Eating for a Better World

15 07 2018

Many thanks to Jacqueline who found this excellent “must read” piece on our farming predicaments….. Since buying a farm myself, I am totally convinced everything written here is accurate, and that until people wake up to themselves about this, we will continue on our road to the edge of the cliff with everyone arguing about how much faster we should be going….

Lifted from this excellent website….

“The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.”
—Teju Cole

It is not surprising that there are growing numbers of vegans and vegetarians worldwide who are becoming dogmatic about their food choices. Many aspects of the hyper-synthetic cityscapes we inhabit are disorienting to mammals such as ourselves. Over the last hundred years, our food systems have undergone drastic change. Food — that basic, life-igniting, community-building element — has become completely outsourced, processed, industrialized, and bland. Worse, animals are distorted and abused beyond recognition to produce it.

The meat we come across in cities looks less and less like a part of the animal it came from, and more like another factory product packaged in layers of thick plastic. We have become detached from the mutualistic relationships we have formed with animals over thousands of years. We are conceptually isolated from trophic cascades. Eating animals in this context surely feels like cheating, since the only models we have for our relationships with them are our relationships with other people.

One by one, city dwellers awaken to the fact that their chicken no longer tastes or looks like chicken and that their bodies are dulled by the meat of the crippled, hormone- and antibiotic-stuffed animals we breed. They begin to feel a visceral, intellectual, and moral repulsion towards the animal products that everyone eats so flippantly.

The slaughtering of animals used to take place within a relationship. There was little room for cowardice, since the act of killing was personal. The hunter looked into the eyes of the deer and was changed by that gaze. The farmer lived in close proximity with her cattle and understood that her own well-being depended on that of her animals. The cook knew how to calm her chicken before she twisted its neck, and let no part of the animal go to waste. The shepherd risked his life to defend his herd. Everyone who ate was intimate with the cycles that brought food to the plate. Ritual mediated relationships, providing for a way for people to both honor and eat the world around them.

Now we are divorced from these processes. Veganism is another reaction to this isolation, and indeed could have only emerged within it.

An urbanite looking for alternatives easily comes across veganism, a mainstream option made attractive through popular books and films and charming cafes in every major city. When continuing to eat feedlot meat and eggs from enslaved chickens becomes impossible, veganism beckons with a practicable solution. But subjective health claims and moral appeals that harness the disgust response too often blind vegans to the many nuances that determine our food culture. It can also blind them to more exciting, systemic antidotes to the plethora of fatal faults in our food systems.

Agriculture that is running off a cliff

Industrial agriculture has wrought many miracles. It has allowed developed countries to produce more food on less land and with fewer people. But it has achieved this wonder by making fertilizer and pesticides out of fossil fuels, eroding topsoil, and reducing the variety of plants in our diet. In other words, we are paying for our cheap food and our disconnection from the land with degraded landscapes and monotony.

Most plants for human consumption today are grown in monocultures. The first step to making a monoculture is to strip a plot of land of its community of plants and animals. This rich web of life is replaced by a single species — a high-yield crop — and every other organism is policed out of the perimeter by chemical and mechanical aggression. The soil, shorn of its cover, languishes and the microorganisms and fungi within it perish. The carbon formerly contained in the soil is released into the atmosphere. To make this impoverished medium keep producing, farmers are obliged to inject it with massive amounts of synthetic nitrogen, a fertilizer that is manufactured from natural gas. So much gas now escapes from fracking sites that it makes ruminants’ emissions pale into insignificance.

The fertilizer then runs off the beaten land into waterways and oceans, where it destabilizes natural ecosystems, rendering them practically barren. Our planet’s oceans are pockmarked by 146 of these dead zones where marine life has been completely choked out.

Photo credit: Wageningen University

Harnessing the genius of nature

But there is another way of doing agriculture, one that turns organic waste into fertilizer and builds soil rather than eroding it. It goes by many names, but we like to call it regenerative agriculture, because it is a way of eliciting food from the land while simultaneously enhancing its ability to produce food for us in the future. It requires fewer inputs but more intelligence. In this sort of system, the farmer is not an industrial conqueror, forcing food from the land until it gives up in exhaustion. Instead, the farmer observes nature and the tendencies of the land. With this knowledge, she leverages its genius, tilting natural ecosystems this way or that to both make them richer and ensure that they produce yields that humans can eat.

These yields are more nutrient dense and often more delicious than their conventional counterparts, coming as they do from vibrant communities of plants and animals expressing their nature in concert. These production systems, when properly managed, regenerate the soil, endowing it with higher quantities of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which are then transported by fruits, vegetables, and meat into our bodies.

This portrait of food production may sound fantastical, but it is in fact in the mould of nature, which has no trouble making something from nothing, and where thriving ecosystems become more verdant and diverse over time. However, if we want to stick around for the feast on this warming planet, we need to find ways to produce our food that are as generative and enduring. Were it implemented widely, regenerative farming could capture more carbon dioxide than we emit, as demonstrated by the Rodale Institute. So in addition to providing food for human consumption, agriculture plays a central role in addressing climate change.

As it happens, animals are essential to many — if not all — of the cleverest systems that humans have devised for deriving food from landscapes while preserving them. Just as animals are keystones in the rainforest and the wild grasslands, they vitalize agricultural processes as well.

On farms that produce crops, it makes a lot of sense to keep animals that can convert vegetable waste into protein-dense food. In turn, their manure fertilizes crops and their pecking can aid pest control, reducing the need for industrial inputs. Animals raised in this manner have the opportunity to graze on good pastures, enjoy social lives, breathe fresh air, and bathe in the light provided by our star, all while making agriculture more sustainable.

In some geographies, the best way to support the richness of the land and produce food is not by imposing crops, but by properly managed grazing. If the land is water-restricted, the most sensible way to make food is often to use ruminants to convert grass — which humans cannot eat — into nutrient-dense food. This leaves more water in the rivers and aquifers and stimulates the growth of grasses that not only feed cattle but store carbon in the ground.

Photo credit: Phillip Capper

Shades of green

If you are a vegan who only eats plants that come from regenerative, polycropped, organic food systems, it’s certain that your diet has a claim to higher moral ground than the average diet. If you eat this way and also occasionally buy local animal products from food production systems that caringly integrate animals into regenerative landscapes, your claim is much stronger. But if you are not paying careful attention to where your plants come from, how they’ve been processed, or how far they have traveled, it’s likely that for all your efforts you are not improving the lot of animals overall, and neither are you saving the world.

Even if you are persuaded by the environmental arguments, you may have a problem with the idea of killing animals. But if you think deeply, you might find that the immoral thing is not necessarily to deliberately take life. The immoral thing is to live in a way that destroys nature, which industrial agriculture does. In this context, the focus on the welfare of individual domesticated animals might be an extension of the modernist tendency to simplify and discriminate. The morality of living, eating, and dying is more complex than two-word slogans can prescribe. If we care about animals — wild or domesticated — we have to think in terms of entire ecosystems.

If you’re a vegan who eats food from monoculture fields where farm workers are routinely poisoned by synthetic inputs; if you eat food that comes packaged in layers of plastic that choke marine life after they are discarded into the ocean; if your nuts and quinoa are flown in from Brazil on the wings of fossil fuels — then are you really more moral or are you simply disconnected?

Eating to support life

Veganism is perhaps the gateway-par-excellence into conscious eating. In fact, people often feel better when they switch to a vegan diet, especially if it marks the first time they are thinking deliberately about what they are putting into their bodies. But it’s not clear whether the initial benefits that are sometimes felt come from being plant-exclusive or from the elimination of certain toxic foods that were formerly in the diet. It’s also been extensively documented that fasting from particular foods and nutrients for a period of time has health benefits, so long as those periods punctate a diet that is on the whole well-balanced.

There is reason to believe that animal protein—besides having played a leading role in human evolution—is necessary for excellent health. Even so, the debate about whether perfect human health can be achieved without animal products is unsettled. But what is certain is that our croplands and grasslands yearn for the reintegration of animals, and we’re past the point in ecological history where we can afford to not use every good method we’ve got to restore land and habitats. Providing a market for the right kind of animal products is a way to finance the good farmers doing the hard work of regeneration. We can channel our ancestral, vivid appetites into economies that support life.

Veganism is insufficient to maintaining a world where animals of every stripe have space and opportunity to flourish. To build that world, we have to stop cooking the planet by burning fossil fuels to fly out-of-season food around the globe. We have to put more carbon in the ground where it can support life instead of threatening it. We have to stop buying food that comes wrapped in plastic, which later ends up in landfills and oceans. We have to stop poisoning landscapes and people with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. We have to stop tearing down ecosystems to install monocultures. We have to stop destroying living soil and start creating more of it. Lovingly incorporating animals into regenerative food landscapes is a powerful way to do this, a means of creating a world where life can thrive.

People who reject factory farmed meat are already awake to the damage being caused by industrial farming — and what is more, they are willing to change their lifestyles to unplug from destructive systems. But there are solutions that go deeper and ultimately make a lot more sense, ones that produce good instead of simply abstaining from harm. They offer a way of eating that is active, delicious, and embedded. If we take a good hard look at our relationships with our ecosystems and eat accordingly, we might actually be able to save the world, as the vegan slogan goes.

If you care about people, animals, and the environment, we invite you to steep in these questions for a bit:

  • Is my food in season?
  • How is my food processed?
  • How is the food I buy packaged and where does the packaging go after I discard it?
  • How far has my food traveled?
  • Is the water used in its production sourced and managed in an ecologically sensible way?
  • Is the soil that produced the food languishing or becoming more fecund?
  • Does the landscape it was produced on provide habitats for a variety of wildlife?
  • How are the people involved in the production, transportation, and sale of my food living? Are they treated fairly?

It’s likely that the only way to know the answers will be to get out of the city and meet some farmers. This takes more time that most modern humans are accustomed to dedicating to food provision, but a trip out into the countryside might also ease your alienation.

Either way, we hope you enjoy your food and your place in the trophic cascade of life and death.

Instagram:

Follow us @trophictales

Learn more:

Silvopasture — Project Drawdown

Managed Grazing — Project Drawdown

Regenerative Agriculture — Project Drawdown

Livestock and the transition to sustainable agriculture — FAO

Save our soils: Why dirt matters — University of Melbourne

Don’t abstain from meat, buy good meat — Ariel Greenwood

Permaculture, all grown up — Chris Newman

Levels of Regenerative Agriculture — Terra Genesis

An Animal’s Place — Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma — Michael Pollan

The Third Plate — Dan Barber

Farms we love:

Milkwood Farm — Koanga InstituteRodale InstituteNew Forest Farm — Freestone Ranch — Stone Barns Center FarmPolyface FarmPasturebirdKul Kul FarmRoebuck FarmLa Pateria de Sousa — Zaytuna Farms — Whole Systems Design —Labranto — Proyecto Deveras

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Origins: Exclusive Worldwide Premiere

16 11 2014

Published on Nov 13, 2014

Watch the exclusive worldwide premiere of the Origins film from November 13th – November 22nd. Get Details: http://origins.well.org

 

Get in quick to see the whole documentary before it’s pulled from youtube…….  uplifting, factual, imspiring, totally worth spending the 1 hour 40 minutes to watch or 1.6GB to download as I have……

Share widely, the word has to get out.





Something fishy and the clairvoyant

16 05 2014

Steve Harrison

Steve Harrison

More from Steve the potter.. he never ceases to amaze me! I love his scrounging ways and how he makes things last, even his food…. the ultimate self sufficient potter…

 

 

 

 

 

I am at the fish market and see that filleted salmon frames are only $4. They appear to have a lot of meat still on them, so I decide to give it a try. It’s a big fish, or at least it was. It’s still a long frame.

Protein is the most expensive part of any meal for us. Good quality meat or fish costs upwards of $30 per kilo. Of course there are cheaper alternatives, but I refuse to eat sausages. I’m trying to limit my fat and salt intake and stay reasonably healthy, so I want to buy lean meat. Anyway, I only buy red meat once a month and I want to be able to feel good about what I’m eating when I do eat it.

Last month it was lamb shanks, cheap, flavoursome and when cooked slowly in red wine and reduced stock, the meat just falls off the bone and is quite delicious. I also buy chicken once a month as well. Some times its the whole bird. ‘The Lovely,’ skins it and boils it and from this she makes a great stock and the meat is separated and used for a number of meals. I’m not religious, so I also buy pork occasionally. Sometimes it’s the belly flap, boiled in our own cider and later, roasted to get that great crackling. This is a once a year treat. At other times I buy minced lean pork and we make gyoza, pork, garlic and vegetable dumplings, in the Japanese style. Sometimes pan fried in our own homemade stock or otherwise steamed.

For the most part though, we prefer fish as our major source of protein and we eat it 2 or 3 times a week, two days I fast and the other days we eat vegetarian directly from the vegetable garden, with or without tofu. I’m not a vegetarian, certainly not a vegan. I’m an omnivore, but within limits. For 35 years we kept ducks and chickens. They are such good company and a lot of fun to watch and interact with. We ate them on a regular basis. That is why we kept them. I feel that the only way in which I can justify eating meat is if I kill it myself. Only then do you realise the significance of what you are doing and fully appreciate the meal. I never found it easy. I always had to steal myself for the act. It’s all about living in reality. Taking responsibility for your actions. Being independent and self reliant.

I don’t wish harm on any other living thing in general. But I’m not a Buddhist either. I think that if I take responsibility for the meat that I eat then, I’ve earned the meal.

One of the cheapest fish at the market here is the local coastal Leather Jacket, usually at or around $5 to $9 per kilo. It’s a lovely fish, firm and tasty meat, but it can’t be filleted. It must be cooked whole, so people seem to avoid it. I love it. I have no trouble in steaming it or pan fry/steaming it. I really like it, but you can’t eat it all the time. The small local blackfish are also good value too. Always economical, as the fillets are too small for most peoples taste. I also like to buy sardines or garfish when they are in season and appear in the market. However they only appear intermittently.

So tonight it’s going to be ’empty’ salmon bone fish cakes. I simmer the frame for a while, leave it to cool and then separate the meat from the bones. The bones are then returned to the ‘soup’ and boiled again to make a stock. I plan to make fishcakes with our own potatoes and with a hint of wasabe fresh from the garden.

Now wasabe is an interesting vegetable/herb/condiment plant. It is supposed to only grow in the high clear environment of the Japanese mountains, washed by regular misty rain and growing in among the rocks and stones of fast flowing mountain streams, never allowed to dry out, always moist and well watered, growing in the shaded environment of the deep rocky ravines.

Here in Australia, there is a small producer in Tasmania, down south in the clear mountain environment where all the stringent conditions of cool dampness prevail. We once saw a small tray of fresh wasabe roots for sale in the green grocers. They had had a power failure and all the fridges and coolers were broken down over the weekend, so everything was on sale or being thrown out. We grabbed the tray of wasabe. Our initial thinking was the grate it up to make our own wasabe paste, and we did do this with part of it, but I thought, why don’t we give it a try in the garden, it’s already sprouting from it’s warm weekend spent wrapped in plastic on the tray.

We planted it out in our hot dry exposed summer garden, but we did give it some shade cover, by cutting bracken ferns and sticking them all around to create some dappled shade. We also gave it a disproportionate share of the cloudy dam water from the hose when we were watering. Now three years on we have a small tough little patch of wasabe permanently in the veggie patch. It couldn’t be farther from its home or desired environment, but it lives on, even if it isn’t thriving.

I get to make 10 good sized fish cakes from my efforts. We eat half for dinner leaving some for tomorrow. Served with garden vegetables, they go down a treat. Two main meals and two litres of stock for a risotto another day. All very good value for $4.




Do you really want to live sustainably – self sufficiently?

5 02 2014

A couple of years ago, I somehow found this interesting blog called thekitchensgarden written by “A girl from New Zealand married to an American fella and living on the prairies. Growing, cooking and eating using sustainable and organic methods. Welcome! I am here most every day”  Her name is Celi…….  I don’t read everything Celi writes, it’s a bit like a diary – which is fine – but it’s a bit cutesypie for me who prefers reading meatier stuff….  I’m sure you all know what I mean!  But Celi is a good writer and photographer, and every now and again she posts something that really catches my attention, and today she has a doozy…  Do you really want to live sustainably – self sufficiently?

I think about little else these days, as our water supply dwindles (still haven’t bought any…), the garden shrinks, and the cloudy skies bring no rain worth mentioning.  And every day, and I mean EVERY day, the temperature reaches 30+ (~90ºF) drying everything out…..  I saw the other day a well respected NZ long range forecaster predicting we may not get any decent rain in Queensland before May.  My friend Serge who has 20 acres near Gympie was talking about selling his cows the other day, because he’s run out of feed….. and he has a spring!

But back to Celi………  “Sustainable is not only about food. It is also about lifestyle”, she writes, adding

Our house is heated by a wood stove. (We only use trees that have fallen in storms or been culled by farmers.)  This means that only one area of the house is heated, the rest is just .. well .. cold.

I lay in the bath every night and you would not know there was a pale tired little body in there,  the room is ALL steam.  Our bed is a mound of blankets. Cats  tucked into the corners.  Dogs waiting for our feet.

We eat pretty much the same thing with small variations each night. The proteins are free range chicken or their eggs, lean grass fed beef, lavender lamb, or  pasture raised pork.  The frozen vegetables are almost all gone.  The tomatoes and fruit in jars are still holding out. I also eat nuts and seeds, rice and cereals that I cannot grow out here.  (Bought at the supermarket once a month – not at all sustainable.)   Flour for bread, pizza bases and pasta is bought. I have used all the home grown potatoes, onions,  and beans and pumpkins long ago so if it were not for frozen peas (bought from the supermarket) and my enormous stash of tomatoes in jars and my wine (there are vitamins in wine?) we would have scurvy.

The fact is that if I were a sustainably managed vegan or vegetarian (as in growing all my own food)  and living out here on the prairie I would be dead. Or at the very least unwell and very thin. We eat plenty of vegetable and egg based meals. But we need to buy most of the vegetable ingredients now. Not sustainable or self sufficient at all.  We have a 6 month period when the ground will grow nothing at all. A cold frame will extend the lettuce for a while. But there is very little nutrition in a lettuce. All the greens must be grown in the summer and stored.  And a cabbage only lasts so long, same for the onions and the potatoes and pumpkins. So by now I am looking to the supermarket to buy my vitamins, absolutely none of which are grown within hundreds and hundreds of miles of here. Certainly not without the help of a lot of artificial heating. So thank goodness I have a freezer full of protein. Even the milk is bought from another farm until I start milking again. Not self sufficient.  Flour, chick peas, legumes, split peas, kidney beans, etc, all bought from the supermarket. Not self sufficient.  Flax seeds, buckwheat, rye.. all bought.

Celi’s blog‘s worth a visit, just for the photos…….

I recently had a lengthy online argument with a vegetarian (or was she vegan – don’t know) who was going on and on about cows’ greenhouse emissions.  And the ethics of killing animals for food too of course….  I told her about how her organics needed animal manures to grow instead of the normal chemical fertilisers.  To cut to the chase, the argument ended when I asked her had she ever tried growing her own food.  City people have no idea……  they somehow believe we will just transition to a Carbon free and sustainable future, and everything will be honky dory…

IMG_0229

Wwoofers fixing swales

I hate to think what will happen to Celi and her husband and animals WTSHTF….  at least she’s way in front of the propane consuming farmers; what will happen to them when the propane stops?  What will happen to the city folks expecting those farmers’ produce to hit the shelves when they fail to arrive?  Denial is rife…..

IMG_0230

where’s the water…..??

I just sent off three young American Wwoofers from Seattle to their next destination, Singapore.  They were only here for five days, but they worked like slaves (no, way better actually) and did tons of stuff I don’t have the energy to do (ah to be 18 again….  and know what I know now!).  They reinstated our swales, which over time after being walked on were more like bumps on the landscape, cleared that invasive grass that used to come from next door on the wind, spread mulch everywhere, and generally set the scene in expectation of that last remaining ingredient, RAIN…  Feeding them was an eye opener……  all that work had to be energised with loads of protein, which I mostly bought, because while unlike Celi we are not snow bound, the garden looks like it’s been nuked, so dry it has become.  Is there anywhere on Earth that is suitable for sustainability and self sufficiency…?  I wonder every day…

Right now, having breakfast of left over Huon Valley blueberries we brought back from Tassie (boy am I going to grow heaps of those in Geevo…!) with Goat Milk Yogurt……  Yum!





On completely missing the point….

20 07 2013

Dr Richard Oppenlander

I’ve just watched this one and a half hour video discovered on Facebook…….  it is certainly thought provoking, and I encourage you to watch it if you have the bandwidth (we, astonishingly, had ours increased FIFTEEN FOLD by our provider free of charge this month…  and I’m sure making the most of it!)

However, I am not endorsing this as the simple solution Dr Richard Oppenlander (a dentist) obviously seems to think it is.  Because he gobsmackingly omits to mention the real reasons all the depressing stuff in his presentation occur……..

I warn you, you may feel like slashing your wrists on occasion as you watch this……

When his 7 billion/70 billion slide came up, I instantly didn’t think of the 70 billion animals we allegedly keep for our consumption, I immediately focused on the smaller number……  because, obviously, if there were only one billion people here, then there would only be the need for ten billion animals…..  and if the numbers were indeed that small (and I stress, kept that small..) then climate change would not even be an issue (Oppenlander claims that our animal herds are responsible for perhaps as much as 50% of greenhouse emissions…)  At no time does Oppenlander question population growth.  He even says near the end that Americans apparently eat less red meat, but the production has not fallen.  Hello…..  of course if more people individually eat less meat, collectively the amount won’t fall, it may even grow.  Worse, he even mentions a future “nine billion” without batting an eyelid….  like it’s all OK.  All we have to do is change our diet!

For me the most shocking aspect of this long video was the fishing.  What is happening in our oceans is truly frightening, but what I saw and he fails to see (he certainly never mentions them) are the FOSSIL FUELLED fishing boats.

Now he may be right about animals producing more than double the emissions of our use of fossil fuels; BUT, and it is a very very big but, all this fishing, on the monumental scale depicted, is only possible because of fossil fuels.  In fact, fossil fuels are entirely to blame for everything.  Fossil fuels allowed our population to grow beyond one billion, and allowed agriculture to grow fast enough to feed most of us on the planet.  He seems totally unaware that 90% of the calories we all eat (unless we grow our own ‘sustainably’, come from fossil fuels.  Yes, even the vegetarian calories he eats.  Furthermore, sustainable agriculture without animals is pretty well impossible.  Fertilisers have to either come from hydrocarbons, or animals.  Period.

As I write this, I did some more research on Oppenlander and found another interesting video you may also want to watch…

To his credit, he does grow his own food.  And he has several animals there, so hopefully (no mention here) he uses their manures to make his own compost.  Disappointingly, he also has three children, so he has contributed to population growth.  Am I being over critical?  Here we have someone who is himself very critical of the way the world is run, and let’s not beat around the bush, I totally agree with that….  there are not many things on this planet we have not screwed up.  Furthermore, he is obviously well off.  How many people could afford to buy a large farm like his and lock it up away from feeding the hordes outside?  He and his family are just as much part of the problem as me and mine are….  and I would be far more impressed if he actually admitted it.

On top of that, we can’t eat grass (and there’s no shortage of that);  but the animals that can turn it into protein which we can eat…  I thought his attitude to the word protein was a bit childish, especially for someone like him who likes to call a spade a spade!

I hope he gets to see this.  The real problems are not so much what we eat, they are population growth, growth in general, fossil fuel use, and of course the Capitalist system he exists in that utterly relies on the above to grow and grow.  The growth monster is eating the planet.

Even after all that, there is but one solution, and that’s collapse.  Only collapse will end fossil fuel use and fishing, and fish farms, and growing grains to feed cattle, deforestation to grow soy and palm trees for oil and sugar, etc etc…..  but you who read this blog already knew that.