If you woke up tomorrow, and all the oil and electricity were gone, and you had to find food to keep yourself alive, could you do it?
I know for a fact that I would die. I have lost the ability to keep myself alive. I rely on food that is mass manufactured and processed for me, that comes from a supermarket, and if I couldn't get to it, I would surely die. How have we created such a strange world, that people are no longer involved in growing, gathering, and even making their own food?
Humans have become completely disconnected from the food that they eat. People don't cook anymore because it takes too much time. We eat less and less basic food that comes from raw ingredients, and more processed, packaged food that comes from artificial supermarket environments. Hardly anyone grows their own food anymore, or raises their own livestock. Eating is no longer about connecting with our natural world - it is about shovelling fuel into our bodies in as little time as possible. And most people these days work in jobs that are completely removed from food production altogether.
Our focus and our lives have changed so much. A hundred years ago, people were personally involved in producing, catching, preparing their own food, to keep themselves alive. People connected to nature through their food - ploughing the soil to plant the crops, growing green plants, being out in the open air. Looking after animals and ensuring their health and well-being so that what went into people's bodies was the best and healthiest protein. Baking bread from scratch. Making butter from milk that came from your own cow. Collecting eggs from your chickens. Now, our lives are focused on time and money. Trying to squeeze every little drop of time possible into work so that we can make more money.
In an interesting article on the website You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney says the following: "Everyone who lives above the poverty line but isn’t wealthy pretty much has no choice but to work for a living doing something which rewards them with survival tokens. Working as a telemarketer, for example, allows you to have food, clothing and shelter, but doesn’t put you directly in charge of creating, growing or killing those things you need for sustenance. Instead, you trade in tokens for those things. Before the advent of mass production, people were often defined by their work, by their output. The things they owned were usually things either they handmade, or were things other people made by hand. There was a weight, an infusion of soul, in everything a person owned, used and lived in."
I feel depressed about the way our lives are going - I was going to say progressing but I don't feel that the world we have created for ourselves is one of progress. We spend our lives disconnecting from our natural world. People work inside buildings all day long at jobs which have only one goal - to make money.
We all come home to our TV's and ready-meals shoved into the microwave, and spend our weekends trailing around shopping malls spending our tokens trying to fill up our meaningless lives with possessions.
—Train a new generation of farmers, spread them throughout the land, and make farming a revered profession.
—Preserve every acre of farmland we have and make it accessible to these farmers.
—Build an infrastructure for a regional food economy—one that can encourage and support the farms and distribute what they grow (rebuild or create regional distribution systems).
—Require federal institutions that prepare food (school lunches, prisons, military bases, etc.) to buy a minimum percentage of that food locally.
—Create a Federal definition of food, to encourage people to think about what is food and what is not, stuff we consume that has no caloric value (“junk food” should not be considered food).
Some people may say that his suggestions are overly simple, and that they don't consider the huge global issue of population growth (in 40 years the earth will carry 10 billion people, 80% of whom will live in urban areas). But if we don't get back to being involved in producing our own food, we may find ourselves in a very dire situation in the future.
There is a brilliant restaurant called Wafu outside of Sydney, which defines itself as a restaurant for "guilty free Japanese cuisine", and gives a 30-percent discount to customers who eat all the food they order. Chef Yukako Ichikawa is tired of the food waste people leave on their plates. The menu says, "Finishing your meal requires that everything is eaten except lemon slices, gari (sushi ginger) and wasabi," followed by—"Please also note that vegetables and salad on the side are NOT decorations; they are part of the meal too." An article on Planet Green says: "It may sound like a stretch to some, but considering that an estimated $48.2 billion of food goes to waste in the U.S. alone (which translates to between 30 and 40 percent of our food); that food makes up the third-largest waste stream in the U.S.; and that 300 million barrels of oil are wasted along with all that food, the world could do with a lot more restaurants (and homes) that prohibit food waste the way Wafu does."
I know that most of us cannot make radical changes in our lives and move to the country and have a small farm. But if we start small - cook your own dinner and eat it with your family, grow some of your own ingredients, spend time outside in the sunshine on weekends, appreciate life more and possessions less - we will start to find a little more peace in our selves, and a little more of that elusive happiness.