If you haven’t heard of Michael Pollen, then get to know him. He’s a really influential voice in the US currently and argues vehemently against the way the food system works over the pond and increasingly around the globe. He manages to join the dots between government policy going back decades, the era of cheap oil and fertilisers, globalised food networks and the consumer.
His most famous book is the Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book which is sat on my shelf but I haven’t quite got around to reading it yet. Leanne has previously commented on his latest book, In Defense of Food. The theme across all these books is the same. He investigates the American food culture and traces meals from the land right to the table.
Last weekend, the New York Times magazine had a food special (If anyone from NYC is reading this can you please post me a copy…) and Pollen wrote a fabulous piece entitled Farmer In Chief. It’s actually a really succinct introduction to Pollen’s style and gives a good overview of his viewpoint. His key point is that localised food systems are better for the environment, consumers and the resilience of the country. He shows how the new system needs to work as currently we are eating fossil fuel (9 calories of oil per calorie of food eaten on average) and we’re also doing huge damage to the soils (with which all life on earth depends). His final point is that the new President should convert a part of the Whitehouse lawn to a “Victory Garden” (allotment) and the chef in the Whitehouse should cook local food meals, including one meat-free meal a week. Great ideas and something that could stimulate the “economy” in these difficult times – not so much in terms of GDP or growth, we can’t continue to measure our economy like that – but it terms of the collective health, wellbeing and dare I say it “happiness” of a nation…
So I’ll leave you with a really good video you should watch from TED (again). In Pollen says we should look at the human race from the perspective of the plants and animals and think about what we are doing to the planet!