Monday, October 13, 2008

Hope and Possibility

Most of you know me as a big fan of Michael Pollan. I nearly missed it, but it seems Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the next president in the New York Times last week. While it is likely Barack Obama will be the new resident of the White House , Pollan wants him to pay attention to some of the realities of our 21st century food system. Here's a bit of the letter that I particulartly liked:
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy - 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do - as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis - a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

More than just a few people will read this and maybe it will get them thinking and we can hope that Obama is one of them.

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