verifies some wild fish caught near a major city were found to be full of harsh pharmaceuticals, opiates, cocaine and other products of our current state of personal and civic disease. This is not surprising; we know perhaps even less about the sources and qualities of our seafood than most any of the food elements in our daily and weekly diets. The substitution here, as throughout our current food system, is for convenience over having much if any access to knowing about the sources of our seafood.
On the side of our politics we have a state that is shockingly laden with overtones of misinformation, caustic if not toxic personal attacks, and open fear mongering designed as if to guide us toward greater disconnections and divisiveness, if not open violence of whomever is labeled as "other." Further, we are invited to shrink from this growing sense of disconnection and to act out of reaction and fear.
All of these harsh, difficult and challenging realities seem in their turn to be the consequences of poor education, and along with that, a lack of orientation to even value critical thinking regarding what our media and the mainstream food system is feeding our bodies and our minds. The confusion and fearfulness that follow from this lack of healthy inputs to our bodies, our families, and to the body politic, instills, it seems, a lack of any sense of power regarding what we can do to turn ourselves from what our food system makes so convenient regardless of how harmful it is proven to be, or how misdirected is our attention away from what would truly effect changes that would bring us the solutions we sense as possible, yet not often offered by our current crop of untrustworthy political leaders.
The resounding response that is called for is something basic to democratic process. We must learn, again, the power of our vote. Our vote seems a joke in light of government that appears so thoroughly bought and paid for. In our food systems, our education systems, and in our political systems we feel disconnected from the level of positive energy needed to take hold of real change. Even the discussion of serious change is described in the media in these times as revolutionary. This revolution, however, was fought and won at our founding. We, the people, were empowered with what any society that calls itself a democracy holds sacred at its core, the power of our vote. People who want something better than what we are offered by the mainstream machine need to vote. We can and must vote with both our ballots, and vote with your forks. We are called upon to stand up, to Vote. Especially young adults, who have their futures before them, vote.
If you don't like this diseased system of what Pollan calls "nutritionism," then vote with your fork at every meal you sit down to, and eat like you mean it. If you don't want to see the environments and ecosystems of the planet systemically destroyed, then vote for seafood and other food products that do the opposite and bring about a regenerative food system rather than one full of poor quality and waste. If you don't want to settle for reality television personalities gaining actual political power; if you want leaders to stand for things you actually believe in; then vote.
Stop. Listen. Think. Take a stand for your best interests, and those of your only home planet, Planet Ocean. Vote.