Time to get serious

I’m on a business trip this week. That means I’m having the whole business travel experience (flight delays, overpriced hotel, exhorbitant fees for in-room Internet service,  etc.), which includes a free copy of USA Today newspaper.

While getting a bit of work done in my hotel before heading to my meeting, I opened the paper and see a story in the Money section that gets me really worked up: Global demand lifts grain prices, gobble supplies.

This story touches on so many things that are just plain wrong with how we look at food and food supplies these days.

  • Using food crops to fuel our guzzling vehicles
  • A global food culture that is overly dependent on a small number of crops of limited varieties: wheat, corn, rice.
  • A national food culture that is fully dependent on processed foodstuffs, that are likewise fully dependent on just a few of these limited varieties of crops. [Read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma if you want to understand just how much our national “food” is dependent on corn; pretty scary.]
  • The perpetuation of our dysfunctional national food culture on developing countries, who are abandoning their native food cultures that emphasis more sustainable, wholesome foods. [I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan and am reading his latest book, In Defense of Food, which goes into this issue.]
  • A bit of sub-text: we are breeding out of control and are unable to produce all the food needed to feed these teaming hordes. [OK, this is my personal read on the situation, but just ask yourself: where are all these hungry people coming from?]

My business trip brings me to New York City. Last night, I wandered out of the hotel in search of a sandwich and found myself in the middle of consumerist territory: Times Square. My meetings are in mid-town, so I really need to stay in this general area so I can walk back and forth. But I must say it sickens me to see all this *stuff* promoted through all the signs.

And this isn’t just a New York phenomenon. I had a similar reaction two weekends ago as I walked through a shopping plaza running errands. As I saw all these cars driving around and around to park, yet few people walking from store to store; as I carried my canvas tote around to the shops, declining plastic bags to the bewilderment of clerks; as I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of crap (plastic flowers, plastic beads, etc.) in Michaels that will likely end up in a landfill within the next 2 years.

I’m really struggling to keep participating in this culture and lifestyle. It disgusts me and makes me feel sort of hopeless, too. Anyone else feeling this way?

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