Too good to be good: perfect tomatoes cost more than any civilized nation should be prepared to pay. (Photo by Andy Wright/Flickr)
Like any compulsive gambler or addict faced with the accumulating consequences of destructive behavior, industrial agriculture responds by doubling down on the destruction; it responds, in other words, out of its illness and error, and will not change in any positive way until it hits bottom (although the behavior becomes much worse as the bottom nears). A new book illustrates this principle beautifully by focussing on a near-perfect embodiment of all that industrial agriculture has become — the tomato. In its losing struggle to provide perfect-looking, cheap tomatoes to every possible consumer, Big Ag has sunk to new lows of criminal behavior — slavery and genocide.
Pigs resting comfortably in a farm field after being transported according to industry standards. If you looked at this picture, you may have committed a crime (Big Ag may make the animal-porn legislation retrooactive). (Photo by CALM Action/Flickr)
Industrial agriculture is salivating over its latest Big Idea for preventing scrutiny of its brutalization of animals, mistreatment of employees, contamination of the food supply and emissions of pollution. The big idea: make it a crime to know about the practices. The industry-owned legislators of four states are promoting bills that would make it a crime to make, transmit, or even possess audio or video recordings of agricultural operations. Continue reading
Farmer Fact of Life: You can't get seed into a field like this one in Iowa, and if you did it wouldn't come up. And most of the fields in 20 states look like this. (Photo by David Morris/Flickr)
While the nation largely ignores the developing, historic flood of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, it is totally oblivious to the rising threat of ordinary — well. perhaps not ordinary, but certainly less dramatic — rain to current and future harvests in the nation’s breadbasket. The fact that the Corn Belt is soaking wet, where it is not completely inundated, does not bode well for food prices, or for the food supply, in the US or the world. Continue reading
WARNING: Buying this produce from the person who grew it could be extremely beneficial to your health, and illegal. (Photo by pmulloy2112/Flickr)
Here and there around the United States, groups of activists are taking their country back from a tyrannical government and declaring their independence in a critical area of their lives. It’s not the Tea Party, and it’s hardly an Arab Spring, but it could be significant if it takes hold. Three towns in New England and one city in California have acted to pry the government’s cold, dead hands off their food supply. The New England towns have passed what they call a “food freedom” ordinance; and San Francisco had decriminalized urban farming. Continue reading
How to lose at Russian Roulette: 1) point this undercooked burger at your mouth, and 2) bite. (Photo by Marshall Astor, Food Pornographer/Flickr)
If the study released yesterday had found that half of all the bottled water on store shelves was contaminated with infectious bacteria, America’s streets today would look like Egypt’s Tahrir Square just before Mubarak fled. And if the industry had responded by saying, “Hey, it’s perfectly safe if you boil it, what’s the problem?” make that Egypt after the Six-Day War. Yet what the study found was in two respects much worse than that, and it has thus far produced mostly yawns of protest. Continue reading
A quinoa salad, the latest sneeze among boutique eaters who are mostly oblivious to the consequences of their enthusiasm. (Photo by Karen and Brad Emerson/Flickr)
The epigraph for the book The Ugly American, an account of the destruction wrought by American good intentions in Southeast Asia, is a quote from Graham Greene (in which the word “dumb” means incapable of speech, not stupid): “Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” A new incarnation of the syndrome, the Ugly American Consumer, wanders the world bestowing money on its natives, presuming that he is bestowing blessings. Case in point: quinoa. Continue reading
The biggest and most persistent myth about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s? That it is over.
If we were to forget all about climate change and peak oil, the two most real and present dangers to our future (of course it’s a silly thing to do in the face of the evidence, but do the exercise: pretend you’re an American politician), we would still be confronted by the third, and conceivably the gravest danger — peak food. The strains on the natural systems on whose health we depend for life itself are titanic (pun intended) and growing. A breaking point has already come for millions of the world’s poor, and cannot be far off for the world’s most privileged. Continue reading
First you blame me for global warming cause I get gas. Now you tell me there's crap in your water? (Photo by Gabrielle Gagne)
California’s Central Valley is probably the best example of the past success and imminent failure of industrial agriculture. The signs of the scope and proximity of the failure are accumulating fast, but while the past success has many wealthy fathers, the coming failure is an orphan. Continue reading
If you eat this you will get fat/atherosclerosis/high cholesterol/diabetes/lockjaw and/or you will die. True or false, and why, and according to whom? (Photo by VirtualEm/Flickr)
A brief excursion into dietary “science” shows us why and how industrial science is destroying our world, with our happy acquiesence. By industrial science I mean “science” conducted by people in the employ of industrialists such as Cargill and the Koch brothers, the handful of giant companies that engineer and market the food-like substances that have turned America into a country whose population is at once overweight and undernourished. Continue reading
Whether in a farm pond like this, or the Gulf of Mexico, algae blooms stimulated by wasted fertilizer are deadly to marine life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we're running out of fertilizer.
Here’s the bottom line, obvious to all but the most arithmetically challenged: when you base an entire civilization on the rapid consumption of a limited resource, you guarantee the collapse of that civilization on the day the resource is exhausted. But the ride to that final day is not a smooth one; you also guarantee that chaos will ensue from the time that there is not enough left of the depleted resource to meet all demands. Running completely out of water is a shared disaster, but when there’s enough water for some but not all, choosing the “some” gets ugly, real fast. It has gradually dawned on a growing number of people that this is the bottom line for oil, but it is not yet widely accepted that the same bottom line, with the same potential for destruction, exists for a number of other substances, especially phosphorous. Continue reading